Posted: Sat 6th Jan 2024

Share your Browns of Chester story with Cheshire Archives

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Jan 6th, 2024

Former employees and loyal shoppers of Browns of Chester are being invited to take part in a special project aimed at documenting and preserving their unique experiences with the iconic store.

Cheshire West and Chester Council, in collaboration with Cheshire Archives and the Grosvenor Museum, are encouraging individuals to share their stories and contribute to the history of Browns of Chester.

Both Cheshire Archives and the Grosvenor Museum possess a rich collection of materials and objects related to Browns of Chester, reflecting its storied past as a cornerstone of Chester’s commercial and cultural life.

They are now extending an invitation to those who have a personal connection to the store to participate and help enrich this historical record with their cherished memories.

Participants with close ties to Browns of Chester will have the opportunity to engage with a range of historical artifacts, including photographs, posters, and advertisements from the store’s long history.

They will also have the chance to have conversations about their personal experiences and what it was like to be a part of this renowned institution.

A special event is scheduled to take place at Cheshire Archives & Local Studies on Duke Street, set for Saturday, February 17.

During this event, individuals will have their memories recorded through 15-minute conversations.

To participate, individuals are required to book a free timed slot between 10 am and 12 pm.

Bookings can be made by visiting this link or by calling the Archives Team at 01244 972574 (available on Tuesdays to Thursdays, or by leaving a voicemail).

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, expressed the significance of this initiative, stating, “The closure of Browns department store in May 2021 marked the end of 230 years of continuous trading from the Grade I listed building on Eastgate Street.”

The conversations recorded during the Archives event will be skillfully documented by Geoff Bird, a seasoned radio producer and art director known for his work on projects like the ‘Great Exhibition of the North’ and the artistic direction for Hinterlands Film Festival.

These recordings will be transformed into a soundscape to be displayed publicly, offering a poignant tribute to Browns of Chester. Additionally, the raw recordings will be archived for future research purposes.

Founded in 1780 by Susannah Brown, Browns of Chester held a significant place in the city’s history, both as a retail establishment and a cultural touchstone.

Its legacy was so enduring that when Debenhams acquired it in 1976, Browns of Chester was the only store in the chain that retained its original name.

For many locals, Browns was more than just a store; it was a place where families shopped for special occasions, where employees formed tight-knit bonds, and where friendships were nurtured.

The store’s impact extends from everyday moments to once-in-a-lifetime events, making it an indelible part of the memories of Chester’s residents and visitors.

Several events celebrating the history of Browns of Chester have been organized in recent times, involving collaborations between the University of Chester, Cheshire Archives, and West Cheshire Museums. These events have included a pop-up display at the old Market Hall, a presence at Chester Races during the 2022 Chester Heritage Festival, and an immersive theater experience as part of the 2022 Being Human festival.

This soundscape project is a part of the Chester Rows Heritage Action Zone, funded by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with support from Arts Council England.

For those interested in contributing their Browns of Chester memories or learning more about the project, visit the Browns of Chester project website.


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