The clearing of the site for John Lewis Stevenage
The interior of Stevenage Warehouse, complete with Partners, 1963
The robotug and trailers at John Lewis Stevenage, 1964

Outgrowing Clearings

By 1961 it was becoming clear that the department store trade had outgrown the Clearings warehouse in Chelsea. Experience had shown that the most efficient way of handling goods on a large scale was in a single storey building which would have been expensive in London, so the decision was taken to look at sites outside the capital.

A green field site in Stevenage was identified and construction began in March 1962.

The robotugs

The warehouse and office building totalled 180,000 square feet and was designed to make use of modern technology including electrically powered “robotugs” to carry goods around the building.

The Partnership’s first computer

The General Office processed all paperwork but one of the major advances was the installation of the Partnership’s first computer at Stevenage in 1963. Mainly designed for stock control this huge piece of equipment took up a whole room. In addition, the Central Payments Office was set up there in 1965 along with other non-selling departments including Company Registry and Internal Audit.

Thirty two years at Stevenage

The branch now employed 225 Partners, 60 of whom had transferred from Clearings working mainly in the warehouse and assisting with the new extensions which were added to the original building over the next few years. One of the last major extensions, Stage V, was completed in 1979 but the branch continued to provide a valuable service to the supply chain until 2011 when stocks were transferred to other more modern distribution centres and the building was closed.

Recently reopened

It has since reopened to cope with the increasing demands of the distribution side of the growing John Lewis business, continuing a presence in the town which has now been in place for over 50 years.

Comments about this page

  • I have a lot of memories of being made to run to the warehouse and back while at school during cross country games lessons. My dad looked after maintenance there after the original closure, he was based at John Lewis Welwyn and currently works at Odney. I now work in distribution as an engineer at our newest warehouse in Fenny Lock. I also go to the Costco from time to time shopping, the roof is impressive and glad it was preserved.

    By Roisin Reid (11/03/2023)
  • I see this page was last updated 16/7/2018 but I believe by then the JL warehouse had been closed again.
    Since July 2019 it has been in use as a Costco shopping warehouse, incorporating the original now listed building as the shop floor.

    By Geoff Stevens (24/01/2022)

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