Welwyn Stores

The heartbeat of the Garden City

By Roger Filler

Welwyn Stores (now John Lewis) opening day, September 1939
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

“Just popping down to the Stores”, was a familiar cry around WGC from the stores inception in October 1921 to 1983 when Welwyn Department Stores (Nothing Like Us Anywhere) was sold to John Lewis and become John Lewis Welwyn.
It was the place to go whether you needed a toothbrush, a pot of paint, a sack of coal and its food hall was legendary as ‘the’ place to buy the esoteric and the unusual. For many Garden Citizens it also meant making an effort with your dress. Life long resident, Wendy Rathbone told me: “During the Fifties and Sixties most people would get dressed up to go to the Stores. It was considered the place to be seen.”
There was not much you couldn’t get in WDS. Buy the latest hit single, have your hair cut, book  a holiday and do your washing as you read the latest best seller from the book shop.

Previous locations

The present building opened in September 1939, and was for many years, the biggest department store in the county, with dozens of flats on its roof and its very own car park (which is still in use today by John Lewis).
It replaced a previous Welwyn Stores, which stood on the site of what is now a block of flats, but was for many years Rosanne House. That replaced an earlier Stores that stood where the haberdashery entrance to John Lewis Welwyn is today.

What do you remember about Welwyn Department Stores? Perhaps you worked there. Share your memories by logging on today.

This page was added on 14/06/2009.

Comments about this page

  • OH MY GOD!!!!!  Wendy from Haberdashery…….well hello old friend from almost 53 years ago.

    My first and only job in the Garden City was at the haberdashery counter at the (Welwyn Department) Stores on Bridge Road, and I worked alongside Miss Wendy Johnson on the counter.  We worked selling all little bits of lingerie and clothing   -    such fun us girls had!   As Wendy mentioned Geoffrey Mountford was the department buyer and he was such a nice bloke.   

    By Cynthia Rogers (21/01/2016)
  • Mum worked in Despatch for 12 years, and after school I went to visit her at work. I always went into the Food Hall to buy little mints for one penny and then browsed the various departments, especially the music department which had the latest hit singles. My dad always browsed this section looking for good music, and I bought the Beatles’ hit singles. When I moved up to Lancashire I spent two days shopping in Welwyn Garden to furnish our house and I made sure to buy a wireless (now called radios) and a gramophone for our home from Welwyn Stores. I bought groceries to fill the fridge, clothes and fancy goods and many other things. The Food Hall was the first place I saw Kenco coffee in 1953, and Bird’s Eye frozen food as previously mentioned. A pint of milk cost you 4d, and a jar of Kenco coffee cost you 7d.

    By George Boston (30/10/2015)
  • Me, my sisters and my in-laws all worked at Welwyn Department Stores for a time. I worked there for a year, 1962 to 1963. Three of my five sisters (I’m the 9 of 10 children) also worked at WDS. My mother-in-law, before moving to work at Lionside Electronics, worked at WDS from 1944 to 1960. My father-in-law worked as a butcher in the butchery department at WDS all his working life.

    By Wendy Johnson (31/03/2015)
  • I worked at WDS from briefly in the hosiery department for Mr Mountford (the buyer) and the lingerie department. My mother-in-law also worked there part-time, and her husband was a butcher in the butchery department who worked there all his working life. I worked there for a year (1962 to 1963).

    By Wendy Johnson (30/03/2015)
  • I grew up in WGC in the mid 70’s, and the Dept. store was a magnet for myself , my sister and my two best friends Ivan and Mike. we used to play hide and seek instore, and play ‘spot the store detective’!! I remember the smell of coffee in the food hall, and I remember all the amazing tropical fish on the top floor!! what a great time to be a mischievious kid!!!

     

    By barry jones (23/11/2014)
  • six years prior to Gary Weston “giving the Store” to the John Lewis empire, I was lucky enough to head up a team who were responsible for the home delivery and instore warehousing.

    We were part of a happy family of 450 people running every department you could think of. All the merchandise was actually bought by senior buyers , who sourced everything themselves, not like to day when most Department stores have everything centraly bought, store management being told what they can have. With Welwyn Department Store you had no need to go to london we had the lot. With events like 18 months interest free every year , shopping was a joy. There was allways a waiting list for people wanting to work there, not like today when JLP have trouble getting staff.  The people of Welwyn Garden City rued the day, by not supporting the store, letting heritage go.

    By Allan Smith (02/10/2014)
  • Growing up in WGC, “The Stores” was an integral part of my life. The Toy Department would get almost any Meccano part I cared to ask for, the Food Hall was an amazing place (the first place I ever saw Bird’s Eye frozen food, in the mid 1950’s) and the heady smell near the cosmetics counter was beyond belief. I, too, remember the Book Department, which always had something of interest in it. My mother worked in The Parkway Restaurant for some time, and I also worked in the Hardware Department during my college vacations. Happy times. For some odd reason, and I still do not know why, the main entrance with the large portico was always known in our family as “The half-crown entrance”!

    By Jim Scott (07/06/2013)
  • A trip to the WDS was considered a highlight of a visit to WGC. I used to make a beeline for the book store and my parents knew they could safely leave me there while they browsed the other departments, coming back to prise me away from the treasure trove of books when it was time to go. I remember being very fond of a series of books for children that focussed on one subject in great detail (snakes, dogs, cats, dinosaurs etc) and always took any opportunity to add another book of the series to my collection!

    By Lesley Keech (19/11/2009)

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *