LIVERPOOL ECHO, 12 MARCH 2007
Just don’t mention roadworks
The name of David Lewis and roadworks just don’t mix. The last time Liverpool had some great ideas to develop its road system, we lost the David Lewis Theatre – demolished to build a road that was never built.
It seems that the name of one of Liverpool’s greatest philanthropists will now be totally lost to posterity because our city planners have not considered the impact that road building would have on one of Liverpool’s oldest retail institutions.
David Lewis was born in London in 1823 of Jewish origin and settled in Liverpool in 1840.
By 1856 he had begun trading as a clothier in Bold street.
He then gradually developed one of the largest retail businesses in England. No firm in the provinces did more to bring cheap and durable clothing within reach of the masses.
Lewis gave freely in aid of charitable works. He gifted large sums in support of the truly stunning Princes Road Synagogue, and for many years he held the position of warden and treasurer of the Old Hebrew Congregation.
He also headed the local subscription list for the persecuted Jews of Russia with a donation of £1,000.
When he died in 1885 he bequeathed all of his wealth, nearly £500,000, to charity.
The David Lewis Trust was founded by one of his executors, Benn Wolfe Levy, on July 7, 1893. His fortune was to be used for the benefit of the working class people of Liverpool and Manchester.
To the great shame of our city many of the charities founded by Lewis in Liverpool are now defunct. Manchester is dstill the proud beneficiary of the David Lewis Centre for Epilepsy which opened its doors in 1904.
I admit the Lewis’s store was a shadow of its former self in recent years.
As a child I remember many exciting Christmas shopping expeditions to the store. Even then, in early eighties, only four floors were in use.
What really bothers me about this latest fiasco is that there was no impact assessment done to find out how the roadworks would affect businesses.
Furthermore I don’t see what was wrong with the roads in the city centre. There are many roads in Liverpool that are in desperate need of improvement. Have you tried driving around Sefton Park recently? Aigburth Drive looks like a scene from the Battle of the Somme.
If Lewis’s store has to go, the council should pay for the refurbishment of Deane Road Jewish Cemetery, the final resting place of the great man.
Sadly, over the years the graveyard has been subject to attack by racist vandals who are oblivious to the presence of a man who did so much good for our city.