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More than a Shop. Share your Browns of Chester story

January 5, 2024
Average read time: 2 minutes

Former Browns of Chester employees and shoppers are being encouraged by Cheshire West and Chester Council to take part in a unique project to record their experiences of the famous store.

Cheshire Archives and the Grosvenor Museum have collections of materials and objects from the store and are keen to encourage people to include their own memories as part of the history being preserved and shared.

Those with close links to the shop will have the opportunity to spend time with photographs, posters, and adverts from the store's history, and discuss their own unique experience on what it was like to be part of such a famous institution. An event at Cheshire Archives & Local Studies, Duke Street, on Saturday February 17 invites individuals to have their memories recorded during a 15-minute conversation. To take part you will need to book a free timed slot between 10am and 12noon:

Ticket Source: Cheshire West and Chester Council Arts

Or call the Archives Team on: 01244 972574 (Tuesday to Thursday or leave a voicemail).

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said:

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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.

Conversations at the Archives event will be recorded by Geoff Bird, a radio producer and art director whose record includes producing 'Great Exhibition of the North' and artistic direction for Hinterlands Film Festival. They will be turned into a soundscape used for public display, and the raw recordings will be deposited with the archives for researchers.
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Cllr Gittins

Founded in 1780 by Susannah Brown, the department store was a pillar of Chester's commercial and cultural life. Its status and brand were such that when Debenhams took it over in 1976, it was the only shop in the chain which traded under its original name.

To locals, it was more than a shop, for many it was the place where they went with their family to buy clothes for special occasions, or where they worked as part of a tight-knit team, or a site where friendships were forged. From everyday moments to once-in-a-lifetime events, Browns looms large in the memories of residents and visitors to Chester.

Previous events on the history of Browns of Chester have been organised by staff from the University of Chester, Cheshire Archives, and West Cheshire Museums. These have included a pop-up display in the old Market Hall, an appearance at Chester Races for the 2022 Chester Heritage Festival, as well as an immersive theatre event held as part of 2022's Being Human festival.

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

Browns of Chester project website