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As part of national Explore Your Archive Week we’ve dug through our history to share some facts about the Marks & Spencer Archive housed in the Michael Marks Building within the University of Leeds campus. 

  1. Our Archive charts the M&S story from the very beginning. In 2012 we went back to our roots by opening a stall and coffee shop in the place where M&S first started at Kirkgate Market, Leeds, in 1884.

  2. Visitors can learn more by taking the M&S Heritage Trail through the city, starting at the stall at Kirkgate and finishing at the Michael Marks Building – home to the Archive. Whilst our permanent Marks in Time exhibition rotates around 300 items, there are actually over 70,000 housed within the Archive. To preserve our collection it is stored in a state of the art, environmentally controlled storage room with a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius and 40% humidity.

  3. As well as documenting the M&S journey, our Archive serves as a resource to learn more about key moments of history over the last 130 years. For example the collection is home to almost 70 items of ‘CC14’ labelled clothing produced during the World War II rationing scheme - one of best examples of Utility Civilian Clothing in the country.

  4. Using our e-learning hub visitors can track the history of product development in the world of food and fashion. The free resources cover everything from the Melting Middle chocolate pudding to 1920s bras. The Archive holds an example of the first bra ever sold by M&S in 1926. It wasn’t until 1969 that we introduced cup sizes A, B, C, D & DD - prior to this we sold bras in just three cup sizes: small, medium or large. 

  5. M&S designers and developers use the Archive collection as inspiration for products sold today.  For instance, the vivid jacquard floral pattern featured in our Autumn 14 Best of British collection was originally inspired by the beautiful colour combinations of a seventies tea dress found in the Archive.

  6. Our collection continues to grow and the archivists - myself included - collect bestseller and innovative items from today’s ranges.  We also encourage the public to share their memories online and we regularly receive new treasures via public donations. One of our most recent finds was a 1920s M&S tea set that was found tucked away by a customer at their house. 
Click here to explore the Marks & Spencer Company Archive further, or come visit us at Michael Marks Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT (sat nav LS2 9LZ).