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Posts tagged ‘lewis’s’

Some historical entertainments

The ghost town of Argleton, as old maps may have seen it

The mysterious town of Argleton, as a paper Google might have seen it, by Nefi via Flickr

I did recently promise some more entertaining blog content after the ‘historic environment’-heavy post this week. So here’s something to stick on your new iPad (or other less fancy PDF readers):

History of World Museum Liverpool

The institution currently known as World Museum Liverpool has a very long history. 150 years to be precise, and it’s celebrating in various ways. Download their free PDF called Liverpool’s Museum: the first 150 years.

I’ve not read the whole thing yet, but it’s already turning into a fascinating story of figures such as Thomas John Moore, William Brown, J.A. Picton and Lord Derby, who have all, in one way or another, left their mark on the city of Liverpool.

Lewis’s Slideshow

When you’re done with that, you should watch the ‘audio slideshow‘ commemorating the even older institution of Lewis’s, featuring voice-overs from former managers and employees, and with a soundtrack of the likes of ‘In My Liverpool Home’, which mentions old Dickie in passing.

There are some great images of the 1950s cafe interior, and the shop floors in days gone by.

Landscape Mystery

Now, you knew Google was getting too powerful, didn’t you? But now it’s creating whole English towns where none should be.

Do you know where Argleton is? Well, according to Google Maps it’s just off the Liverpool-Ormskirk road, near Aughton.

A trap to catch the unwary map-copier? A bad transcription of Aughton? Or a secret base where Google plans to spread it’s evil plan? You decide!

Liverpool Museum gets training grant

In the midst of economic troubles for many externally-funded organisations, National Museums Liverpool has struck lucky in getting £350,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The money will be used for audience development – reaching out to those who wouldn’t normally see the museum as ‘for them’. Six two-year placements at the new Museum of Liverpool will start from next year. More details available at Art in Liverpool.

Liverpool Buildings: Lewis’s Department Store

It’s been two months since the news came that Lewis’s Department Store is to close. I thought I’d gather a few details about this historic building in one place for reference. Do let me know if I’ve missed anything!

A history of Lewis’s

The corner entrance of Lewis's Department Store, Ranelagh Street, Liverpool

The corner entrance of Lewis's Department Store, Ranelagh Street, Liverpool

David Lewis founded a small shop selling men’s and boy’s clothing in 1856. The sale of women’s clothes began in 1864 , and by the 1870s Lewis’s was a full department store, having added sections for shoes and tobacco.

Branches were opened in other cities, beginning with Manchester in 1877 and followed by Birmingham, Sheffield and Leicester.

The building burnt down in a famous fire of 1886, and was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Nevertheless, it was rebuilt each time, and was refurbished in 1957, including the installation of the statue ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ to symbolise the city’s renewed vigour following the horrors of the recent conflict.

The fifth floor of Lewis’s has taken on an almost mythical status. In the store’s heyday, the 1950s, the fifth floor was the place to dine in the self-service cafeteria or the Red Rose restaurant, or to get your hair done in the salon. A large mural decorated the walls, but this and the other features were hidden from the public in the 1980s when the floor was closed. It’s now found a new burst of publicity as it becomes the focus of an exhibition at the National Conservation Centre.

Lewis’s went into administration in 1991, and all but the Liverpool store were sold off, the majority to competitor Owen Owen. The Liverpool store continued to trade though, until it went into liquidation in 2007. Having been bought by Vergo Retail Ltd in the same year it managed to soldier on until the lease on the iconic building came up for renewal. Due to development of the area, the company was no longer allowed to stay. Despite efforts at negotiation, it remains uncertain whether Lewis’s will have a place in the new Liverpool Central Village.

Trying to come to terms with the loss of an iconic Liverpool company, Susan Lee explained that Lewis’s ceased to be ‘a player’ in the city. Recent development meant that the focus shifted to the waterfront and Liverpool One. Also in recent years the Big Dig cut off Lewis’s from its customers, and was no longer the highly fashionable place – complete with a lady behind a lectern to welcome you – to shop.

40 Ranelagh Street

Drawing of Lewis's Original Department Store, 1869

Lewis's Original Department Store (1869), by Lewis's via Flickr

David Lewis opened his first small store on Ranelagh Street, Liverpool in 1856. It was a small, glass-fronted shop as shown in the image on the Lewis’s web site.

It expanded piece by piece between 1910-12 into much larger premises, which were gutted by fire in 1888. The building was once again heavily damaged, this time by German bombs, during the Second World War. It is the 1957 building, complete with ‘Dickie Lewis’, which remains standing today, and which will stay as part of the redevelopment of the area.

This latest Lewis’s store was designed in 1947 by Gerald de Courcy Fraser, and constructed by Fraser, Sons and Geary. It is built from a steel frame with a Portland stone façade.

There are several classical influences in the building. Red granite columns are topped with Ionic capitals, while the columns on the fourth floor are Tuscan in style. A two-storey collonade above the corner entrance have Doric-style half columns.

The statue Liverpool Resurgent is accompanied by relief panels depicting scenes of childhood, the figures in which are modelled on the sculptor Jacob Epstein’s own children and grandchildren. These represent the younger generation which Liverpool was being rebuilt for.

One of the most interesting features of the building are the lifts, of which some are still in place, but which are to be removed as part of the new Liverpool Central Village. These lifts are original features of the building, and were operated by a member of staff through use of a lever. There were no controls for the customers! Both the fold-down seats and the lever mechanism are currently still in the building, and are mentioned in the listing description. The passenger lifts at the south east of the building still have ‘clocks’ with coloured lights to indicate which member of staff was required on the shop floor.

In addition, parts of the original customer escalators survive to the fourth and fifth floors.

The rediscovered fifth floor has wood panelling, panelled doors and a tiled floor corridor. A ten foot high Festival of Britain mural on the eastern wall is made of hand painted and hand printed tiles. Another mural on the south wall shows geometric patterns and cutlery, probably designed by the same artist.


Lewis’s Fifth Floor: A Department Story by Stephen King (left)

Lewis’s closure brings end to colourful history (Liverpool Echo)

Susan Lee on the reasons why Lewis’s department store in Liverpool is facing closure (Liverpool Echo)

Oldest department store to close (BBC News)

Lewis’s closes down the shutters after 154 years (BBC News)

Lewis’s Liverpool, exterior, 1931 (Liverpool Museums)

Lewis’s Department Store (Listed Buildings Online)

Lewis’s (Wikipedia)

Dickie Lewis plans afoot already

Lewis’s has only recently announced its closure, but already plans sneaking out about what will come after it. Still no word on whether the shop itself will be ‘resurgent’ in the new development, but plenty of comment, so I’ll leave to to pop over to those sites for a read.

Plans for a ‘Central Village‘ have been on the cards for a few years already.

Robin Brown on the Liverpool Culture Blog is right to worry about what will go in the new ‘Central Village Liverpool’ . What with Liverpool One and the new developments from Paradise Street up to Renshaw Street, Liverpool is at risk from each area pulling customers away the others. If this development is to work, it will have to have its own distinctive character.

However optimistic we are, Liverpool has only got so much money to spend, especially at the moment. As this is near Lime Street, there is a good chance Central Village will attract visitors from outside the city, but if it apes the rest of the new developments, Liverpool will lose its character, and it’s often bold independent shopping soul.

Good luck to it.

Museum paid £750,000 for historic view, and visitor numbers up on 2007

Photo of the roof of the atrium in World Museum Liverpool

World Museum Liverpool, by Secret Pilgrim via Flickr

First some museum news: the Echo is reporting that National Museums Liverpool had to pay landowners Downing £750,000 as the new Museum of Liverpool building broke a covenant drawn up in 1963.

The covenant dictated that no building be constructed within 40 feet of the River Mersey, and any building here would not be more than 40 feet tall. This was to maintain the lines of sight between the Port of Liverpool building and offices at the Albert Dock. This document was signed in 1963 when the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board sold the land the museum now stands on to Liverpool Corporation.

It seems that NML’s David Fleming chose to pay the money upfront before Dowling were tempted into suing for a predicted £70,000.

Visitor numbers up for Liverpool museums

Better publicity for NML comes in the form of visitor numbers to all the museums on Merseyside, which rose to 2.2m in 2009 from just over 2m in 2007.

Of course, 2008 was going to take some beating, so it’s good to know that the trend from the last ‘normal’ year is a positive one. You can only imagine that with the new museum next year, visitor numbers will increase again.

More details and figures for the individual museums are available on the Art in Liverpool blog.

Lewis’s lives on – for a little while longer

Now that Lewis’s has announced it’s closing down, memories turn to its ‘golden years’ in the last century.

A new exhibition by photographer Stephen King is being shown at the Conservation Centre, focussing on the fabled ‘Fifth Floor’. This is where the old cafe was, along with the biggest hair salon in the world. It’s also home to an amazing range of (now) retro design – bright colours in the post-WWII era, yellow walls, orange ceilings and blue chairs, and egg-shaped hair-dryers and 1950s lino floors.

Photographs also include portraits of Lewis’s employees past and present, to breathe some life into the eerie space.

The exhibition runs from 26th February until 30th August. You can follow the exhibition on the Lewis’s Fifth Floor blog.

Abbey Road studios finally listed

You may be aware of the current saga of Abbey Road studios in London; its future uncertain while rumours flew that it would be sold off by owners EMI.

Well, the Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced that she would be taking on board English Heritage’s recommendations, and would be listing the Georgian townhouse which contains the studios.

English Heritage first proposed that the building be listed in 2003, but had been ignored until this great publicity opportunity fell at the minister’s feet. Even EH had originally been reluctant to recommend listing, but current listing criteria include ‘historic’ as well as ‘architectural’ significance. And Abbey Road certainly has that.