AN upmarket jeweller to royalty, major historical figures, and celebrities has plans to move into part of York’s landmark Debenhams store in the city centre.

The Watches of Switzerland Group has applied to City of York Council to refurbish and reconfigure the former Virgin Money corner unit and part of the former Debenhams unit aiming to create a new 625m2 store.

The proposed retailer is Mappin & Webb, which dates back to 1750, with previous clients including Queen Victoria, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Charles Dickens. Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly.

York city’s Debenhams at Davygate closed in December 2019, just prior to the pandemic, and remains empty.

The other closed Debenhams at Monks Cross is planned to become a Decathlon sports store.

The planning application said: “The desired intent is to elevate this store to fully showcase the brand and to significantly enhance this part of Davygate. In doing so it will be aligned with York’s City Council’s policy of promoting and maintaining Davygate as a world class retail destination.”

The refurbishment is designed by London-based architects Mark Pinney Associates, whose previous clients include iconic jewellers Tiffany and the Alexander McQueen Store in Old Bond Street.

The planning application said: “These proposals ought to create a unified storefront with modified openings set within a granite stone plinth, keeping the existing fascia and composite stone pilasters.

“This approach was taken to align the design with the brand’s retail design concept. The introduction of a new entrance on Davygate, replacing one of the existing shopfront windows on the unit at 2 New Street, creates a main entrance to the proposed Mappin & Webb main sales area.

“This existing opening is the only potential location to create the new entrance due to the sensitivity of the existing heritage features described on the former Debenhams show windows.”

To boost security of the stock, which will feature leading global brands including Breitling and Rolex, existing window frames would be replaced with security glazing, timber doors would be replaced with doors with security glazing and there would be other measures to deliver ‘ram raid protection.’

The application concluded the submitted plans aimed to demonstrate the ‘carefully considered development’ is in line with applicable design guidance for the building erected in the early-mid 20th Century and lies within York’s Central Historic Core Conservation Area.

It also concluded: “They show how the proposed alterations will meet these aims and objectives to create a store which respects its location in the Conservation Area.

“In doing so it is believed that these alterations will not only enhance the street-scape in this particular location but will also make a positive and improved contribution to the Conservation Area as a whole."