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Our Heritage

Our business is built upon strong values of Innovation, Inspiration, Integrity and In Touch. These values have been at the heart of how we do business since starting out as a Penny Bazaar at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884. Discover some of the interesting facts that have helped make us who we are today.

Our Heritage

Our business is built upon strong values of Innovation, Inspiration, Integrity and In Touch. These values have been at the heart of how we do business since starting out as a Penny Bazaar at Leeds Kirkgate Market in 1884. Discover some of the interesting facts that have helped make us who we are today.

Our Heritage

Did you know that we sold our first bra in 1926?

How about that our scientists worked with the government during WW2 to help with rationing strategy?

Or even that when we were one of the first to introduce 'avocado pears' in 1959 one customer tried to serve it as a dessert with custard?! 

Discover our story and unlock the fascinating journey that has made M&S one of Britain’s best loved retailers.

Company Archive 

The M&S Company Archive is a vital business asset of over 70,000 historical items and acts to collect, preserve and utilise material relating to all aspects of our history and development as a company. One of the richest retail history collections in the country, the Archive collection charts our journey over more than 130 years, from Penny Bazaar to international multichannel retailer.

Our diverse collection of items dates from the start of the company in 1884 and includes written records, staff publications, photographs and films, garments and household products, design and advertising material and much much more. Find out more about the collection using our online catalogue.

Marks in Time: Discover our story

From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, you can now experience the M&S journey for yourself at the Marks in Time Exhibition. Based on the University of Leeds campus, the M&S Company Archive is home to the Marks in Time Exhibition which celebrates the M&S story and offers fascinating insights into our changing lifestyles and British social history. 

The Archive offers a wide range of activities, from schools and community workshops to special events and a bespoke programme for group visitors; including guided tours, expert talks, free refreshments and our award winning M&S Heritage trail. The Archive is based on the University of Leeds campus and gives researchers and academics from all walks of life the opportunity to directly access the collection through our bookable Reading Room Service.

Kirkgate Market

In March 2013 we returned to our roots and opened a stall at Kirkgate Market in Leeds, the same place that Michael Marks opened the first Penny Bazaar stall in 1884. Our M&S heritage stall and coffee shop is located right beside the famous M&S clock in the 1904 Kirkgate Market building and marks the starting point of our Heritage Trail.

Southampton  Exhibit

Downloads and Links

To visit the Marks In Time website and find out more about our heritage and how we are using it today, please click here

To download pictures of the M&S Company Archive Collection from our media library, please click here

For the opening day press release for the M&S Company Archive please click here 

In Partnership: working with the University of Leeds

The relocation of the Company Archive in 2012 created the foundation for a unique relationship with the University of Leeds. Our diverse partnership gives us the opportunity to join up with one of the UK’s leading research-intensive Russell Group Universities, who in turn enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate real impact through collaboration with a FTSE 100 international business. 

The partnership offers a broad range of opportunities to support young people into the workplace. From mentoring programmes to student projects and work placements, young people get the chance to work with colleagues across the business, learning the skills they need for the future. Since opening in 2012, we’ve also collaborated on cutting-edge research projects in areas as diverse as international business and gender diversity, and supported M&S charity partners such as Oxfam through bringing Shwop At Work to the University. The partnership has also explored emerging digital learning platforms. Launched in September 2014, ‘Innovation: The Key to Business Success’ was the first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) for M&S and attracted the highest number of learners for a University of Leeds course to date. 

An example of our partnership in action, the ‘On Your Marks’ Networking Series brings business and higher education together through a series of working lunches, featuring guest speakers, topical debate and networking at the University. M&S speakers to date have included Executive Director Multi-channel E-commerce, Laura Wade-Gery; Director of Plan A, Mike Barry and our Company Secretary, Amanda Mellor, on subjects from sustainability to business ethics and Big Data to branding. Find out more about the series and watch videos from previous events here.

For more information about our partnership with the University of Leeds click here.

University of Leeds


Contact our Company Archive Team

If you have an enquiry about the history of M&S, our Archive team will be happy to help you. 


By phone: 0208 718 2800 

By post
M&S Company Archive 
Michael Marks Building 
Western Campus 
University of Leeds 
LS2 9JT