Former Barkers Department Store - Kensington, London, UK

Bernard George
Date Built
Designed 1937-38 - completed in 1958
Kensington High Street
The book "A Legend of Retailing: House of Fraser" by Michael Moss and Alison Turton (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1989) outlines the develoment, over several decades, of the Barkers retail empire. 

It points out that, "In 1927 the company reached agreement with the Crown, the principal local landowner, for an exchange of properties which would allow the consolidation and rebuilding of Barkers and Derry & Toms (the adjacent store). Plans were laid for a phased redevelopment of both stores during the 1930s, setting Barkers back by thirty feet to reduce the acute congestion in Kensington High Street."

The architect Bernard George was commissioned to produce designs for both stores.  In the case of the Barkers store the plan was to refurbish the building and give it a new Art Deco styled facade.  Work began on the western end of the building but it was only one-third completed by the time war broke out.  Construction was halted until April of 1955 and it wasn't until September of 1958 that the work was completed.  Inside the store was given an open-plan configuration and a striking projecting tower staircase became a feature of the outside.

Before the Barkers building was completed, the business had changed hands.  "In July
1957 House of Fraser made an offer for the entire share capital ... The board recommended acceptance and the offer became unconditional in August." ......  "By the early 1980s it had become clear that the store‚Äôs sales area, in excess of 600,000 square feet, was too large for the existing trade. In 1982 the number of sales floors was reduced from seven to four and architects were commissioned to refurbish and redevelop Barkers as a compact store of 140,000 square feet alongside a new arcade of nine boutiques. The remaining part of the building was to comprise around 200,000 square feet of office space, with a spectacular barrel vaulted atrium, the largest in Europe, overlooking garden terraces. The new department store was completed by November 1986 and the shopping arcade opened in October 1987."

However,  In August 2005 House of Fraser announced the closure of Barkers store.  Today, the building is occupied by a Whole Food Market, a food retailer that started trading in 1980 with one store in Austin, Texas but now has more than 310 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

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