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Lewis's to close

No reprieve in sight this time as exhibition and book on lost world of fifth floor takes on new relevance

Published on February 22nd 2010.

Lewis's to close

LIVERPOOL'S oldest department store is to close – and this time it looks like it's for good.

Lewis's must move out of Ranelagh Street by June, when its present lease expires, and around 300 staff will lose their jobs.

The building's owner, Merepark, says it plans to create a £160m Central Village around the store which will include new hotels, shops amd restaurants. They say they will keep the frontage, which includes the famous “Dickie Lewis” statue.

The news comes as, completely coincidentally, the Conservation Centre in Whitechapel prepares to stage a major new exhibition of photography about the fifth floor of the store, revealing a world that has been hidden since the early 1980s.

With its hair salon, cafeteria and restaurants, the top floor of the store was the epitome of style in the 1950s. Three decades later it closed to the public and it has been used for storage since then.

But just in the nick of time, as it turns out, local photographer Stephen King captured the faded glamour of this lost world, including many of the original features. A newly published book shows the stunning photography you can expect to see at the show.

Now largely empty, the floor was once a bustling hive of activity. In addition to stunning views of the interiors, the exhibition and book includes a series of portraits of current and ex-employees in their original place of work, with reminiscences of life at Lewis's during that era. Their presence injects life into the spectral setting of the now deserted floor.

Also included in the exhibition is an artist documentary filmed and produced by Jacqueline Passmore. The film examines the impact of Lewis's heyday through interviews with staff from the fifth floor.

The exhibition, which opens this Froday, has been developed by Neutral Spoon art project management, supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England.

We have a copy of Lewis's Fifth Floor, A Department Story (Liverpool University Press, £19.95), SIGNED by Stephen King, which we were planning to give away in a competiiton this week anyway.

The timing's not great, so we're going to do it a bit differently and award it to the reader who sends us the best anecdote or memory of the store, or who tells us what they think Lewis's has meant to them or to the city.

You can leave comments below, or email editorial@liverpoolconfidential.co.ukNOSPAM and we'll pick a winner.

In the meantime, a full scale closing down programme will start tomorrow and it will only be a matter of weeks before the store, founded by David Lewis 154 years go closes its doors for the last time.

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