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140 Years of Fenwicks

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It’s 140 years today since Fenwick’s on Newcastle’s Northumberland Street opened its doors to Tyneside shoppers.

Opening on March 23, 1882, as a humble single shop, today the department store carries the reputation as the region’s foremost retail attraction. With its top-of-the-range household goods, array of high fashion, sumptuous food hall, variety of restaurants and cafes, and its famous Christmas window display, the store has been cited as Newcastle’s own version of Harrods.

Fenwicks circa 1910

Older than Newcastle United (1892) and the Tyne Bridge (1928, Fenwicks is known as one of the founding staples of our beloved city.

It was a mantle-maker and furrier called John James Fenwick who opened a single shop at 5 Northumberland Street 140 years ago.

At the time the street was becoming increasingly commercialised, being described as a row of old brick houses that “are rapidly becoming shops”. It’s hard to imagine today that the retail giant started life as a single house snapped up by the young shop assistant for the sum of £181.

The business initially sold mantles, silk goods, dresses, fabrics and trimming, but expansion was rapid and Fenwick and his son, Fred, soon bought up adjoining Northumberland Street properties, numbers 37 and 38 – and later number 40. These formed the shop frontage still used by Fenwick’s in 2022.

Inside Fenwicks: 1922

The store has also been recognised for the important role it has played in supporting the city’s economy, employing thousands of staff through the generations.

Newcastle City Council’s Director of Place, Michelle Percy, said: “Fenwick department store has been at the heart of Newcastle city centre since 1882 and is part of our history, heritage and culture. As a flagship store, it’s a firm favourite among locals and visitors alike many of whom come to shop from overseas.

Newcastle Central Labour MP Chi Onwurah said: “Fenwicks of Newcastle is a proud symbol of our city centre. Founded in our city, [it is] the pride of Northumberland and the source of so much joy, as well as the object of so many dreams and ambitions.

“Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Fenwick windows and our city wouldn’t be the same without Fenwicks!”

Fenwicks flyer: 1948

In 2022 the famous brand has branches in Bond Street and Brent Cross in London, and in Bracknell, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Tunbridge Wells and York – as well as in Newcastle of course were it all started. Kieran McBride, Fenwick’s Newcastle store director, said: “This is a very exciting year for us at Fenwick as we celebrate the 140th anniversary of our very first store here in Newcastle.

“To mark the occasion, we have a fantastic line-up of spectacular events starting with a thrilling circus performance this Saturday inspired by our founder’s son’s love of the circus. There are also all-new celebratory in-store experiences such as Café 140 and Exhibition 140 which explore our rich archive and showcase future talent through our work with Northumbria University.

“We will announce a series of further events in the coming weeks which we are incredibly excited to share with you all. Fenwick has always been proud to be a big part of the community here in Newcastle and we can’t wait to welcome you all to join our celebrations.”

Fenwicks: 1966

What’s your fondest memory of Fenwicks?

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Best Day Date Ideas in the North East

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Bowling

If the weather is looking too grim to be outdoors, bowling is always a great idea. Who doesn’t love a bit of competition? No cheating though. By this we mean, putting the sides up or using the ramp! Scoring zero without them is better than scoring a strike with them. At least in our books anyways. Plus, if you lose, you can challenge your date to a game in the arcade centre afterwards to even the scores.

Credit: Ella Christenson

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Business

Disabled Teen Denied Wetherspoon’s Entry With Assistance Dog

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A disabled teenager said he felt ‘absolutely humiliated’ after he was refused entry to a Wetherspoons with his assistance dog. 19 year old River Cartledge, who has autism, fibromyalgia and arthritis – takes his assistance dog Chico most places with him.

Video footage below from Instagram shows him pleading with security guards and the manager of The Five Swans in Newcastle to let him inside the pub with his harnessed up Shih Tzu on Saturday night.

River said: “Their issue was the fact he was an assistance dog, and not a guide dog.

“I quoted the Equality Act 2010, and the guide for all businesses, both of which any business that’s open to the public like any Wetherspoons is, have to abide by legally, regardless of any “policy” they may have in place,” he added.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits service providers, including taxis and restaurants, from discriminating against those who need an assistance dog with them. It also requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers.

River claimed he had a ‘severe meltdown and panic attack’ after the interaction. ‘I have never had an experience like this and it caused me to have a medical episode.’

Chico has belonged to River for eight years and was trained as an assistance dog two years ago. River said: “Assistance dog handlers such as myself get denied in public places more often than it’s talked about, and it always makes us feel like this, and like we’re the ones causing problems for ourselves by needing a dog, when in reality it’s the ableism and ignorance of other people, not the disabled person.”

He also added “‘I was straight up told that they only allowed seeing eye dogs and they didn’t allow assistance dogs, because of their “policy”.

According to Guide Dogs UK ‘75% of all assistance dog owners surveyed [in 2015] said they had been refused access to a service at some point because they had an assistance dog with them’. 

Five Swans: sign saying they allow assistance dogs *face palm*

Wetherspoons’ policy states: “We do allow registered assistance dogs.

“In these circumstances, and to avoid any confusion or unnecessary upset, ensure that your dog is wearing its recognisable leash/collar or harness. 

“It would also be helpful if you could bring along suitable documentation to explain your dog’s purpose.”

River said he had ID from Assistance Dogs UK, a certification body, with him but was unable to show it at the time. Chico was however wearing a harness.

Following the complaint to the pub chain, Wetherspoon’s spokesperson Eddie Gershon said: “It was an error not to let them in with the assistance dog.

“It was a genuine error and we apologise wholeheartedly.

“We can understand the fact they would have been upset and frustrated by the situation.

“Assistance dogs are allowed into Wetherspoon pubs and we will reiterate this to staff at the pub and the company’s pubs in general.

“They are more than welcome to visit the pub with the dog.”

Good dog Chico. Check out River and Chico’s adventures here!

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Business

Plans for Sunderland’s Culture House Unveiled

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A unique cultural attraction in Sunderland city centre has been officially given the green light. Culture House – a multi-purpose cultural venue, packed with features and with a year-round programme of activities – has been approved at a Sunderland City Council planning meeting, paving the way for work to start within weeks.

The building, which will combine a state-of-the-art city library and a permanent home for local history and archive collections with spaces for exhibitions, storytelling, learning, gaming, media, arts and crafts, has been designed with heavy input from Sunderland residents, and will stand on the site of the Corner Flag pub, overlooking Keel Square.

A café, a roof garden and welcoming social spaces will make Culture House a “living room in the heart of the city”, and the building will offer an exciting mix of immersive digital experiences and traditional media. Plans were submitted to the planning authority at the end of last year and will now move forward, with a construction partner expected to be announced before the summer.

Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “Culture House is a staple part of our Riverside Sunderland plan, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it rise from the ground, adding to the magnificent buildings we’re seeing take shape in and around Keel Square. 

“Our plan for the city centre is to create a vibrant new destination, where people can live work and play, and through venues like Culture House, alongside the magnificent Auditorium and our planned £80m Arena, we are delivering more and better places for people to visit and enjoy.”

Culture House has been designed by award-winning, international practice FaulknerBrowns Architects, who also designed the nearby City Hall. The £25m new building will provide more than 75,000sq ft of accommodation on four floors, and the project has secured funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund. 

The new building is expected to attract more than half a million visits a year and will draw people from across the city and beyond, contributing to city centre regeneration and enhancing Sunderland’s exciting cultural offer.

Culture House is a key part of the Riverside Sunderland delivery plan, which sets out a transformational vision to create a vibrant, mixed-use site. The plans will see 1,000 new homes for up to 2,500 new residents arrive on Riverside Sunderland, as well as a range of new places to enjoy – including parkland both sides of the river, connected by a new pedestrian crossing. The plans will boost the number of people living and working in the heart of the city, creating a stronger daytime and evening economy by doubling the resident population of the city centre from 2,500 to 5,000 and increasing employment by 50% to 18,000.

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