The death of Mr John Lewis, 1928

The TJ Harries exterior at the time of acquisition, 1928
John Lewis as an elderly gentleman, 1910
The opening page of the First Trust Settlement


Spedan Lewis and his father remained bitter towards each other for several years. Reconciliation only came about because Spedan’s mother persuaded her husband to visit Peter Jones. He was most surprised and impressed by what he found and wrote to his son Oswald,

‘The place is a credit to the boy, a very great credit’

A result of this visit was that John Lewis gave Spedan more cash to put into Peter Jones and also brought him back into Oxford Street giving him a one-third share of the business. Spedan eventually converted this into two thirds by buying his brother’s share, as Oswald wanted to move away from the business to try other avenues. However, to avoid confrontation between the brothers and their father, John Lewis was never told.

In effect Spedan now ran John Lewis and Peter Jones.

A pivotal year

In 1928, another property was purchased by Spedan Lewis on Oxford Street. TJ Harries, previously a competitor of John Lewis, was absorbed into the existing department store. This building became known as John Lewis East House, whilst the original department store was identified as the West House. The more traditional stocks of fabrics and furniture remained in the West House whilst newer merchandise, like ready-made clothing and electrical goods, were housed in the East House.  The two Oxford Street shops would remain trading side by side until the Second World War.

John Lewis dies

Of perhaps greater importance to the future of the John Lewis Partnership was the fact that old John Lewis eventually passed away at the age of 92 in 1928. He refused to relinquish control of the Oxford Street shop and never fully retired. Although he had made peace with his son, it is clear that his father’s passing finally opened the door for Spedan to implement his ideas of Partnership.

The First Trust Settlement

At last, after years of work and preparation, Spedan could put his plan to create a new type of business into action.  In 1929, the formal document known as the First Trust Settlement was created, putting the Partnership scheme into practice, and allowing the staff to benefit from the profit made by the business. The John Lewis Partnership was born; although it was to be another 21 years until Spedan finally withdrew completely from overseeing the development of the Partnership,  handing it over to Partners to continue his brave experiment.

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