Day 83 – Lewis’s: – Which was your favourite – ‘Lewis’s’ or ‘Schofield’s’? I think the question is a little reminiscent of “Were you a ‘Beatles’ or ‘Stones’ fan?” They were around at the same time and we could make our choice .Each new release from ‘The Beatles’ we would buy as they were our favourite Group, but it didn’t stop us buying one by ‘The Stones’ – because this was just as good! The same could be said of the two wonderful department stores which faced each other on The Headrow. ‘Lewis’s’ towered above Schofields in its number of floors. From the basement upwards there was so much to see. My Uncle Percy was Manager of the China and Glass dept. for many years which accounted for why my Mum had so many floral ornaments, obviously bought with the useful staff discount! After China & Glass moved to the ground floor by the New Briggate entrance, the space was taken over by bedroom furniture if I remember correctly, but carpets, curtains, fabrics, haberdashery, soft furnishings and general homewares from an elaborate mirror to a loo brush, were all available to furnish our homes.
The ground floor was home to a wonderful Food Hall and I loved to see the ladies in their pristine uniforms, cutting cheese with a wire or slicing roast hams, the required thickness being determined by turning a handle on the wheel of the gleaming silver machine. I think it was probably an ‘Avery’ as they made the heavy duty food scales too. The Food Hall square counters requested we queue along the four sides; always confusing as to who was next to be served! There was a counter selling broken biscuits too from large tins with glass lids, I seem to recall. The ground floor had Handbags, Hosiery, Jewellery, Perfumery, Stationery and even a Travel Agent. A small coffee shop was tucked away next to the holiday shop, probably hoping that customers would pick up brochures and decide on a holiday destination over a hot drink and pastry. At Sale time I would rush to the Cosmetics dept. with its numerous boxes of bargains and we girls would be eagerly looking over shoulders to see what was on offer before it was our turn to rummage.
The first floor was home partly to Menswear but latterly also had some young fashion depts, namely ‘Miss Selfridge’. If one entered the Store by the entrance now owned by ‘Sainsburys’ it was a matter of navigating through tables bearing ‘Pierre Cardin’ and ‘Farah’ slacks; coloured shirts and the type of ‘loud’ sweaters favoured by ‘Alan Patridge’. The numerous lifts were at The Headrow side as were some of the marble-effect black and white staircases with their gleaming brass handrails and which overlooked the rival ‘Schofields’ As a child I was constantly told to “come away from the windows” as the building being so tall, was fascinating for young eyes to see the tiny people rushing along the pavements. I remember the Children’s Hairdressing dept. with its toy animals for seats, being in the corner overlooking The Headrow but whether it was the ground or first floor, I can’t recall.
The second floor was Ladies Fashions – or was that the third? Was there another fashion floor in between? Anyway someone will know the answer – probably my friend Joan who was employed by – and adored – ‘Lewis’s’. Working in Fashion she was one of the elegant ladies who would walk through the Restaurant modelling, say, beautiful fur coats or even undergarments on one occasion but on that day screens were erected to deter unwanted prying eyes from the shop floor! This is the only snippet I have taken though, all other memories being my own! I never visited the Restaurant during those years; only from the early 80s when it had changed to a light and airy self-service Cafe, (was it called ‘The Dales’? I’m sure it had a Yorkshire themed name) next door to which was the Ladies Hairdressing Salon. The Store sold elegant and classic fashion with numerous ‘names’ but I particularly remember ‘Jacques Vert’ with its seasonal colour schemes carrying through from separates to formal wear with matching millinery for weddings. ‘Lewis’s’ had its own label too in ‘Ranella’ (funny how the brain stores information for years and suddenly pushes it out at the appropriate moment) so a lovely Winter coat could be chosen from a large selection of own label merchandise.
At the opposite end of the floor was the Nursery and Toy Depts. High up above the walkways would be displayed a ‘Silver Cross’ coachbuilt pram’ or two, plus expensive toys such as a battery operated sit-in car. Of course no-one had a ‘Christmas Grotto’ to beat that offered by ‘Lewis’s’. It really was magical and as we reached the front of the queue, clutching our ticket to hand to one of Santa’s helpers in exchange for a gift and photo taken with Santa – we would walk along a corridor of ‘windows’ depicting festive scenes with snow covered animals and nursery rhyme characters. Each scene being more lavish than the last, the disappointment on reaching the end was only removed by meeting Santa and taking away a gift. I remember being taken to the Grotto in the 1950s by my sister and was given a box which contained a cut-out star shape into which tiny coloured balls would be inserted. We then went to an opticians for my sister and whilst there I opened the box and embarrassingly (for Barbara) spilt the many, many sparkly balls all over their carpeted floor! I would have been around six or seven years old so hopefully will be forgiven for not being able to remember whether all the tiny balls were recovered.
Prior to closing down, the Store went into administration and became ‘Allders’ for a time and somewhere along the line there was stock bearing the name ‘Owen Owen’ too. It was never going to be the same again and ‘Lewis’s’ was such a tremendous loss to the City. Next time: ‘Schofields’…
Wonderful, until next time…