A treasure trove of memories from Fenwick department store has come to light at a Byker auction.

A scrapbook of photographs and news clippings compiled by a former manager at Fenwick was among a lot under the hammer at the auction rooms of Thomas N Miller.

Entrepreneur Charlie Hoult recognised its importance and, despite the lot having been sold, managed to purchase the scrapbook, which contains original photographs and clippings from the 1930s and 40s.

Bill Croft, who for many years was Head of Display at Fenwick, put the scrapbook together.

‘A Gay Spectacle’ at the Fenwick staff dance
‘A Gay Spectacle’ at the Fenwick staff dance

Charlie said: “I saw it and realised it was a gem for the retailer, particularly because Christopher Fenwick has recently published a book, The Story of Fenwick and its Family.”

Christopher, 83, was once Marketing and Development Director at the store, and was the brains behind the now iconic annual moving Christmas window displays.

Fenwick United annual football dinner programme, 1936
Fenwick United annual football dinner programme, 1936

Charlie continued: “The scrapbook had already been sold when I asked if I could bid, so I made enquiries and the auctioneer asked the buyer if he was interested in this particular piece as it was in a box of old photos.

“The buyer, from Surrey, said he was only interested in mining industry pictures, so took an offer from the auctioneer.

Judges in the Fenwick's window-dressing competition
Judges in the Fenwick's window-dressing competition

“I’ve been in touch with the Fenwick family, who were delighted to hear I’m sending the scrapbook to them. I am just pleased that I’ve been able to ensure the pictures are going to the right home,” said Charlie, MD at workplace specialists Hyhubs that incorporates Hoults Yard, as well as properties in Newcastle city centre and Gateshead.

Christopher has thanked Charlie for the scrapbook and recalled Bill Croft’s role in the company:

Charlie Hoult handing the Fenwick's scrapbook over to Chris Fenwick in the store's Tivoli Restaurant, February 2020
Charlie Hoult handing the Fenwick's scrapbook over to Chris Fenwick in the store's Tivoli Restaurant, February 2020

“My father Trevor Fenwick was a great exponent of management development and brought on a number of senior managers. One of these, and a real leader, was Bill Croft, author of this scrapbook.

Fenwick enjoyed success in the window display competition
Fenwick enjoyed success in the window display competition

“When Trevor visited the USA in 1938 he learned of Merchandise Directors in American department stores. He liked the idea and some time after his return, had Bill promoted.

“This proved a great success. His ability to understand customer nuance and movement was outstanding.”

Two of the pictures show judges, including Bill Croft, touring stores during a window-dressing competition and another shows Mr Croft receiving a gold watch from Fred Fenwick, son of the store’s founder, in 1947.

The clippings are from newspapers and magazines from all over the world, including the Chronicle, Women’s Wear News, The Mercantile Gazette of New Zealand, The Draper of Australasia and several New York magazines. Most of the cuttings concern Mr Croft’s successful window displays.

Fenwick was founded as an independent tailor’s shop by John James Fenwick, known as Mr JJ Fenwick, in Newcastle in 1882. Less than ten years later, a Fenwick store had also been opened in London’s Mayfair. It now has nine outlets across the UK – but retains its HQ in Newcastle.