In Pictures: London’s Lost Department Stores

In days of yore, before the Central line was propped up by a Westfield at either end, where did Londoners hit up for the post-Christmas sales? Click through the gallery above and take a trip into the capital’s retail history with a look at some long-lost department stores.

Photo of RACS Woolwich by kanshiketsu under Creative Commons 2.0 licence

Photo of Wickhams by David Sankey via the Londonist Flickrpool

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  • Peter Twist

    Worth remembering also were those departmental stores based on the co-operative model, the Army and Navy in Victoria Street and the Civil Service Store in the Strand.

  • Gary

    Lovely photos. A tiny correction – the Peckham store was Jones & Higgins. I used to go and see Father Christmas there!

    • Dean Nicholas

      Thanks, corrected.

    • Linda

      I went there too, most Saturdays, with Mum. They sold everything but if we were going to be really adventurous, we went to Gamages.

  • Martin

    As soon as I saw this I wondered if Pratts would get a mention as my grandmother worked there. But I had no idea it was so old!
    Many thanks for this post!

  • BJD

    You missed Jones Brothers on the Holloway Road (sister to Pratt’s, closing on the same day in 1990) and Gorringe’s in Victoria; also let’s not forget Peter Robinson on Oxford Circus which had the outline of the old name lettering showing for decades after it closed.

  • Joe Fernando

    I grew up in 60’s Paddington and remember going to Whiteley’s in Queensway when it was a huge department store rather than the mall it is today. Must be worth an entry?

    • carolsmall.tw17

      I grew up in Paddington as well my Mum worked at Whiteley’s

  • John Backwell

    Thanks Dean, great range of photos, brought back a few memories (especially J&H’s in Peckham!). Others from my youth are Cobb’s in Sydenham giving it’s name to Cobb’s Corner and Bon Marche in Brixton (also part of the John Lewis group).

  • Chris Amies

    There was also Barber’s, on North End Road in Fulham, which closed down some time in the late 1980s.

  • Chris West

    As Joe Fernando points out- Whiteleys in Queensway should also be mentioned- it became the first department store in London. The three staircases in today’s building are the same as the original, showing just how big was the original store.

  • Dean Nicholas

    Thanks for the Whiteleys tips — I’ve added it to the gallery.

  • jamie

    Cobbs in Sydenham, Cobbs Corner. Opposite was Kirks Corner (camera shop). Both buildings still in use. Used to dread the yearly visit to Pratts in Streatham to get new uniform for the coming school year, it spelt the end of the summer holidays.

  • Jon

    I worked on the display team at Barkers of Kensington back in the mid 1970’s. It was a rabbit warren of ‘back stage’ corridors especially the mezzanine floor that housed the display store room, I found items going back to the 1940’s it was amazing -such a big big shame it’s now no more. The stories I could tell……….


    Marshall & Snelgrove still existed as a store in the 1950s. It had a doorman who wore a grey morning suit and top hat, he would summon taxis for customers and put their packages in for them, he would also help arriving customers in and out of the taxi. It would have been acquired by the Debenhams group in the early part of the century, but probably remained as Marshall & Snelgrove until late 50s/early 60s, then becoming Debenhams. Debenham & Freebody which was very grand was on Wigmore Street, also owned by the Debenhams Group, that closed long ago and is now retail with a block of luxury flats above it. it was a beautiful store with a curving double staircase in the foyer.

    Jones Brothers on Holloway Road was a lovely old store owned by John Lewis. Sadly they let it run down, it needed a great deal of work done. John Lewis said they couldn’t afford it!!! The store had a great deal of charm and character which is more than can be said for what has happened to the John Lewis stores now. When Jones Brothers was closed I was working at Thames Television in Teddington. I used to shop in my lunch hour at Kingston. John Lewis opened a large store there with a big branch of Waitrose in the basement. It was built on the banks of the Thames. Beneath Waitrose there was a two level underground car park. The whole building had to be dramatically strengthened as it was so close to the river. John Lewis spent millions there developing that, but sadly that couldn’t spare a much smaller amount which would have saved Jones Brothers. They seemed to take the view that it was the customers’ fault it was so run down! Prince Charles got involved in the campaign. It was quite a big event. One Saturday afternoon, hundreds of shoppers joined together, linked arms round the block and presented the management with a petition signed by thousands of people. Those that had account cards from the store then cut them up. Apart from the loss of the store, their closing down has contributed significantly to the decline of Holloway Road as a shopping destination. Selby’s along the road was a very old fashioned store, not in the same league as Jones Brothers. In the last couple of years it has been modernised and is very good, but it is not Jones Brothers. Apart form Waitrose and possibly Selby’s there is no good reason for shoppers to go there any more – even the Marks & Spencer is rather lacklustre but that is another story – the same with most of their stores.

    • Terence

      What an interesting site, I remember Jones Brothers and Selby’s very well, I was the display manager of The North London Drapery Stores in the 1950’s before it was taken over by Northgate and English Stores who changed it’s famous name to B B Evans, it was meant to be a sister store to B B Evans of Kilburn, Northgate and English were a Liverpool based company and the managing director Murray Gordon had no
      idea how to run a departmental store, so North London Drapery Stores was closed down and the Kilburn B B Evans store and Northgate and English went into liquidation. Today I believe the Seven Sisters Road sore has been converted into luxury apartments.

  • HHGeek

    Gardiner’s (Gardiners’?) at Aldgate should be on here, if only in acknowledgement of the problems cyclists now face around its eponymous corner.

  • Gabriella Coscia

    I remember Bourne and Hollingworth closing down which was before Christmas 1983. It’s not that long ago and I was very young then. I don’t remember Swan and Edgar though my mother does, I do remember Pratt’s of Streatham aka ex John Lewis and Jones Bros of Holloway another ex John Lewis both of which closed in the summer of 1990 again not that long ago.

    • carolsmall.tw17

      I worked at Bourne and Hollingsworth in the Hairdressing Dept in the 70s my work name was Ann if anyone rembers me please contact

  • Gillian Butterfield

    Does anyone remember a marvellous Christmas window display in one of the Regent Street department stores based on a Wind in the Willows theme probably in the late 70s/early 80s? Each window was a different room, i.e. Dining room, library, kitchen, bedroom decorated with the most amazing detail. I’d love to know if there are any photos and which store it was.

  • alan

    my late wife helen worked in pemberthys probably about 1960 does anyone remember this store

  • Maggie Buse

    This is lovely walk down memory lane – I was trying to think of the name where, in the early 70s I would stand outside and meet friends for lunch, Piccadilly – of course, Swan and Edgar – and B&H was a lovely store, we shopped there in the 60s. Thank you for this site.

  • Morris Mitchener

    Bearman’s, Leytonstone?

  • Barry Meisel Table Tennis

    Does anyone remember Gorringes department store near Victoria station London 1950s

  • Richard Cook

    Worth also pointing out that for a short time Jones and Higgins in Peckham became the Houndsditch, Peckham, before final closure. That would have been mid 80s

  • R

    Don’t forget the rather magnificent building still standing on Wigmore Street. It was a much older incarnation of Debenhams.

  • Maff

    Gamages should be remembered not just for its toy department but as possibly the only whole to have an entire department given over to magic and conjuring. When I was a kid in the 60s a visit to Gamages was a treat in itself. Others worth a mention are The Houndsditch in the City and Spokes in Mare Street, Hackney. But the biggest omission here must be Simpsons in Picadilly, the inspiration for Are You Being Served.

  • Stefany Reich-Silber

    What about B.B. Evans on Kilburn High Road, as well as the Coop which had a department store further down at the corner of Spring Lane. Admittedly it was not a department store I wanted to shop in, but it had a corset department which I did have the misfortune to have a Saturday job working in. (This was in the early to mid 60s.) And what about John Barnes on Finchley Road.

  • Felix

    What about Dickins & Jones on Regent Street? Last owned by the House of Fraser group before being sold off; the façade of the building remains relatively unchanged. According to Wikipedia, it traded from 1835 until 2007. Also Medhurst’s in Bromley and which was taken over by Allders in the early ’80s, the location is home to a Primark now. John Barnes on Finchley Road is also a well preserved art deco building with flats on top, currently home to a posh Waitrose. Agree though the biggest omission is Simpsons in Piccadilly– there’s a Waterstones there now.

  • Christopher Lussenden

    Talking of department stores this is from a book titled London by Mrs Robert Henry published in 1948, page 77:
    “Between the wars Queen Mary, just before the Jubilee was visiting a sick child in hospital and said to her: ‘where do you live? ‘The little girl answered: ‘Near Harrod’s, Ma’am. And where do you live?’ ‘I live near Gorringe’s,’ answered the Queen.