yeovil trades & traders

Mr & Mrs Lewis Lee

Photographers of Earle Street


Henry Claude Lee was born in 1845 at Devonport, Devon, the third of the five sons of licensed victualler John Lee (b1818) and his wife Harriett (b1810). He was registered simply as Henry Lee and it may be that 'Claude' was possibly a later affectation.

John and Harriett's sons were; Edward John Smyth (1841-1866), James (b1842), Joseph Herbert (1844-1888 ), Henry and Thomas (b1845). The 1851 census listed the family at the Royal Hotel Tap, Devonport - a brewery tap is usually the nearest outlet for a brewery's beers, often a bar or room in the brewery although it may apply to the closest pub, but in this instance it is most likely that the Royal Hotel had its own brewery and this was its outlet.

John Lee died during the 1850s, and by the time of the 1861 census his widow Harriett was listed as the licensed victualler of the South Devon Hotel, Frankfort Street, Plymouth. 18-year old Henry gave his occupation as a nurseryman's clerk and his brother Joseph worked as a telegraph company's clerk..

On 28 November 1869, at St James, Swansea, Henry married Margaret Lewis. Margaret was the daughter of Thomas Lewis (1820-1901) and his wife Catherine née Bullock (1825-1902). In the 1871 census Henry and Margaret (listed as Harry Claude and Magret) were recorded living at 63 Broad Street, Blainavon, Monmouthshire. 29-year old Harry gave his occupation as a photographic artist. Living with them was 25-year old Margaret's 17-year old sister Elizabeth Anna Lewis, who worked as their housekeeper. In 1874, at Swansea, Henry's younger brother Joseph married Margaret's sister Elizabeth.

By the time of the 1881 census, Henry and Margaret together with Joseph and Elizabeth, were all living at 161 St Helens Avenue, Swansea. Both Henry and Joseph gave their occupations as photographers.

Joseph died in 1888 at Stonehouse, Devon, and around this time Henry and Margaret, together with Elizabeth, moved to Yeovil. In the 1891 census they were listed at 25 Earle Street. Henry gave his occupation as a photographer and Elizabeth was still listed as the housekeeper. Margaret had no occupation listed although, it transpires, she was also a photographer. Lewis Lee was listed in Yeovil's Poll Books continuously from 1891/2 to 1896/7 for their dwelling at 25 Earle Street.

It appears that Henry Lee and Margaret née Lewis, for business purposes, used both their surnames and, together, worked under the name of 'Mr & Mrs Lewis Lee', later simply as 'Lewis Lee'. On the back of their cartes de visite (see Gallery) under the title 'Specialities', 'At Home Portraits' were taken by Mr Lewis Lee, while 'Children & Ladies' were photographed by Mrs Lewis Lee.

While they were in Yeovil, there was only one trade directory listing and that was in the 1895 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser - for Mrs Lewis Lee, advertising her "Ladies' and Babies' Portraits" at moderate prices..

Henry Lee, was a member of the congregation of Christ Church (he was appointed a sideman of the church in 1894), was secretary of the Liberal Unionist and Conservative Association in Yeovil in 1894, and was engaged as a Liberal Unionist agent (under the name 'Mr Lewis Lee'), for the district in April 1895. In its edition of 25 April 1895, the Wells Journal reported; "Mr Lewis Lee was engaged as Liberal Unionist agent, and in that capacity has visited many of the towns and villages in south Somerset, interviewed electors, and considerably added to the numbers of the association. He has also organised and attended meetings, and has distributed and arranged for the distribution of literature."

The Lees left Yeovil in the autumn of 1896 and the 11 September 1896 edition of the Western Gazette, advertised the sale of their home contents as well as their photographic studio and equipment.

Despite selling their photographic studio and its equipment, the 1891 census recorded Henry and Margaret at The (Old) Lodge, Gower Road, Swansea. 57-year old Henry gave his occupation as a photographer, working at home on his own account.

Henry Claude Lee died in Swansea in the autumn of 1908. His death was also, apparently, recorded separately as Lewis Lee.




From my collection

The front and back of a carte de visite from the very early 1890s. This was, presumably, photographed by Margaret, who was advertised as photographing 'Ladies and Babies' (see the next image). I'm not sure how warranted the "Patronised by HRH The Prince of Wales" was.

The fact that the card used for this carte was a purchased and standard printed-back card stock, and Lee's details were added (somewhat out of square) by using an inked rubber stamp, indicates that this was one of Lewis Lee's earliest cartes de visite.


From my collection

A carte de visite by "Mr & Mrs Lewis Lee" of a clergyman and Jack Russell dog dating to the mid-1890s. This was, presumably, photographed by Henry. The back of this carte appears to have been professionally printed.


An advertisement for 'Mrs Lewis Lee' from the 1895 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


Courtesy of Bill & Audrey Robertson

A cabinet card by Lewis Lee of four Yeovil girls; Louie Gawler, Evelyn Williams, Nina Mitchell and Florrie Mitchell - photographed in the mid-1890s.


From my collection

A cabinet card by Lewis Lee of two young ladies and dating, of course, to between 1891 and 1896. Unusually, the front legend reads "Wishing You Many Happy Birthdays" in gold lettering on a very dark blue-green cardstock. The printing on the back of the card is now so dark as to be all but illegible.


Advertisement in the 11 September 1896 edition of the Western Gazette, selling up Lewis Lee's photographic studio and equipment.