Store-age heaters’ 50 years of service

Staff with Boiler in John Lewis
Staff with Boiler in John Lewis
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Five decades after they were installed, enormous boilers in the basement of John Lewis are still going strong and doing their job.

The historical units are an important part of the Barker’s Pool building’s heritage and continue to heat the store to this day.

Stewart Alexander, the new maintenance manager at John Lewis in Sheffield, explained: “The other day, we had an engineer in who was a bit of a collector.
“He asked if, when the boilers were eventually decommissioned, he could have one of the gauges off it, as he’d only ever seen it in a museum!”

This year marks the department store’s 50th year in its Barker’s Pool location.

With the anniversary in mind, staff at the store decided to dig back through the archives to find out more about the legendary boilers which have been there longer than anyone or anything else.

Manufactured by Marshalls of Gainsborough, the boilers – which take up 20 square metres of floor space, and 50 cubic metres in the basement - still have their original Bakelite features and high carbon steel construction.

Stewart, aged 39, said: “It’s fantastic to be working with machines older than I am!

“When I have visited other John Lewis stores, their boilers are the size of a washing machine. Our boilers are bigger than two Land Rovers end to end and look like a piece of art. They were obviously built to last and, with the skill and knowledge of my highly-trained team, these boilers work as well as the day they were installed.

“It’s a testament to the manufacturers who made them, the engineers who installed them, and the John Lewis team who maintain them.” 

The main boilers create 12 million British Thermal Units an hour - the equivalent of 205,800 cups of tea. The average household generates just 60,000 BTUs an hour.

During a typical week in the winter, they use 2,000 gallons of fuel and, in the summer, 300 gallons.