The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

Debenhams – Nuneaton

Nominated by: C20
Region: West Midlands
Former names: J.C Smiths
Dates from: 1914-1960s
Built for: J. C. Smith & Sons, acquired by Debenhams in 1929
Architect: no. 5 built 1914-5 and site expanded 1935-6, then alterations in 1960s
Listed: No. 37 Locally Listed
Features of merit: no. 5 Bridge Street, no. 37 Newdegate Street, no. 59 Newdegate Street and the department store, Nuneaton

The site is home to a number of early 20th-century buildings once occupied by the drapers J.C. Smith & Sons. J.C. Smith’s Nuneaton branch was opened in 1914 and no.5 Bridge Street was built in 1914-15, providing the business’s first purpose-built shop. Debenhams then acquired J.C. Smith & Son in 1929 but the Smith family continued to manage the Nuneaton stores. The Nuneaton site was then expanded in 1935-36 under the direction of the Smith family who employed the architects Healing & Overbury. This partnership was formed by Samuel Holland Healing and Thomas Overbury in Cheltenham in c.1905 and remained in practice until the 1990s. The expansion of the Nuneaton site saw the construction of no.37 Newdegate Street, no.59 Newdegate Street and the department store, all built to designs by Healing & Overbury. No. 37 is a well-designed pale limestone Art Deco building of two-storeys in height which bears the name ‘J.C. Smiths’. No. 59 is a three-storey brick-faced building with steel-framed windows and stone details, including a cornice dated ‘1936’. Alterations to the Nuneaton stores were carried out in the 1960s, including the addition of new shop fronts and canopies. Also on the site is the brick, 2-storey nos. 51-57 Newdegate Street of c.1908 which was integrated with the rest of Debenhams in 1965.

March 2021: Application submitted for redevelopment. The elevation of no. 37 (which is locally listed) will be preserved but the rest of the building will be demolished, as will the other buildings on the site. C20 objected, chiefly to the partial demolition of no. 37 and to the entire demolition of no. 59. (last update July 2021)

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