The well-known Lewis’s department store in Ranelagh Street, Liverpool, was left a burnt-out shell after Luftwaffe raided the city in the 1941 May Blitz.

The handsome building had become little more than smoky remains by Saturday, May 3rd – the distinctive round arches of the first floor charred and blackened by fire.

The first Lewis’s store in the UK opened in Liverpool when entrepreneur David Lewis started his men’s and boy’s clothing store in 1856. More departments were added over the next 20 years, including an early Christmas grotto in 1879.

Over the years, the Lewis’s grotto – complete with Santa Claus – became an essential part of the festive season for generations of Liverpool children.

Lewis’s expanded beyond Merseyside when stores were opened in Manchester in 1877 and Birmingham in 1885.

The Liverpool store in Ranelagh Street burnt down in 1886 and was rebuilt. It was refurbished again in 1957. The Liverpool Resurgent statue over the corner entrance symbolised the city’s recovery after World War II.

During the 1950s, the Red Rose restaurant and self-service cafeteria on the 5th floor were the places to meet and eat in the city. The lifts were manned by attendants as there were no controls for shoppers to operate.

Liverpool was the last of the Lewis’s chain to carry on trading. It went into liquidation in March 2007 but was sold to Vergo Retail and continued to use the Lewis’s name.

The store closed permanently in May 2010.

Blacklers department store in Liverpool also suffered heavy damage in the 1941 May Blitz. Windows were blown out and the ground floor was gutted at the building on the corner of Elliot Street and Great Charlotte Street.

Here is how the building looked in 2011 (thanks to Google Street View)

Featured Image: Lewis’s department store in Ranelagh Street burnt out after WW2 Raid – source Liverpool Then and Now – iNostalgia Publishing / MirrorPix

Malcolm Pheby
Former daily newspaper editor and group editorial director for leading national media brands, Malcolm is a regular contributor to iNostalgia.

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