Jenners Department Store. William Hamilton Beattie, 1840-1898. 1893 (completed 1895). 43 Princes Street, Edinburgh. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Charles Jenner (1810-1893) was born in Kent as the son of an innkeeper and apprenticed to a draper in Rochester, only moving to Edinburgh in 1829. He founded the store on Princes Street with his business partner Charles Kennington in 1838 (though the process must have started in the previous year: see inscriptions on façade). When Kennington died in 1874, the store became Charles Jenner & Co. One of the most famous landmarks and institutions in Edinburgh, its original building was destroyed by fire in 1892; this one was planned not only to replace it but to serve as the elderly Jenner's memorial. By this time "buildings such as hotels, department stores and office blocks had become a last redoubt for ornament-laden historicism" (Glendinning and MacKechnie 171). The result was this "wondrous Renaissance compilation in pink stone," considered "just right for what was then one of the biggest department stores in Britain — impressive by its sheer mass, impressive and even endearing in its detail. Splayed corner, borrowed from the Bodleian Library at Oxford, rising skyward into an octagon with flying buttresses.
Left: Fašade detail with architectural sculpture. Right: The top-lit galleried saloon.
Inside, a top-lit galleried saloon and much original detail" (Gifford et al. 311). The caryatids which are such a feature of the exterior were Jenner's own idea, intended "to show symbolically that women were the support of the house as well as his business" ("Charles Jenner [1810-1893]"). In view of the disaster that befell the earlier building, Beattie used iron and steel for the columns and beams of the interior, and fireproof flooring as well.
Charles Jenner was more than an entrepreneur. Another of those incredibly energetic and many-sided Victorians, he was very active in the intellectual life of his times, especially in the areas of botany and geology. He was also highly cultured, and a good friend of many of the leading lights of the day — including Tennyson, whose bust (by Thomas Woolner) he donated to Westminster Abbey. It can be seen in Poet's Corner, with Jenner's name as the donor. Jenner's younger brother Sir William Jenner became Queen Victoria's personal physician.
Note: Amelia Hill's statue of Livingstone can be seen in the foreground of the main picture
Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2010. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Gifford, John, et. al. Edinburgh (The Buildings of Scotland series). London: Penguin, rev. ed. 1991.
Glendinning, Miles and Aonghus MacKechnie. Scottish Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
Nenadic, Stana. "Charles Jenner (1810-1893)." The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 3 March 2010.
Last modified 3 March 2010