Purchasing Peter Jones in 1905

An artist's impression of what Oxford Street may have looked like in 1864
The first known image of the John Lewis exterior on Oxford Street, 1885

The early shop

John Lewis’ business in Oxford Street flourished, and a reputation built on honesty, service and value was rapidly established. Despite this, Mr Lewis was heavily Victorian in attitude and in method. Working hours at the shop were long, and workers operated in poor conditions, and often for little money. Mr Lewis himself was well known for his dictatorial method of management, his short temper leading to more than one arbitrary dismissal. In fact, it was his methods of management that would ultimately encourage his son, John Spedan Lewis, to push for change that would eventually culminate in the John Lewis Partnership.

Expanding family

In the 1880’s, following a period of expansion and growth that included acquiring property on Holles Street, Mr Lewis rebuilt the shop into a fully fledged department store. John Lewis married Eliza Baker in 1884. Together they had two sons, John Spedan and Oswald, born in 1885 and 1887 respectively.

Meanwhile, across London…

Meanwhile, in Sloane Square, another department store by the name of Peter Jones was building up its own reputation. Having opened in 1877, the shop had grown dramatically, and Jones was well known as a fair and good employer. Mr Peter Jones died in  September 1905, and Mr John Lewis made it his mission to purchase the department store, which he did in December 1905. It is said that Mr Lewis walked from Oxford Street to Sloane Square with with the money in cash in his pocket, and purchased the store on the spot – but no written evidence of this has been found.  (Also – he was 69 by then, it’s quite a long walk, and he had a chauffeur…).

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