• Welcome to this forum . We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team



master brummie
Well - just to get the topic back ON TOPIC! :roll:

I too enjoyed Colins recollections of working at Lewis's.

Lewis's was such a 'grown up' shop for me. When I started shopping there and meeting my friends there, I really felt that I had moved into adulthood - I believe I was about 15.

Was it Lewis's or Grays that had the lifts with the attendant and the manual concertina and solid double doors? Or did they both? Still now, when I use the old lifts at City Hospital I think of the attendant who must have suffered with some chronic injury from pulling and pushing those doors over and over again all day.................... standing in the lift, listening carefully for 3rd floor - 'linens soft furnishings and ladies hairdressing'.........the attendant periodically perched on his pull down round seat.


gone but not forgotten
Believe it or not, I too enjoyed Colin's post, as I did the others on the topic. I find all personal accounts interesting.

Yes Sue, Lewis's definitely had those lifts (Grays may have had them too but I didn't frequent that store as often). Dunno about the lift operators injuring themselves operating the doors, from my recollections most already had some disability that how they came to be employed in such meanial jobs.


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team

:D As I said. there are more threads about Lewis's eg: 'History Topic'.
There's even another by Colin telling about the basement and other stories.
...In the early days of the store the basement was flooded and turned into a miniture venice for a promotion .and during the war it became a temporary hospital...
Also other members who Mom's worked there, or had haircut as children. .‚..


master brummie
I enjoyed Colins's post on Lewis's ( hello chuck).

Did they have an escalator or was that Greys?

Did you know my late cousin, John Worrall, Colin. He was in the carpet department.


master brummie
The years gone by, my wife to be was a waitress at Lewis's in what was known as the "Ranleigh Room" there they had a three piece band,and it wasn't unusual for someone to pop in five minutes before closing time to get served,but it was quite annoyingfor me to have to await for her to finish before we could go to the pics,(around 7pm)
I also was doing work there,fitting out the china dept in the basement,the ladies & childrens hairdressing,the Coronation displays,and also I was on loan to them for a while,moving counters was most profitable,as we found quite a lot of coins,that we shared out,If we were working on a Sunday we would get all our meals for free It was a pleasent Store to work in had some good times


master brummie
Staff member
I always loved shopping in Lewis's, firstly with my Mother and later on by myself. I nearly lost my Mother as a result of the person who decided to leap through an open window on the fifth floor one lunch hour. Unfortunately, this person landed right behind my Mother as he came down. Mom was very upset about this. She felt the "swish" right behind her and turned around quickly. Another few seconds and she would have been hit and probably killed as well.
Mom was working at Bloxham's Travel in the Fire Station Building on Lancaster Street and she used to shop sometimes in the Food Floor on her lunch hour.

My early memories are of the lifts and the lift ladies. They certainly did work hard and always had to make sure that the lift was lined up with the
next floor so that people didn't trip on their way out. I always tried not to look through the clear glass window at all the ropes and cables that you
could see pulling the lifts up and down.

Mom used to buy some of our Sunday clothes there and they always had
chairs so that you could sit down if you wished. The pneumatic tube machines were always a fascination also. The bill was written out
and inserted with the money into a tube and then qucikly flushed up
the system to the Cashier's Office. It was dealt with by the office and then returned in the same way to the Department.

I remember the Roof Garden and the Zoo and also the line of kids waiting on the stairs going up to the Toy Department to see Uncle Holly and Father Christmas.

I used to get free samples from the Cosmetic counters regularly when I worked in town and have a go at the perfume dispensers to try out the latest perfumes. I also remember when they had late night shopping on Thursdays.

When I worked for Kosset Carpets in Queen's College Chambers in l960. The company had a couple of department/furniture store promotions a year and I used to have to go and help out in the carpet department at Lewis's. I enjoyed it very much I remember. One of my jobs at Kosset Carpets was to take the salesmen's carpet orders from the various furniture stores and send them by teletype to the Mill in Brighouse, Yorkshire where the carpets were made. It was a nightmare to me because I was always afraid I would make a mistake and when the carpet arrived to be fitted it wouldn't fit!!!!!!!! Kosset only sold their carpets from sample books in those days and that's why they would have store promotions where large samples of the carpeting would be laid out. They tied these promotions in with adverts in the cinemas and I also had to type out the same letter over and over to be sent to all the furniture stores in Birmingham and surrounding areas advising them of these promotions. No Xerox machines then!!!!!!!!! They had to be personally signed and original.

My brothers used to get their hair cut in the "animal" children's hairdressing salon. Children always seemed to be crying in there!!! On special occasions when I was going to a dance I used to get my hair cut and styled and also my nails manicured. Mostly because my Mother went there and they always did a good job.

I remember those soft ice cream machines in the basement as well.
My mother used to make a beeline for them when she took me shopping.
They were 4d each and so delicious. On one trip to Brum many years later I bought a lovely set of table mats from the basement, with scenes of Warwickshire's stately homes and grounds on each one. They are from actual water colour paintings by well known artists. This is over 30 years ago and still I use them every day.

There are many stories but a more recent one was when my daughter
went over to Brum and got a job at Price, Waterhouse, Coopers. Their offices took up a couple of floors of the old store. This was in 2000. I wrote her asking how she liked working in the Ladies Coat Department...she was naturally puzzled by this question. She had no idea that Lewis's had been Birmingham's flagship department store and laughed when I told her that where she was working had been the Ladies Coat Department many years ago. Price, Waterhouse moved later that year to Cornwall Street.

On another occasion I remember seeing David Whitfield come for a visit to this floor. All the women screamed when he came out of the lift. Shouting David! David! at the tops of their voices and saying things "Isn't he lovely" and "Give us a hug". It was a lot of fun. I remember he had very heavy pancake makeup on. I think his record Cara Mia Mine was in the hit parade at the time. His voice was very powerful.

I also bought my first cabin trunk from the luggage department at Lewis's when I was about to depart for Canada and several years later when I came back for a while and had been living in England for several months. I went back and bought a second one to ship all the stuff I had bought back to Canada. The same salesman sold me the two trunks!


The restaurant was called the Ranelagh Room which was the street where the first Lewis,s was built in Liverpool and was the head office .

The founder of Lewis,s was call David Lewis and he sited the Birmingham branch by standing on all the corners of the town centre to see where the pedestrian traffic went and the corner of Bull St was the busiest so that is where he built the store .

The store did have escalators and they had wooden treads but were replaced over the years. to steel ones .

The lifts were gated as you say, the lift operators were all ex army guys who had been disabled I guess in the 2nd world war . Most had one arm , which is all you needed to operate the control.

The father of a school friend of mine was a lift engineer at lewis,s (SUSAN Crow ) and unfortunately whilst repairing a lift he fell from quite high up into the subasement and died. It was very shocking for us all,he was a nice chap.

Yes I do remember a Worrel family Not sure of the first names though the son was tall ,dark hair, with glasses and his mother worked with me on the soft furnishings department. He was a Sales Manager at the time I think that would have been about 1975.

When I first started there at 16 in 1968 I worked in the basement on tools and tiles. In those days we had counters that you stood behind in little islands eavch with a cash till which was a big brown thing. My first manager was Jerry England a small guy with a big voice.
When I arrived late in the mornings he would shout at me Mr williams "bed or bus?" he was tough guy but taught us loads about retailing . I earned £6,6s,6d.
My dad bought me my first suit from Zissmans for £12. and apair of brown shoes .I was told off my first week for wearing brown shoes cus you had to wear black shoes.
I had to wear them until I could afford to buy some black ones.

We still have a lovely vase that Anthony bought me as a present for our 5th Wedding Anniversary in 1969. Its one of our greatest treasures :D And I remeber so well walking up the stairs for what seemed like hours when I was a small child to see Father Christmas.Jackie


Lewis use to have the most magical Christmas displays. As a child my mum would take us to see the displays and if she had any spare coppers, she would take me and my brothers to vist santa. These are very precious memories for me.

Eric Gibson

master brummie
In the late 40's my mother was a hairdresser in Lewis's ladies hair salon. On the top floor if I remember correctly. E.


master brummie
l did read somewhere that the person who had Lewiss's built stood on various street corners in the city to see which one was the busiest with pedestrians then decided that the intersection of Bull Street and Corporation Street was where he would build his store. l beleive that Lewiss's that used to be in Leicester and the one that was in Birmingham had the same owner. These were not to be confused with John Lewiss as in Liverpool, Peterborough ect that are still in business.


Yup there was a "chain" of lewis,s Head Office was in Renalagh st Liverpool .There was one in Manchester, Glasgow,Bristol, Leicester and I may remember some others.
Ownership changed over the years, at some point they belonged to the British Shoe Corporation and Charles Clore was the chief in the late 1960,s . Selfridges was also part of the organisation,which is where we did our managemnt training courses at Welbeck St London . There was/is a selfridges still in Oxford of the old stores.
And of course that appalling edifice in the bullring .


master brummie


Only just discovered this site as I am new to the History Webring and must comment on the Lewiss threads and soft Ice Cream. I and my girl friend worked part time (Sats & Bank Holidays) at Lewis's for a couple of years late 50s eraly 60s on the soft ice cream stands which were located in the basement passageway, ground floor food hall, 5th floor toys and the roof (in the summer) The concession was franchised out to a Mr Braine who also had the concession at Lewis's, Leicester and Blackpool. Although Lewis's paid us Mr Braine gave us a tip each week and over the 2 years we saved enough money for a deposit £250 on our first house. Ice Cream cones were 6p each and 9p with a Flake. Most Sats the basement kiosk took over a £100 and approx £300 throughout the store. A lot of money in those days and a good concession. About 4 times a year there was a "smasher" day whereby all prices in the store was reduced and the store became a heaving mass of customers, as the bell rang for end of day a cheer rang out from all staff as they collapsed through exhaustion, Even the ice cream sales doubled.


master brummie
The Toy Department was a treasure trove of toys to all those who did not ever get new toys, playing with all those demonstration toys on the floor of the store, then when tired of those to go up onto the roof and see all those birds and animals. WHAT A TREAT.