George Henry Lee: Founders

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 a bonnet making business, trading from a multitude of addresses. George Henry Lee and Henry Boswell Lee Jnr worked with their father to drive the business forward, opening a bonnet warehouse in 1853 on Basnett Street, the site on which John Lewis Liverpool was located until it moved into the Liverpool One development in 2008.

A family tradition

GH Lee was an integral part of the retail industry in Liverpool. As a family business held in high revere in the local community, it 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.

Thomas Oakshott

In 1861 the Lee brothers employed experienced buyer Thomas Oakshott, originally from Cork, Ireland, to manage their growing company. When Henry Boswell Lee Jnr took an early retirement, Oakshott stepped forward to partner the remaining Lee brother. Oakshott’s managerial prowess certainly paid dividends. George Henry Lee retired in 1874.  The business became 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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