This wonderful photograph reveals the considerable size of Alfred Lee’s warehouse and the number of employees that were engaged circa 1900. On the right-hand side of the photograph is the beech tree, a magnificent specimen which fortunately remains to this day, beyond which can be seen ‘Lees Meadow’.
The long brick building houses four shop units and a private flat today, but it was originally built as a commercial warehouse for Alfred Lee, hence the entrance to the site bearing the name ‘Lees Yard’. The scale of construction would have been considered extremely adventurous in 1896, for the length of the building measures in excess of 100 feet. The commissioning and design of such a substantial purpose-built warehouse was a very significant investment for Alfred Lee and the size of the development must have represented one of the largest in Holt at that time.
The warehouse was built from relatively ordinary bricks which at first glance presents quite a plain, bland appearance. However, on closer examination the decorative use of a very hard, buff-coloured brick can be seen which enhances all the window reveals, doorways, dentil course and other detailing, including the two chimney stacks at each end. The name of the builder is not know, but the services of one local supplier features prominently on the building. Iron circular plates terminating at the ends of the tie-bars feature at regular intervals along the façade bearing the name ‘Baker - Holt’ in their castings.
Half of the ground floor was divided into purpose-built stables, each with gently sloping floors leading to central drains. On either side of the entrance door the original metal rings that were used for tethering horses still remain in place.
In order to leave his mark on the building, Alfred Lee had a series of stone plaques inserted at eye-level bearing engraved initials and the date of 1896. One plaque is dedicated to himself, but another bears the initials of his wife, Amelia May Lee, and another is believed to be have been for his brother, William Cooper Lee. In the late 1930’s another warehouse was built which houses the Picturecraft Art Gallery today. The method of using horses for deliveries eventually made way for the introduction of motor vehicles. All the stables were converted into storage shelving which remained in place until 1971 when John & Ruth Hill and their son Michael purchased Lees Yard to develop their Picturecraft business.
In the close-up photograph, Alfred Lee is the person standing on the left wearing a bowler hat.