This 1960s photograph of Bristol's Horsefair in Broadmead shows the two swish large department stores of Lewis's (far right of photo) and and its huge neighbour Jones. (Lewis's now John Lewis no connection and Jones now Debnhams)
Bristol had watched the two giants take shape alongside each other on the Horsefair BS1 . . . the two swish department stores that would put Bristol back on the map as the region's top shopping centre. There was the 'ocean liner-shaped' Lewis's complete with its exciting plans for a roof garden overlooking central Bristol and its huge neighbour Jones.
Four years earlier Bristol had been agog when the Bristol Post revealed on October 2nd, 1953 that: "Work will begin soon on Bristol's largest departmental store. "Today Jones and Co Ltd, who lost their store in Wine St and High St in the blitz of November 1940, released details of the proposed new building. "It will rise to five floors. It will extend over the area bounded by Bond St and St James's Barton on one side and Milk St (later to be called Horsefair) on the other. "Its total area will be 210,000 square feet. It will cost 1 million. So Jones's will have the biggest store in the city, again their pre 1940 one was the largest in the West. And standing beside their new building will be another giant, Lewis's. Work, it is hoped, will begin before Christmas and be complete in two years." It took longer than that but the public didn't really mind. Now, at last, Bristol was making an effort to re-establish itself as the shopping centre of the West.
The Post carried regular reports as the two huge buildings rose and rose. By May 16th 1957, everyone was excited. "The first of the two giant stores being built in The Horsefair - that of Jones and Co - opens a fortnight today. Nearly 300 workers are now engaged on the big task of getting the store - which covers a bigger area than any other in the West Country - ready on time. The opening marks a triumph for all those concerned with the project. It was intended when work was started three years ago that the store should be ready by May 8th, but since then 'many, many difficulties' have been experienced with the supply of materials and labour. A staff of 750 has been recruited, the greater proportion of them from Bristol. Since Jones and Co lost its old headquarters in High Street it has carried on in eight small premises in various parts of the city. All these are being closed with the exception of the one in Regent Street, Kingswood".
The store opened in style on May 29th with a celebratory dinner at 8 p.m. Guests worked their way through a menu which read, the Post reported: Melon Cocktail Lobster Newburg Roast Fillet of Beef 'Bristol' with noisette potatoes, new potatoes, French beans, garden peas, green salad and endive salad. Jones's Progress or Souffle En Surprise Various Cheeses and Biscuits Fruit Baskets Coffee Petit Fours. Lewis's took a little longer to arrive.
It opened on September 26th that year. Broadmead, Bristol's new shopping centre, was well under way.
A memory shared byon Dec 28th, 2009.
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