The company was founded by John Wesley Hillard in 1885 in the West Yorkshire town of Cleckheaton. The first shop was opened in Lion Chambers there and shortly after 1900 there were 20 shops operating as Lion Stores. By 1951 there were over 70 stores and by 1968 it had warehouse size stores in Wakefield, Lincoln and York. In 1970 the trade name Lion Stores was dropped in favour of Hillards and in 1972 the Company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange. Peter Hartley, a grandson of the founder, became Executive Chairman in 1983 and in May 1987, following a hostile bid, the business was acquired by Tesco for £220m.