Liverpool’s vibrant city centre has always been a tapestry of changing times and reinventions. Among the modern cocktail culture and contemporary offices that now grace North John Street, there lies a silent witness to the city’s past – the building that once housed the stylish department store, Watson Prickard.
Founded in 1893 by the visionary A. W. Cockeram, Watson Prickard quickly became synonymous with timeless style and quality. The store, now home to the popular Slug and Lettuce, was a treasure trove for Liverpool residents, offering a wide array of classic and contemporary clothing for men with a discerning taste.
For decades, Watson Prickard adorned Liverpool’s North John Street, drawing in patrons seeking the perfect school uniform or the impeccable ‘Sunday best.’ The store became a landmark in its own right, etching itself into the memories of generations who fondly reminisce about the delightful shopping experiences within its walls.
Cockeram’s vision extended beyond clothing; Watson Prickard was a holistic shopping destination. A visit to the department store was not just a retail excursion; it was an experience. Customers could enjoy the services of an in-house hairdresser, explore the depths of a ‘smorgasbord restaurant’ nestled in the basement, or be captivated by a “huge” train set on the top floor.
Howard Cockeram, the great-grandson of the founder, recollects the store’s heyday, revealing that inquiries about the famous Hornby train set were commonplace. The enchanting presence of the intricate model railway became a symbol of Watson Prickard’s commitment to providing more than just merchandise; it aimed to create lasting memories for the Liverpool community.
In the 1950s, Watson Prickard’s advertising reflected the store’s dedication to tailoring for all. An uncovered advert from that era boasted, “Short stout men and tall men can be correctly fitted with a Watson Prickard ready-for-service Overcoat.” The advert showcased the variety of options available, from luxurious Crombie coatings to hard-wearing Scotch or English tweeds, and West of England cloths. The commitment to quality and individuality was evident, with different fittings for each chest size, ensuring that every customer found the perfect fit.
The price of the store’s overcoats at the time, starting from £14, reflected not only the commitment to quality but also the accessibility of Watson Prickard’s offerings. The store aimed to cater to a diverse clientele, ensuring that style and sophistication were within reach for everyone in Liverpool.
As the years passed, Watson Prickard underwent its own transformation. The once-thriving department store eventually gave way to changing retail landscapes and the shifting preferences of consumers. The store on Lord Street in Southport, opened in 1993 by Howard Cockeram, closed its doors in 2010, marking the end of an era for Watson Prickard.
Today, the North John Street building has taken on a new identity, housing offices and the trendy Slug and Lettuce restaurant. The transition from a classic department store to a modern-day social hub reflects the adaptability of Liverpool’s historic spaces. Amidst the contemporary façade, a piece of the past lingers – an original Watson Prickard sign remains on the back of the building, a subtle yet powerful reminder of its century-long history.
Liverpool’s North John Street, with its ever-changing landscape, continues to be a canvas that blends the old with the new. The echoes of Watson Prickard, once a cornerstone of the city’s retail scene, resonate in the memories of those who once roamed its aisles. As Slug and Lettuce pours its signature cocktails and the offices buzz with modern energy, the building stands as a testament to Liverpool’s ability to evolve while cherishing the rich tapestry of its past. The Watson Prickard legacy lives on in the stories shared by those who remember the days when the North John Street landmark was not just a building but a beloved destination woven into the fabric of Liverpool’s history.