The archive of Debenhams: why this high street legacy should be protected for the nation


The Debenhams Archive is safe for now – how you can help with future plans

13 Sep 2021

The Crisis Management Team (CMT) has been working closely with liquidator and asset managers of Debenhams, The National Archives and the wider archive sector to secure a positive future for the archives of Debenhams. The collections, which date from the 18th century, includes corporate and photographic records, store plans, ledgers, printed material, estate property deeds, and paintings. The material covers head office as well as records from branches across the country which were often originally their own companies. It also includes key items to Debenhams’ history identified from a Debenhams artwork auction sale.

The collections had to be removed from storage on Debenhams premises before the end of August when the site was due to be handed back by the liquidator to the owner. The CMT would like to thank representatives from The National Archives for their invaluable assistance onsite, the removal firm for making the transfer and especially South West Heritage Trust for kindly providing emergency temporary space at very short notice. Without this joint support and the assistance of the liquidator and asset managers, the future of the archives would have looked bleak.

A future project to assess and distribute the collections to archive services will take place over the next six-nine months. The CMT is looking into funding streams and has been collecting evidence in support of applications. Statements on the importance of the archives have been received from Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan and Professor Peter Scott, and other researchers and individuals for which the CMT is very grateful. If you would like to write to express the importance of Debenhams history to you, or if you have funding ideas on how to help support the future of this important collection, these would be very welcome. Please contact Richard Wiltshire with submissions, or if you have any questions.


31 Jul 2021

The Crisis Management Team is working closely with liquidator and asset managers of Debenhams and the wider archive sector to secure a positive future for the archives of Debenhams.

This outstanding collection dates from the 18th century onward and includes:

  • corporate records
  • store plans
  • ledgers
  • printed material
  • estate property deeds
  • photographs of stores and portraits of the Debenhams and other directors.


The archive covers both records from Oxford Street head office in London as well as many branches which began as separate local companies.

As key contacts and physical surveys are undertaken ensure records are safeguarded and liquidator’s deadlines are met, historians Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan and Professor Peter Scott explore the history of the firm and why its archive is important to us all. 

Richard Wiltshire, Crisis Management Team would like to thank Professor Deborah Sugg Ryan, Professor of Design History & Associate Dean Research, University of Portsmouth and Professor Peter Scott, Professor of International Business History, University of Reading for their statements.

Contact Richard to send a statement of importance of Debenhams history to you or funding ideas to help support the archive’s future.


Richard Wiltshire visits his childhood branch in Ipswich, Suffolk for the last time, 2020
Shoppers queuing at Hastings branch, Sussex Dec 2020 before its closure
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