Our history

Over 100 years ago our Founder, John Spedan Lewis, began an experiment into a better way of doing business by including staff in decision making on how the business would be run.  

He set out the principles for how the Company should operate and produced a written Constitution to help Partners understand their rights and responsibilities as co-owners.

Spedan Lewis wanted to create a way of doing business that was both commercial, allowing it to move quickly and stay ahead in a highly-competitive industry, and democratic, giving every Partner a voice in the business they co-own. This combination, so ahead of its time, continues to make us what we are today.

Everything begins with the Partnership’s ultimate purpose and Principle 1:

The happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business.
Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members,
they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards - profit, knowledge and power.

Principle 1 will always be the most important principle of the seven in our Constitution. By putting the happiness of our Partners first, we believe we can better honour our commitment to offer our millions of customers quality products and outstanding service.

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW TIMELINE

1864

1864

John Lewis opens a small draper’s shop on Oxford Street, London

1905

1905

John Lewis buys control of Peter Jones

1914

1914

John Lewis hands control of Peter Jones to his son John Spedan Lewis

1918

1918

First copy of our weekly in-house magazine - The Gazette - is published

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1919

John Spedan Lewis sets up a staff council and a charitable donation committee

1920

1920

Partners receive their first Partnership Bonus in the form of share promises

1928

1928

John Lewis Senior dies. First Constitution is published

1929

1929

John Lewis Partnership is incorporated as a limited company and first Trust Settlement created

1933

1933

Medical service created 15 years before the NHS providing free healthcare for all Partners

1937

1937

The Partnership buys Waitrose and a chain of ten shops from Wallace Waite

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1940

The Partnership doubles its size by buying 15 branches of the Selfridge Provincial Stores Group

1950

1950

Second Trust Settlement created and remaining shares and ultimate control transferred to Trustees

1963

1963

John Spedan Lewis dies

1970

1970

Partners receive Partnership Bonus in cash rather than stocks and cash

1979

1979

Six months long leave is introduced to Partners for 25 years of service to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Trust Settlement

2001

2001

Johnlewis.com launches

2007

2007

Sir Charlie Mayfield becomes Chairman and only the fifth in the Partnership’s history

2013

2013

The John Lewis Partnership’s Heritage Centre opens adjacent to the Odney Club in Cookham

2016

2016

John Lewis Magna Park Distribution Centre extension opens

2018

2018

John Lewis and Waitrose rebrand to John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners

 

John-Lewis-Partnership-2

2019

FUTURE PARTNERSHIP PLAN ANNOUNCED TO ENABLE THE ORGANISATION TO BE MANAGED AND OPERATED AS A SINGLE BUSINESS

The Partnership story