Origins of Peter Jones

Mr Peter Jones, circa 1890
Peter Jones, 2-4 Kings Road, 1877
Peter Jones, Kings Road frontage, 1890

First shop

Peter Rees Jones, the son of a Welsh hat-maker, came to London in 1867 and worked in several retail establishments across the city. He opened his first eponymous shop in Chelsea in 1871 in what is now called Draycott Avenue, the poorer part of the area.

Carriage trade

The business thrived and in 1877 he decided to move to the more prosperous part of Chelsea and cater for the carriage trade. He took two small shops in the Kings Road, at the Sloane Square end, and then bought up more shops on the site as they became vacant.

By 1890 he was trading from No 2 to No 14 Kings Road and the business was performing so well that the original premises had been replaced by a handsome five-storied building of red brick.

In 1893 an article in the Illustrated London magazine the business was described

“ as a monument to that gentleman’s untiring industry and pushy enterprise.”

It went on to state

“ internally the lofty and beautifully appointed shops and show-rooms more than fulfilled the promise held forth by the exterior and the visitor passes from department to department, conscious of being in the midst of a stock which has few equals, and probably no superior, in London”

Paternal figure

Mr Jones was a hard working employer but found time to look after the welfare of his staff. He was the first retailer in the country to provide seats for his female staff. The shops were also one of the first to be lit by electricity.

The Illustrated London article goes on to say that

“the residential quarters of the staff are replete with every appointment that is conducive to social enjoyment”

A library, piano and two billiard tables, “for the male portion of the staff who love the scientific game of ball and cue” were provided.

The business also had its own fire brigade.

Floating the business

By 1900 the business was doing so well, with profits in excess of £10,000 over each of the last five years of the 19th century, that it was floated as a public company. Mr Jones was the Chairman and his two sons were on the board. By 1903 the profits had risen to £12,000 (£1million in to-days money)

Mr. Jones then spent more time enjoying the fruits of his success, in particular his substantial art collection.

Sad end

Sadly he fell ill in 1903 and by September 1905 he was dead. An obituary at his death stated

“that he had never knowingly offended anyone”

His sons did not inherit his business acumen and started buying up cheap stock and holding far too many sales. The shop faltered without him.

In the spring of 1906 John Lewis entered the scene!

Comments about this page

  • Information on the John Lewis Partnership Heritage Centre can be found here:

    By phaedracasey (08/01/2024)
  • I have one hat from Peter Jones (Sohn Lewis and company limited) but I can not figure out which decade belongs Design .. and it’s purpose ..
    I thought may be hier some one know?
    Where I can send picture?

    By Frau Ding (30/12/2023)
  • Hi Elenid,

    Thank you for you message, I have passed your details onto Geoff as requested.

    All the best,

    By imogen (21/06/2023)
  • was this written by my old manager Geoff Pilgrim if so can you let him have my email
    Many thanks

    By Elenid Was Matthews (16/06/2023)
  • Peter Rees Jones died at “Eversley” in Streatham which was owned by the architect Frederick Wheeler.

    By Mark Bery (04/11/2021)
  • i love going shopping at peter jones when i was staying in london.

    By sofiyya (09/06/2021)
  • Hi Jennifer,

    How lovely to hear from you, if there are any questions you have for us, please don’t hesitate to let us know at:

    By imogen (30/11/2020)
  • I have this same picture of Peter Jones and believe he is my Great Great Grandfather.

    Would love to know more or help with information

    By Jennifer Douglas nee Jones (09/10/2020)

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