Marshall & Snelgrove - 100 years of luxury

Marshall and Snelgrove advertisement 

Marshall & Snelgrove enjoyed a superb reputation as high-end retailers for over 100 years. James Marshall had opened a shop at 11 Vere Street in 1837, and in 1848 on the retirement of his business partner he was joined by John Snelgrove  (a former assistant in the shop), and the firm's name was changed to Marshall & Snelgrove. The article above dates from 1884 and advertises costumes, mantles, furs, lace and gloves.

Following rapid success, the business expanded and Marshall & Snelgrove took over grand new premises at 334 - 348 Oxford Street in 1851. James Marshall retired in 1871 and his son James C Marshall took over his share, helping to expand the business further by opening stores in fashionable resorts such as Harrogate and Scarborough to encourage their customers to shop whilst on holiday.

The First World War and its vast impact on deparment stores (especially those selling luxury goods) prompted a merger with Debenham and Freebody in 1916, which became a full merger in 1919 although both companies retained their separate identities -  the ownership of this prestigious store was more a status symbol for Debenhams than a financial move.

Marshall and Snelgrove 1920s dresses 

Marshall and Snelgrove dresses circa 1927. Left to right: jumper suit, coat frock, young matron's gown, dainty lace gown and dance frock. All made in crepe de chine or georgette.

James C Marshall was President of the Linen and Woollen Drapers' Institution for approaching 40 years till his death in 1925 at the age of 95. The firm continued to remain in family hands and more stores opened in cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and York selling luxury goods to the rich middle classes of the industrial towns and cities.

In the 1960s some branches were closed following changing lifestyles and fashions, and their flagship Oxford Street store was demolished and completely rebuilt between 1973 and 1975, when they re-opened under new management as Debenhams after a full take-over in 1974. The remaining Marshall and Snelgrove stores also became Debenhams.

Above: 1920s black chiffon and lace cocktail dress and label  from Marshall & Snelgrove



  • My Great aunt, Romaria Gomez [known as Roma} was a gowns buyer for Marshall & Snelgrove during the early part of the 20th Century. She died in 1978. I would love to know exactly what she did as some of her “ladies” were extremely generous, amongst the gifts was a diamond ring set in Palladium and other jewellery plus cash.

    Marian Dye
  • My late mother worked in the Leeds store in the early 60’s. She worked in ladies fashion,wore head to toe black and had her hair piled up high in an elaborate back combed style. As a little girl she looked very glamourous and not unlike Elsie Tanner on Coronation Street. My auntie took me in to see her a few times,you could hear a pin drop,it was very sedate,everyone seemed to whisper and glide about,but I was only about 10 years old.

    Barbara Bentley
  • I worked as a trainee dressmaker in Oxford Street altering Model Gowns in 1966. While there the head of the department decided I was small enough to wear a wedding dress that was never collected, it was a stunning gown but never collected because the groom was killed in war. The gown was Victorian and had pale pink silk ribbon threaded throughout.

    Lynne Bowles-Brown
  • My father’s name was John Snelgrove.I now must research my Grandfather’s F.Tree line.They lived in London.

    Janet. Edwards
  • There was a branch in Sheffield on Leopold Street, I remember it as very upmarket, the assistants were very frosty towards a Mod teenager. I bought a pair of Yves St Laurent sunglasses which cost me a week’s wages in 1966, I never ventured in there again!

    Tessa Hainey

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