The Lewis Building - A Birmingham Gem!

Lewis's, opened in Corporation Street in 1885. The store was the forerunner of the modern department store. As an office development, it retains the grandeur of the original building.

Lewis's Department Store was built between Old Square, Corporation Street and Bull Street in Birmingham. The original building opened in 1885, although the current building was built from 1924-25, with another block built during 1931-32.

Lewis'sThe former Lewis's from The Priory Queensway towards Old Square (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


David Lewis, the man behind the Lewis's brand, was a 19th century philanthropist and innovator. The store became a household name in Birmingham and was considered the forerunner of the modern department store. 

Located in the heart of the City's Colmore Business District, the building has been sensitively redesigned for office use and remains a majestic landmark in the heart of the city.

The Lewis Building from Old Square (February 2021). Photography by Daniel Sturley


The Birmingham County Court and The Square Peg pub are both located in this building.


The History of the Lewis's Department Store Building

Lewis's from Old Square

The Lewis's Department store originally opened in 1885 on Corporation Street, by a personal suggestion by Joseph Chamberlain. It dates from 1924 - 25 and was designed by Gerald de Courcy Fraser of Liverpool.

Lewis'sThe former Lewis's from Old Square (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


Lewis's from Bull Street

Another block behind of 1931 - 32, linked by bridges across the narrow Minories. The result is a huge but chaste and carefully proportioned classical block. The sides on Bull Street and Old Square, articulated by fluted Doric columns (restored 1993).

The Lewis Building

The Lewis Building from Bull Street (February 2010). Photography by Elliott Brown


Roofed over at The Minories

Impressive spatial effect in the Minories which was originally open. Between the entrance bridges with paired columns and lintels in a deep narrow canyon. Built over in 1971, reopened and glazed in by Peter Hing & Jones in the 1993 conversion to offices and courts. Tactful extra storey all round.

The Minories

Ceiling and office space seen above The Minories (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown


The Lewis Building

The building was renovated during 2017 and renamed to The Lewis Building. Work was undertaken by Willmott Dixon.

The Lewis BuildingRenovation works at The Lewis Building (January 2017). Photography by Elliott Brown


The office space in the former Lewis's Department Store building was refurbished during 2017. And now has office space to let from the Space Works at 35 Bull Street. Also called the Spaces Lewis Building. It has designer offices, beautiful minded rooms in a fully serviced environment, perfect for start-ups, with high speed WiFi. Bull Street Tram Stop is conveniently located outside of the West Midlands Metro line 1 between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Of course this was all set up a few years before the pandemic and working from home became a thing.

The Lewis BuildingThe Lewis Building from the tram at Bull Street Tram Stop (Novembe 2017). Photography by Elliott Brown


The Minories

The shopping mall between Old Square and Bull Street was reopened in October 1994 by the then Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Richard Knowles. It was refurbished by Richardson Barbery Properties Limited.

The MinoriesStone unveiled in 1994 at The Minories (October 2010). Photography by Elliott Brown


There is at least one sandwich shop inside of The Minories, but there is a lot of vacant units. Christmas decorations around November and December each year look nice. A useful shortcut from Old Square to Temple Row.

The MinoriesThe Minories (December 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown


Pendulum / giant pocket watch

If you enter The Minories from Old Square, heading for Bull Street and Temple Row, stop to look to the left. At what looks like a pendulum or a giant pocket watch. Does it have any purpose, or is it their to hypnotise people? Any ideas?

The MinoriesPendulum / giant pocket watch at The Minories (November 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown


The Square Peg

This is a J D Wetherspoon Free House at the corner of Bull Street and Corporation Street. The name of this Wetherspoon freehouse is unusual. Most outlets in the Wetherspoon estate have names based on an historical association. This one derives from a comment. When looking at the plan of the block originally occupied by Lewis’s store, the Wetherspoon Chairman Tim Martin remarked that it looked like a square peg in a round hole. This observation went on to become the pub name. The expression ‘a square peg in a round hole’ is generally used to describe an unusual individual who does not fit comfortably into the niche society has prepared for them. It therefore fits in very well with the innovative outlook of J D Wetherspoon PLC.

The Square PegThe Square Peg (September 2011). Photography by Elliott Brown


Project dates

01 Mar 2021 - On-going


History & heritage, Classic Architecture

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Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520