It's Our Story - Liverpool's Own


20110425Tim Daley tells the story of Lewis's department store, a Liverpool institution that for over 150 years followed the city's fortunes through good times and bad until its closure last spring.

"Take two journeys in one" writes Daley, journalist and proud Liverpudlian, "the journey through the lifetime of a shop and the city it served."

Lewis's Department store began life in the heart of Liverpool city centre during 1856; it survived a fire, the First World War, the May Blitz in 1941, changing tastes and fierce competition from a city once which was once full of emporia, to take a special place in the hearts of Liverpudlians.

But the shop, started by businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist David Lewis, closed its doors for the final time in May 2009.

'Liverpool's Own' charts the rise of Lewis's department store, its relationship with the city it once served and its bond with the people who loved it.

Founder David Lewis's creation gave birth to modern shopping and the idea that it could be a leisure activity, thanks to the clever marketing and publicity stunts. Here was a man who brought quality goods to normal people at the best possible price, giving rise to the slogan: 'Lewis's - Friends Of The People'. With the city's population booming in the second half of the 19th century mostly due to Irish immigration, Lewis's was there to serve the new Liverpudlians by the thousand, flourishing until the Second World War. What Liverpool went through, Lewis's went through.

But in May 1941 the city was firebombed ruthlessly, with one of the raids destroying Lewis's. The business, however, survived, picking itself up and dusting itself down, in much the same way that the city as a whole was forced to do. Rebuilt and reborn, complete with a controversial Jacob Epstein sculpture above the front door entitled 'Liverpool Resurgent' Lewis's was returning to its former glory, in a sleek, modern and confident way just as the city of Liverpool was doing the same.

Today just a shell the store stands empty and closed, isolated at the wrong end of Liverpool's fashionable designer shopping district, waiting as developers seek to preserve and re-use the old building as the cornerstone of a new residential and business development.

Using testimonies from the people who worked there, academics and local historians the programme re-opens the doors of Lewis's for one last time.

Producer: Tim Daley.

The story of a Liverpool institution, Lewis's department store, which closed last year.