Founding fathers Knight and Lee

By Jonathan Blatchford

Attractive proposition

By the 1880’s, Mr Wink’s shop was a highly attractive proposition for outsiders. In 1887, two such enterprising young men stepped forward to take over, Jesse Knight and Edward Herbert Soden Lee. They were drawn to the growing reputation of Southsea as a centre for trade and a cauldron of opportunity.

Messrs. Knight and Lee

Little is held in the archives to shed light on this entrepreneurial partnership. Knight and Lee were Londoners, close friends and brothers-in-law, with a very definite understanding of how the other worked. They both had previous retail experience working for William Whitely’s in Bayswater, and no doubt felt that now was the time to go it alone. From Whitely’s they brought a Mr Brown with them, who would become General Manager and then Managing Director.

Stock suits seaside location

Mr Knight and Mr Lee’s first innovation at Southseas was a boyswear department, unique at the time. This was quickly followed by a menswear department and a naval and military tailoring in the next door shop. Knight and Lee were making themselves popular by stocking products suitable for their immediate surroundings. Within weeks of taking over, they were advertising special ladies mackintoshes, supplied straight from the manufacturer, a rarity in those days. In 1899, it was made a private company, with a nominal capital of £65,000. The two directors had a comfortable salary of £1000 each.

If you have any photographs, or any additional information on the original Knight and Lee, please get in touch!

This page was added by Jonathan Blatchford on 20/08/2014.