Appeal for Leamington shopping memories

A Christmas display at Metcalf's Game and Poultry shop on Clemens Street, c.1910.
A Christmas display at Metcalf's Game and Poultry shop on Clemens Street, c.1910.

The curator of a new exhibition that will trace the history of shopping in Leamington is appealing for pictures, information, objects and memories.

Shopping In The Spa Town will run at Leamington Art Gallery from January 30 to April 17 next year - and senior curator Vicki Slade is looking for objects to contribute to the display.

Starting from the mid-Victorian era - when stores such as Burgis & Colborne opened, the exhibition will explore the development of shopping as a leisure activity through the 20th century - during which time luxury department stores dominated the Parade, up until the opening of the Royal Priors in the 1980s.

Following the establishment of the Pump Room and Baths in 1814 and visits by Queen Victoria to the town in 1830 and 1850, Leamington became a tourist destination. Many retail and wholesale businesses thrived on the money which tourism brought into the town, ranging from milliners and outfitters to food emporiums and bath chair businesses.

Queen Victoria gave the town its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1938 and Queen Elizabeth II visted Leamington in 1988 to officially open the Royal Priors shopping centre.

Significant themes and events that will be covered in the exhibition include advertising and the shop window display; the role of the shop keeper; customer credit and the changing relationship between the shop assistant and customer.

The range of shops in the town, from small independent retailers to large department stores and national chains will also be explored.

Vicki is particularly interested in memories, information and objects relating to iconic shops from the town, such as Burgis & Colbourne, Francis & Sons, Woodward’s, Bobby’s, Hall & Son, Southorn’s and Toy Town.

There were numerous smaller shops in the town that Vicki is keen to hear about too.

Anyone wishing to lend relevant material to the art gallery should call 01926 742700.

To find out more about exhibitions and events taking place at the gallery, visit