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Lewis's
The Upperhead Row before development.
All the property on the north side of the Headrow, except for the building adjoining Briggate were owned by Wade's Charity. The charity was founded in 1530 by Thomas Wade, who directed that his lands in the Headrow should 'remain and go to the use of mending and upholding and keeping up the highways about Leeds'. In 1893 the High Court decided that the charity's income could be used for buying land for parks open spaces and playing fields. The Garden of Rest in Merrion Street, and Middleton Park are among the schemes which have been funded by the charity.

The photographs show shops on the Upperhead Row which were part of Wade's charity property. Among them was a branch of Owen and Robinson, jewellers, medal makers, and pawn brokers. The firm had started out in 1801 in a shop in Briggate, and became a public company in 1898; the firm moved its head office to York in 1975, and in 1986 it was taken over by Richard Ratner and Harry Davies. The shops were re-named Lawrence of Hatton Garden, except for the branch in Bond Street, which has kept the name of Owen and Robinson.

The imposing building occupied by Arthur Cook, antique furniture dealer, is a possible site of the house built by Thomas Crosby, who it is said, was made High Bailiff of Yorkshire by Charles II. Crosby was the husband of the Mrs. Crosby who offered to help King Charles I escape from Red Hall.

A photograph taken in 1928, looking west, shows the junction of the Upperhead Row with Briggate and New Briggate, and the end of the row of shops which were demolished to make way for Lewis’s. The picture shows how narrow the Upperhead Row was. Behind the shops were yards and courts, clearly shown in the 1893 map.

Lewis's
In October 1928 it was announced that Messrs. Lewis were to build a new store in Leeds. The site was on the north side of the Upperhead Row, between Woodhouse Lane and new Briggate. Much of the property on the site belonged to Wade's Charity, and was purchased by the Corporation, who then sold it to Lewis's for £160,770. David Lewis came to Britain in 1839,and settled in Liverpool. When he was 16, and was apprenticed to Benjamin Hyam and Company, tailors and outfitters. In 1856 he set up in business in a small shop in Ranelagh Street, Liverpool. In 1880 he opened a store in Manchester, and later in Birmingham, and Lewis's became one of the most important retail companies in Britain. For some time the firm had wanted to build a store in Leeds, and the scheme for widening the Headrow provided them with the opportunity to buy a central site for their store. The architect was G W Atkinson, and like the other new Headrow buildings the store was built to the design of Sir Reginald Blomfield. The contractors were William Airey and son of Leeds. Before drawing up the final plans, the architect visited America to look at store design there.

Before construction could start, the site had to be excavated to 50 feet below pavement level to accommodate the two basement floors. The building was made of steel encased in concrete, and latest construction methods were used. The store covered an area of more than 6,000 square yards. 2.5 million bricks, 5,000 tons of steel, 13,000 tons of sand, 12,000 tons of gravel, and 40,000 were used in the construction. Inside the store the decorations were lavish; 10,000 square yards of floor marble and 400 square yards of wall marble were used.

The building was finished ahead of schedule, and the store was opened to the public on 17th September 1932 by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Alderman F B Simpson. The opening ceremony took place in the restaurant, where the chairman of the company, Harold L Cohen presented a cheque for £500 for Leeds Charities to the Lord Mayor. Large crowds waited outside for the Lord Mayor to press the button that would open the doors to a store with a greater variety of goods than any other in Leeds. Over 100,000 people visited the store on that first day.

'Ask Me' girls were on hand to help people find the department they wanted. There were 157 different departments which sold everything from furniture to food. There were new features like the escalators - the first to be installed in Leeds. By the end of the first days trading the only item that could not be obtained were lobsters which had been selling at 9 pence each!

When the store opened only the two basement floors and two ground floors had been completed. Within a month of the opening work started on the third floor which was finished in 1936. In 1938 additions were made to the west end of the building, and a further three floors were added.

By the 1980s the firm was in trouble, and despite attempts to modernise the Leeds store (the ground floor was refurbished in 1984), the store closed in 1991 and the firm went into receivership. It was taken over by Owen and Owen of Liverpool in March 1991. In 1996 Owen and Owen stores were bought by Allders and continued to trade until 2005 when the company went into administration.  In 2008 the building was redeveloped with a Sainsbury's, Argos, TK Maxx and Clas Ohlson on the lower floors and offices above.
Click images to enlarge
Wade's Charity Properties, 1928
Wade's Charity Properties, 1928
Shops in Upper Headrow, 1928
Shops in Upper Headrow, 1928
Hope's Yard, off Upperhead Row, 1925
Hope's Yard, off Upperhead Row, 1925
Blomfields's plan for Lewis's store, 1928
Blomfields's plan for Lewis's store, 1928
Lewis's under construction, 1932
Lewis's under construction, 1932
Lewis's under construction, 1934
Lewis's under construction, 1934
Lewis's under construction, 1934
Lewis's under construction, 1934
Lewis's under construction, 1938
Lewis's under construction, 1938
Lewis's almost completed, 1938
Lewis's almost completed, 1938
Allders, 1999
Allders, 1999




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003