Henry Lee was a partner in the well known cotton company Tootal, Broadhurst, Lee & Co and was also the MP for the Port of Southampton.
He was born on 29th November 1817, the son of Lee Lee of Chorley. One of his brothers was Sir Joseph C Lee, who was prominently associated with the commercial life of Lancashire. When very young, Henry was sent to school under the care of the Rev. John Price, a well known Congregational Minister. Henry's father had interests in cotton and farming and Henry divided his interests between the farm and the warehouse, rising early and labouring all day in his two-fold employment. After a few years he was apprenticed to a Mr Goodair of Preston and then took a prominent position in the cotton goods warehouse of Mr Robert Gardner. He then formed a partnership with Messrs Tootal and Broadhurst and opened Sunnybank Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills near Bolton. Under his management, Tootal, Broadhurst, Lee & Co grew rapidly. He introduced the power loom to the production of many fabrics which hitherto had only been made on hand looms, and this, coupled with his untiring energy led to the rapid extension of the business.
The cotton goods produced by the firm enjoyed a high and most unique position in United States markets and gradually exports extended to the rest of the world. Henry joined the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and in 1889 became its President for 3 years. His business interests extended when he became a director and then chairman of Bolekow, Vaughan and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough, the largest iron and steel producing concern in the UK. He was also a Director of Williams Deacon's Bank ant the Manchester and Salford Savings Bank.
His business interests took him all over the world, travelling in Europe, America, India and Australia. His acquaintance with the common school system in the USA led him to believe that the national rate-aided system of elementary education in England had been a mistake. He was very impressed with the importance of enabling poor children to advance from elementary schools to higher schools. He willingly accepted an invitation to join the Governing Body of Manchester Grammar School and became Deputy Chairman for many years. Henry Lee was a Magistrate for the County Borough of Salford and for the Manchester Petty Sessions. He also presided at the inaugural meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Broughton Branch.
In politics, Henry Lee was a Liberal. At the General Election of 1874 he and barrister Joseph Kay (brother of Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth) were the Liberal candidates opposing the sitting Conservative MPs Cawley and Charley. Although close, the Conservatives won again and Disraeli formed a Conservative Government. However, six years later, when the Liberals were swept to power in 1880, Henry won the seat of the Port of Southampton, but he was defeated in 1885. In 1886 he contested North-west Manchester, but was well defeated.
Henry was an ardent Congregationalist. For many years he was a zealous Sunday School teacher in Chapel Street. At one period he took an active part in the erection of Congregational churches. The one at Broughton Park was built much to his efforts and contributions. He was an active member and Chairman of the Lancashire and Cheshire Congregational Chapel Building Society for many years.
In 1846 Henry married Hannah, the eldest daughter of Mr John Dracup of Salford. According to the family gravestone their children were William Dracup (born 10 Aug 1848 at Broughton, died 19 Mar 1869) and Edith (born 8 Feb 1850 at Broughton, died 10 May 1862). According to IGI there was another son Harold (born 1851 at Sedgby or Sedgley Park). Hannah died on 5th January 1894 and Henry was to die ten years later.
The Salford Reporter of 31st December 1904 ran the headline "Death of Mr Henry Lee. A Useful Public Life". It went on "It is with regret that we announce the death of Mr Henry Lee of the firm Tootal, Broadhurst, Lee and Co Ltd, Cotton spinners and manufacturers, which took place somewhat suddenly on Tuesday (27th December 1904) morning at his residence, Bedford Lodge, Broughton Park, Broughton. The deceased gentleman had reached the advanced age of 87, but he remained remarkably active and apparently was in his accustomed health until breakfast on the day, when he was seized with sudden illness and shortly afterwards expired."
At Salford Town Hall and all the public buildings in the borough the flags were flown at half mast as a token of respect. Henry's funeral took place on Saturday 31st December. The service was held at Broughton Park Congregational Church followed by interment in the family vault in section A3 of the Dissenters portion of Weaste Cemetery (near the Brotherton memorial).