Kay & Lee Warehouse 17 High Street Manchester
Brick structure with stone facings designed for Kay & Lee, Wholesale Clothiers. Five floors and basement. Lit by electricity. Employed 600 people. Toilet provision on every floor. Basement kitchen and restaurant seating 500
This important concern was founded in 1873 under its present title, at 17, Watling Street, those premises consisting of four rooms. Some idea may, therefore, be gained of the rapid, rise of the concern, and, owing to the enterprising and progressive policy pursued by its proprietors, from the first it has had a most successful career, developing continuously, and eventually gaining a position in the front ranks of the trade. In 1878 Mr. Kay, one of the founders, died, and the surviving partner, Mr. Lee, was then joined by Mr. G. T. Bowes, an experienced business man, with an excellent knowledge of commercial routine, who had been for twenty-one years with Messrs. S. & J. Watts & Co. Mr. Lee and Mr. Bowes constitute the present firm, but the original title is retained. The premises now occupied in High Street were specially erected for this business in 1890, the interior being constructed according to Mr. Lee’s own designs. It forms a large-and handsome brick structure, with stone facings, presenting a fine appearance, and reflecting much credit upon the architect, Mr. Andrews, of Cross Street. Five lofty flats and a spacious basement are comprised in this immense warehouse, and the whole place is provided with the best modern improvements of every kind, including an installation of the electric light. It may be said that these premises in their entirety constitute an establishment which is equal in resource, convenience, and general accommodation to any other in the trade.
Messrs. Kay & Lee hold large stocks, not only in made-up clothing of every description, but also in all manner of woollens and piece-goods generally; and the extraordinary variety of the stock meeting the eye of the visitor to this warehouse gives a striking proof of the comprehensive nature of the trade engaged in. The firm cater for all the requirements of the home and export markets, producing goods calculated to meet the demands of every class of customer, and the organisation of the warehouse and workrooms is practically perfect, nothing being neglected that could tend to more fully ensure the smooth and satisfactory working of the routine of this vast industry. Altogether, they give employment to about six hundred hands. All the conditions under which the industry is carried on are favourable to the attainment of the best results in each department, and every labour-saving device is in operation. The ventilating, lighting, and warming arrangements are all that can be desired, these important matters having evidently received the most careful attention throughout the premises. Lavatories on each floor, large kitchen and basement, with cooking accommodation for five hundred people, &c., have their place in the establishment, and it is quite evident that, although space is of great value in large works of this kind, the firm have most carefully considered the needs of their employees, and have adopted every means of promoting their health and comfort.
Messrs. Kay & Lee seem to be constantly adding to their productive resources, extra machines and appliances of the most improved type being frequently introduced into the factory departments. The trade controlled extends all over the kingdom, as well as among the shippers to the different markets abroad, and the house maintains a connection of the most valuable character, and enjoys a degree of favour and confidence in the trade which could have been gained only by close adherence to the most honourable commercial methods and a well-sustained resolution to produce goods of a high order of merit and reliability. [The Century's Progress – Lancashire, 1892]
Reference The Century's Progress – Lancashire, 1892. The London Printing and Engraving Co.
Reference Good Value & No Humbug Neil Richardson. Reprinted from The Century's Progress 1892