Catalogue description William Whiteley, Department Store, Queensway

This record is held by City of Westminster Archives Centre

Details of 726
Reference: 726
Title: William Whiteley, Department Store, Queensway

This collection includes corporate records, accounts, sales records, correspondence, staff records, property records, photographs and miscellaneous material

Date: 1863-1974



Articles of Association


Annual reports and accounts






Private ledger




Sales analysis book


Trading account monthly summary book


Funeral service account book


Scrapbook of newspaper cuttings re financial matters


General catalogues


Christmas Gifts


Food Halls


Furniture and Furnishing Department


Household Guides


Wines, Spirits, Cigars and Cigarette Department


Other departments


Advertising scrapbooks, brochures and leaflets


Newspaper advertisements




W G Lenton, Director and General Manager




Scrapbooks of bulletins to members of staff


Staff magazines


The Kildare


The Key and Kildare


The Kildare Occasional Journal


Journal of the House of Whiteley


Whiteley Staff Magazine


Whiteley's Journal




New Store opening






Frederick Gorringe Limited, Victoria Street


R H O Hills Ltd of Blackpool and


West and Moulton Ltd, Ilford, Essex




Drapers Record




Articles on William Whiteley and the firm




Directors, customers store and delivery vans




Books published by Whiteley's


Box of candles


Store menus


Programmes for dinners and social events


Sample stationery and packaging








Newspaper cuttings


Photographs and illustrations




Organisational chart








Scrapbook of bulletins to members of staff


Staff magazines


The Key



Related material:

The archives of Selfridges are now held privately, please contact Archives Sector Development, The National Archives ( for further information.

Held by: City of Westminster Archives Centre, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

William Whiteley Ltd, 1863-, Queensway, department store

Physical description: 360 files
Immediate source of acquisition:

Records were deposited on permanent loan by William Whiteley Ltd, Queensway, London in May 1976. The records were augmented by the City of Westminster's existing collection of material relating to Whiteleys.

Administrative / biographical background:

William Whiteley was born near Leeds on 29 September 1831 and in 1848 became apprenticed to the largest drapery in Wakefield. He came on a visit to London in 1851 and went to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. There he received the inspiration to establish a vast emporium. He initially gained employment with R Willey and Co of Ludgate where he stayed for fifteen months and learnt the drapery trade. In March 1863 he had saved enough money to establish his own business in Westbourne Grove where he sold ribbons, laces, trimmings and fancy goods. By 1865 he was employing fifteen sales girls, two errand boys and a cashier. In 1867 he married one of his assistants Harriet Susan Hill. In order to expand the business he had started to buy up adjoining premises along the street in order to expand and by 1875 had an unbroken row of shops in Westbourne Grove and had overflowed into what was then Queen's Road, now Queensway. He styled himself as "The Universal Provider" and offered to supply anything "from a pin to an elephant at short notice". He provided on site accommodation for his staff who were expected to work from 7am until 11pm. As he offered such a range of products at low prices, he was not popular with local tradesmen, he had to fight numerous law suits and a group of Bayswater butchers burnt his effigy on Guy Fawkes night in 1876.


The unpopularity of Whiteley may explain why his shops suffered a number of fires, the first of which occurred on 26 November 1882 causing £42,000 damage. The third fire in April 1884 started in the carpet section and destroyed a row of five shops in Queen's Road. The most serious fire took place in 1887 and required 34 of London's total of 45 steam fire engines. However, he continued to expand his range of activities and at its peak the rebuilt store employed more than six thousand staff. Then on 24 January 1907 William Whiteley was shot dead in his own office by a young man calling himself Cecil Whiteley who claimed to be his bastard son.


As many of the leases in Westbourne Grove were due for renewal, the board of directors, including two of Whiteley's sons decided to move the business into Queen's Road (later renamed Queensway). A new store designed by J J Joass was opened in 1911 and was further extended between 1925 and 1927 to incorporate the present frontage. In 1927 the store was bought by Harry Gordon Selfridge. He was an American from Ripon, Wisconsin who had experience with department stores in Chicago and had come to England to seek new business opportunities. He had built Selfridge's at 400 Oxford Street, opening to the public on 15 March 1909.


Whiteley's received bomb damage from an air raid on 19 October 1940. In 1981 United Drapery Stores Group which had gained control of William Whiteley's closed the store. They were taken over by the Hanson Trust, who in 1986 sold it to a new consortium called Whiteley's Partnership, consisting of Arlington Securities, London and Metropolitan Estates, Wilverley & Hampshire Estates and Dartnorth. The Second World War air raid damage along with the earlier fires and subsequent changes in ownership led to the loss of many of the archives associated with the store.


The archives also contain some records relating to three other department stores, Frederick Gorringe Limited of Buckingham Palace Road, London, West and Moulton of Ilford, Essex and R H O Hills Ltd of Blackpool. In 1959 West and Moulton of Ilford were taken over by R H O Hills Ltd of Blackpool. The West and Moulton's store on the High Street, Ilford burnt down in March 1959 but was re-opened in September of the same year. The new managing was Mr Leslie Goldberg who was also chairman of the director of Hills. It seems likely that Mr Goldberg must have had a connection with either Whiteley's or Selfridges.

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