How David Lewis Led A Shopping Revolution

Nude and improved - During he war a direct hit caused so much damage the Lewis's had to be rebuilt. When it rose from the ashed the statue of 'Liverpool Resurgent' was added to reflect the hopes that the city would recover its pre-war greatness
Bob Edwards is the author of the book Liverpool in the 1950s and created www.LiverpoolPicturebook.com website which currently has in excess of 2.3 million viewers worldwide. In this column Bob aims to bring you some of the wonderful history of our great city along with some photographs that illustrate our past, we hope you enjoy it!
Bob Edwards is the author of the book Liverpool in the 1950s and created the www.LiverpoolPicturebook.com website which currently has in excess of 2.3 million viewers worldwide. In this column Bob aims to bring you some of the wonderful history of our great city along with some photographs that illustrate our past, we hope you enjoy it!
IF I mention the name David Levy to you, it probably won’t mean a lot, but he left an indelible mark on Liverpool life. Levy was the son of a Jewish merchant in London who came to a then booming, Liverpool in 1838. On his arrival in the city he anglicised his name to the one we are all familiar with, David Lewis. He first worked as an apprentice for the Lord Street tailoring firm of Hyam and company and at 32 chose a premises on Ranelagh Street to set up his boys clothing shop. The shop was no more than 24 feet long with a single entrance. Davis Lewis’s philosophy was to sell his clothing at the lowest possible price, with a promise to exchange items that had not been worn or were not damaged and to sell goods for cash with no bartering allowed. This was unusual at the time because people were used to haggling over prices, but in Lewis’s this was not allowed as the items were all priced.
Bon Marche on Church Street
Bon Marche on Church Street
His motto was “Lewis’s are friends of the people”, and indeed it seemed that the people believed this to be so as the people of Liverpool, supported his venture and the Lewis’s brand grew in popularity. With the popularity of Lewis’s came much larger premises, David Lewis also bought Bon Marche in Church Street which later became George Henry Lee and opened his second, a major retail department store, in Manchester 1880. David Lewis opened the world’s first Christmas grotto in Lewis’s Bon Marche Department Store. The grotto was opened in 1879, entitled “Christmas Fairyland”. Many generations of people across Britain first visited Father Christmas here and it is a tradition which was carried on by Lewis’s. father-christmas-oilette-postcardThe grotto at Lewis’s covered over 10,000 square and was a staple of Liverpool’s festive season. The grotto became 130 years old in 2009. The Grotto moved to the Rapid Hardware’s store in the former George Henry Lee (John Lewis) building. David Lewis also erected a Theatre in Liverpool on Great George Street it was built as part of the larger David Lewis building in 1906. It was intended primarily as a music hall for men using the hostel and club in the building. It was first licensed as a music hall, from January 1907. Shows were performed so that people from the local neighbourhood could attend for much lower prices than they would pay elsewhere. There were concerts on Sunday evenings- “an hour and a half’s good music for 2d”. Films were shown as well, the first cinema licence was issued in January 1914. Sadly, the Theatre ceased being a place of entertainment and its certificates expired on 30 November 1977. Demolition of the complex was completed in October, 1980 and the site has been redeveloped.
Lewis's before the war
Lewis’s before the war
The Lewis’s department store lives on however, despite the best efforts of the Luftwaffe who bombed the store in the Second World War when a direct hit caused damage so great that the store had to be rebuilt. However, rebuilt it was and later had the statue of ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ added to the building as a testament to those who died and the defiance of not just Lewis’s but the city, to overcome the perils of war. David Lewis died in Liverpool in 1885. At his death he bequeathed very large sums (nearly £500,000) for the erection of hospitals and other philanthropic institutions, which constitute some of the most important in Liverpool. The David Lewis Centre based in Little Warford, Cheshire, a charity providing residential accommodation for people with epilepsy and other neurological conditions, continues to operate under the David Lewis name, having been established with the funds from his estate. Despite the subsequent closure of the Lewis’s department store it is a fitting tribute to the great man that the newly refurbished fascia of the store still carries the Lewis’s name and the statue of ‘Liverpool Resurgent’ known affectionately by scousers as ‘Dickie Lewis’, now cleaned and polished, it was once again unveiled in all its glory in February 2013.