A short history of Bracknell HQ

First lorries at Bracknell 1974
John Lewis Partnership Archive Collection
Bracknell Switchboard 1972
With achnowledgement of the John Lewis Partnership Archives
High bay warehouse 1974
John Lewis Partnership archives

Bracknell – Waitrose headquarters

Before the opening of the Bracknell complex Waitrose Head office Partners had been split between offices at Gloucester Road and the old army warehouse at Greenford.  Following a major expansion programme in 1970 when Waitrose opened ten new branches, there was a need for a larger headquarters and modern distribution centre. Bracknell was perfect – its position near the M4 placed it at the heart of the 30 or so Waitrose branches then in operation, while the space available meant there would be room for expansion.

As one of the first businesses to move to the Bracknell Southern Industrial Area, many old hands remember the offices being surrounded by green fields.

the first high-bay warehouse in the country

In the early days the Waitrose complex consisted of an office block with three upper floors – and the first high-bay warehouse in the country – one of the most advanced of its kind in the world. This opened in the late summer of 1972, and had a storage volume of around 2,200,000 square feet. The new state-of-the-art warehouse was entirely controlled by computers with automated cranes moving up and down the darkened aisles. Further expansion took place a couple of years later, with the acquisition of the southern end of the area from the Burton group, extending the existing ambient warehouse, the West Warehouse.

Bracknell’s Jubilee House opened in 2002, housing the Partnership’s new computer centre. Computer operations had been operating out of central London at Clipstone Street for 30 years, but a secure building with special features to accommodate Computer Operations and the mainframe computer was needed.

Comments about this page

  • Very Interesting. I moved the the UK in 1988 and I have been a “Waitroser”, ever since. Waitrose has the well deserved reputation of having the best food and service and I find that it is also very competitive with the prices of other food stores. I am 71 years old, a “bargain Betty” by nature and I am always to able to get the best foods at Waitrose for a very good price. And Waitrose is an extremely happy place to shop!! The staff are not only very helpful, but always kind and happy to see me. Thank you Waitrose!

    By Mary Pedriks (06/02/2024)
  • Thank you for your comment Dave – really interesting!

    By phaedracasey (25/07/2023)
  • In the late 1970s when still at school, in the 6th form, I had an evening job cleaning the in Waitrose warehouse in Bracknell. The whole place was automated with stock stored vertically in the enormous and scarily dark stock hall.

    Picking cranes would move to the a column then go up the right level to get items.

    It was all controlled via a big noisy room of mechanical relays and an adjacent quiet computer room. Huge hard disk drives and computer punch tape made the whole room feel like a set from a James Bond film.

    I had a floor buffer and I would whizz it around the floors.

    One evening I was in the computer room and having buffed one half of the floor I needed to get around to the other side. A trolley with a printer was in the way of the heavy mains cable, so instead of taking a few steps to lift the cable over the trolley I gave it a quick skipping rope type flick over it.

    The action made the cable jump nicely over the trolley as planned, but as always when creating waves along a rope, the oscillation continued to the end to which was attached a plug that was in turn plugged into a wall socket.

    This all happened in a second. There was a short sharp bang and everything went bang!

    Then there was silence.

    No whirring or humming in the computer room. No noisy clicking of relays next door.

    I’d shut down the whole warehouse. 🤦‍♂️

    I didn’t do that again.

    But I did save up and bought my first acoustic 12-string from the music shop at Amen Corner, (yes, it was a place).

    By Dave Howard (23/07/2023)

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