392/0/10293 RANELAGH STREET
04-JUN-07 LEWIS'S DEPARTMENT STORE
Department store, designed 1947, constructed late 1940s/early 1950s, by Gerald de Courcy Fraser, constructed by Fraser, Sons & Geary. Steel frame with Portland stone facades, brick to rear. Stripped Classical style. Statue and reliefs to main entrance by Sir Jacob Epstein. Replaced earlier store largely destroyed during WWII. Adjacent Watson Building incorporated into earlier store retains early C20 facade.
PLAN: Long main NE block alongside Renshaw Street, shorter block running W from right end down Ranelagh Street. W end facing Fairclough Street. Lawton Street and Cropper Street to SW rear of building. Main entrance fronting Ranelagh Place.
EXTERIOR: Renshaw Street elevation (including Watson Building) of 25 bays, Ranelagh Street elevation of 16 bays, Fairclough Street end elevation of 9 bays with further bay to flat left corner. Large flat corner bay facing Ranelagh Place. Major part of store of 7 storeys plus basement and sub-basement, ground floor mezzanine level to NW corner. Watson Building to SE end of Renshaw Street elevation of 8 storeys, 5 bays. Slim red granite columns with Ionic capitals divide recessed paired windows to second and third floors, columns to fourth floor Tuscan in style. Middle floor bays divided by full-height pilasters. Balustrade with pierced roundels to fifth floor, 3-light windows to fifth and sixth floors flanked by paired pilasters. Dentil eaves cornice, balustraded parapet to roofline, further storey set back behind. Main Renshaw Street, Ranelagh Street and Fairclough Street 7-storey elevations share same design with large ground floor display windows, windows with geometric style glazing to first, second and third floors flanked to each end by full-height segmented pilaster strips. Large gold incised lettering reading 'LEWIS'S' between first and second floors to Renshaw Street and Ranelagh Street elevations. Windows in identical style to fourth and fifth floors divided by classically styled 2-storey pilaster strips. Top floor set back behind parapet wall (displaying relief lettering reading 'LEWIS'S' to Fairclough Street elevation) except corners, which are flush and give appearance of towers. Used as stair towers. Two entrances to Renshaw Street, one to Ranelagh Street, one to flat corner bay of Ranelagh Street and Fairclough Street, some flanked by fluted half-columns. Main entrance to flat corner on Ranelagh Place, tall Egyptian-style porticoed entrance rising to second floor, three ground floor entrance doorways separated by plain full-height square columns. Large ciment fondu relief panels above each doorway by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1955. Depict scenes of childhood, modelled on Epstein's own children and grandchildren. Panels depict young boys play fighting (left), baby girl sat in a pram with her pet dog (centre), children playing playground games (right). Tall windows above panels (now covered over with signage). Giant 18' high bronze statue of nude male figure 'Liverpool Resurgent' striding forward on ship's prow emerges from and surmounts portico, also by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1954-6. Represents Liverpool's resurgence after WWII. Lower panels represent new generation for whom Liverpool was being rebuilt. 2 storey colonnade to upper part of corner entrance with fluted Doric-style half-columns, windows between columns to each floor in same style as main elevations, plain carved panels between floors, parapet to roofline, further storey set back behind. Flat roof with raised lights, two large water tanks.
INTERIOR: Stone and marble stairs with timber handrails overlaid in metal (some with solid metal handrails), decorative wall plates, Art Deco inspired pierced metal splat balusters. Marble entrance hallways. Stepped light boxes to ceiling of far left Renshaw Street entrance. Original lifts (some not in operation and cars removed), grill doors underneath later fire doors, attendant's seat and operating mechanism. Passenger lifts to SE end of building with original clocks incorporating coloured lights corresponding to the member of staff needed on the shop floor. 1960s escalators to centre of building, part of original escalators to fourth and fifth floors survive. Sub-basement with storage and maintenance areas. Basement to third floor with open plan layout, large fluted stone columns based on those in Selfridges, London (owned by Lewis' at the time of store's reconstruction), columns boxed in to second and third floors. Fourth floor originally had same layout, now partitioned for offices, original fluted columns intact. Ground floor mezzanine level with Art Deco inspired pierced metal balustrade to NW corner divided by corner entrance stair, access from half landing on corner entrance stair and late C20 timber stairs rising from shop floor. Fifth floor with original polished exotic wood panelling, panelled doors, tiled floor to main corridor running down left side of Ranelagh Street block, inserted late C20 fire doors to each end. Ladies powder room and gentlemen's toilets with original fittings and tiling. Former self-service restaurant to Fairclough Street end of building with 65' long, 10' high tiled Festival of Britain mural on E wall (originally behind servery), produced by Carter's of Poole, depicts food and crockery, probably designed by Alfred Burgess Read or Peggy Angus, hand-painted and hand-printed tiles. Further mural to S wall depicts geometric patterns and cutlery, probably by same designer. Decorative pierced metal screens above seating benches, mid C20 drop lights and ball-and-rod light fitting to centre of ceiling. Original pierced bronze screen by Mitzi Cunliffe, 1957, depicting War of the Roses now removed. Two other restaurants to fifth floor plain in appearance, kitchen with tiled walls, floor and ceiling. Former Glemby hair and beauty salon to NE end, long rectangular plaster relief to SE wall depicting four naked women amongst field of flowers, unknown artist but possibly Epstein or Mitzi Cunliffe. Patterned metal ceiling to salon, booths incorporating metal leaf sculpture, original mid C20 hairdryers and seating. Storerooms and workshops to rest of floor. No sixth floor to main store. Seventh floor with same layout as fifth, corridor with tiled floor and walls, green tiles to latter forming geometric patterns. Function room above mural restaurant with sprung dance floor. Large tiled kitchen with dumb waiters. NE end of building above salon formerly offices, divided by low partition walls. Raised roof lights. Medical rooms and offices to rest of building. Watson Building retains early C20 layout. Used as office and storage space, offices to second floor modernised and partitioned in late C20.
HISTORY: The first Lewis's store was established in 1856 on Ranelagh Street by David Lewis (born David Levy), retailer and later a philanthropist, as a men's and boy's clothing store. In 1864 women's clothing was incorporated and the store later expanded in the 1870s by adding further departments including shoes and tobacco. Later other branches were opened in Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield (all now closed) and Lewis's became England's first department store chain.
After David Lewis' death the business was taken over by Louis Cohen and subsequently Harold and Rex Cohen who took the company public in 1924 and opened further stores in England and Scotland. In 1951 the Lewis group purchased Selfridges, London.
The original C19 store was replaced in stages from 1910-1923 to the classical designs of Gerald de Courcy Fraser and incorporated another adjacent building (Watson Building) to the SE along Renshaw Street into its design for use as offices and storage. The store was mostly destroyed during the Liverpool Blitz of May 1941 and was redesigned as the present store in 1947 (constructed in the late 1940s/early 1950s), again to the designs of de Courcy Fraser and constructed by Fraser, Sons & Geary. Only part of the early C20 store survived the bombing (the Watson Building) and this was retained whilst the rest of the building was rebuilt in a more modern stripped classical style. To signify Liverpool's resurgence following the war years a nude male sculpture and 3 bronze reliefs by Sir Jacob Epstein were incorporated into the new design.
After the Cohens the Lewis's group had a succession of different owners before becoming part of the Sears Group, who remained in control until 1992 when Owen Owen took over. Owen Owen retained some stores to continue trading under the Lewis's brand name but sold other stores to other retail operators. After 2001 following the closure of the Manchester store the Liverpool branch was the only store trading under the Lewis's name. Owen Owen went into administration in early 2007 and four of their stores (including Lewis's) are to be closed.
Up until 1987 the whole store was operative but with dwindling trade the top floors including the restaurants, hair/beauty salon, and the function room were closed off to the public with only the basement, ground, first and second floors remaining in retail use.
In 1959 a subway was created underneath Fairclough Street that linked Central Station with the basement of Lewis's. This still remains in use.
Cavanagh T. 1997. 'Public Sculpture of Liverpool'. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
Morrison K A. 2003. 'English Shops & Shopping'. London: English Heritage.
Sharples J. 2004. 'Pevsner Architectural Guides: Liverpool'. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Unpublished: Pearson L. 'After the Festival: Mural decoration in postwar Britain'. 2007. Paper given at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, 14th March 2007.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE: A major, prominently-sited post-war department store in the stripped Classical style designed in 1947 by Gerald de Courcy Fraser and constructed in the late 1940s/early 1950s. The present building replaced an earlier store that was mostly destroyed during the Liverpool blitz of May 1941.
Lewis's department store possesses imposing main elevations and a striking overall composition and massing that incorporates a giant bronze sculpture and ciment fondu reliefs by the internationally significant sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, which represent Liverpool's resurgence after the war years. Combined with an interior that retains its original floor plan and features including unique Festival of Britain murals in the fifth floor restaurant, a decorative plaster relief in the former hair salon, all the original stone and marble stairs and some original lifts. Lewis's is a distinctive and now rare example of a little-altered, early post-war department store with high quality architectural detailing. As such it fully merits listing at grade II.