A drawing of Henry Boswell Lee's Staw Bonnet Warehouse, 1853
A drawing of Henry Boswell Lee's Staw Bonnet Warehouse, 1853

Famous throughout Liverpool

Henry Boswell Lee was the owner of a famous silk shop in Liverpool, originally born out of a bonnet making business, trading from a multitude of addresses. George Henry Lee and Henry Boswell Lee (Junior), worked under the shadow of their father to drive the business forward, opening a bonnet warehouse in 1853 on Basnett Street, the site on which today’s store is located.

A family tradition

GH Lee was without doubt an integral part of the retail industry in Liverpool. As a family business, held in high revere in the local community, they profited greatly from a number of wealthy loyal customers, and would eventually become one of the most exclusive shops in the city. Shopping at GH Lee became a family tradition for some, drawn to the expertise of departmental staff, and the highly formal customer service provided, including being lead to the correct department by a ‘shop walker’ immediately upon entry to the shop. However, quickly realising that they lacked any real business acumen, the brothers took the executive decision to employ experienced buyer Thomas Oakshott to manage their growing company.

Thomas Oakshott

Thomas Oakshott, originally from Cork, Ireland, had an unprecedented impact on the business upon his induction into the company in 1861. As Henry Boswell Lee (Junior) took an early retirement, Oakshott stepped forward to partner the remaining Lee brother. Oaskshott’s managerial prowess certainly paid dividends. Despite the retirement of George Henry Lee in 1874, the business would become a limited company in 1897, and was entirely owned by the Oakshott company by the time of Thomas’ death in 1910.

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