Sheffield retro: 20 nostalgic photos of Cole Brothers and John Lewis, including opening day and 11% bonus

Sheffield’s old Cole Brothers store is set for a new lease of life.

As the council prepares to sign a deal with developer Urban Splash to transform the former department store into a mixture of cafes, shops, offices and events space, we’re taking a look back at its history.

Cole Brothers was opened by John and Thomas Cole on Fargate in 1847 and quickly proved a big success.

It grew rapidly, with a new shop front and extra storeys added over the years, and proved so popular that the site, today home to a new Burger King restaurant, became known as Cole’s Corner.

The business, which in 1909 became one of the first to employ women, passed out of local ownership in 1927, being sold to Selfridges, and later changed hands again when it was bought by John Lewis.

Cole Brothers remained on Fargate until 1963, when its new store opened at Barker’s Pool, opposite Sheffield City Hall, with the old building selling for £1 million.

The store became John Lewis in 2002 but has been empty since 2021, when John Lewis announced it was closing permanently, with the loss of 299 jobs.

There was talk of demolishing the building, which is not to everyone’s taste, before it was controversially listed in 2022.

The pictures in this retro photo gallery take us all the way from Cole Brothers’ early days in 1879 through royal visits by Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, to the store’s move to Barker’s Pool, John Lewis’ boom days when staff received an 11 per cent bonus, and right up to the store’s sad demise.

The images are taken from The Star’s archives and from Picture Sheffield.