The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

John Lewis – Sheffield

Nominated by: Public
Region: Yorkshire and the Humber
Former names: Cole Brothers
Dates from: 1963
Built for: Coles Brothers, a brand within the John Lewis Partnership. Rebranded as John Lewis in 2002
Architect: Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall
Listed: No
Conservation Area: Yes - City Centre

John Lewis, Sheffield

Credit: Steve F,, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

The Coles began retailing in Sheffield in 1847 and by the C20th Cole Brothers were Sheffield’s leading department store with ‘Coles Corner’ a central  landmark and part of the city’s identity. Taken over first by Selfridges and then by John Lewis in 1940, it remained as a single store but retained its name within the John Lewis Partnership until 2002. A decision to expand the store led to a new building at Barker’s Pool not far from ‘Coles Corner’ in 1963. Although it weathered the recessions of the early eighties and nineties, online competition compounded by the pandemic lockdown led to John Lewis – despite having signed a new 20-year lease with Sheffield City Council in August 2020 –  announcing in March 2021 that the Sheffield store would not reopen when lockdown restrictions eased. More than 20,000 people signed a petition against its closure.

Designed by prominent post-war modernists, Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall (YRM), the store is prominently sited on the south side of a public open space, opposite the City Hall (grade II* 1920-1934 by E Vincent Harris) and with the Sheffield War Memorial (grade II* 1925 by Carus-Wilson) in between. It is solidly rectangular and includes a multi-storey car park extending over the roof. A four-storey building, its ground floor consists of large display windows under a canopy. Above, are three storeys whose bands of glazing – partially blocked by large dark panels of purple/brown tesserae – are separated by strips of glazed, white tiling.

The building was accepted by English Heritage as ‘a good example of early Sixties architecture by an important firm of architects’ but turned down for listing in December 2001. Although further acknowledging the store as an ‘important post-war building’ English Heritage issued a Certificate of Immunity from listing (COI) in June 2002. Locally, the conservation area Statement of Special Interest identified it as an unlisted building that contributes to the character of the conservation area and refers to it as one of a number of ‘Prominent Modernist 20th century shops which have architectural interest.’

Currently vacant and unused. Sheffield City Council owns the building and has promised a consultation on the building’s future in 2022 as part of the ‘City Centre Strategic Vision.’ Meanwhile local press reports suggest an emerging proposal from an unidentified ‘global sports brand’ for a ‘home of football centre’ including pitches on the roof and a museum. The proposals appear to include significant unsympathetic changes to the elevations including projecting columns and the replacement of the multi-storey car park with a residential  tower. Last update: November 2021

John Lewis, Sheffield

Credit: Richard Newall,, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

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