Arthur Lasenby Liberty
Founder of the famous Liberty store on London’s Regent Street. Born in Chesham and lived for over 30 years in the nearby village of The Lee.
Link with the Chilterns
Born in Chesham and lived for over 30 years in the nearby village of The Lee.
13th August 1843
11th May 1917
Arthur Lasenby Liberty was born in Chesham, the son of a draper. After a brief schooling he was apprenticed at a draper”e;s in Baker Street, London. After completing his training he moved to Farmer & Rogers”e; Great Shawl & Cloak Emporium in Regent Street.
In 1875 with a £2,000 loan from his future wife”e;s family Arthur Liberty took on the lease of half a shop at 218a Regent Street. He initially concentrated on selling products from Japan, but later imported goods from China, Java and Persia. Arthur also began producing his own range of silks. Within eighteen months Arthur had repaid the loan and acquired the second half of 218 Regent Street – the now world famous Liberty store.
Arthur”e;s local connections through his birthplace of Chesham and his grandparents’ home at Chartridge Farm led naturally to his desire to live in the area again. In 1880 he moved into the Manor House at The Lee, initially renting it from the absent Plaistowe family, and in 1898 he bought the manor estate from them. He extended the estate to cover over three thousand acres, stretching well beyond the parish boundaries. The estate eventually comprised twelve working farms, many houses and cottages and lots of pubs. He also did muchto improve the village, including new cottages, fresh water to The Lee pumped from Missenden valley, a village green, cricket pitch, football ground and, in 1911, improvements to the ParishChurch .
In 1907 Arthur rebuilt the old village pub but moved it close to the new village green, now seen as the ‘Cock and Rabbit’ .At the same time a large sarsen stone was excavated from Lee Gate and ‘erected’ on the village green where it can be seen today.
In 1911 the parish of The Lee was extended through Arthur’s influence to include King’s Ash, Lee Gate, Swan Bottom, Lee Common, and Lee Clump. This considerably increased the size of the parish both geographically and in terms of population and as a result Arthur revived the old custom of “beating the Bounds” which continues today.
Before he died, Arthur Liberty had amassed a small fortune as a majority shareholder in Liberty & Co. – it had become a public limited liability company in 1890. When he died in 1917 he left a manor house, several cottages and a large acreage of farmland around the Lee to his nephew, Ivor Stewart-Liberty.
Arthur had also built a house for his nephew, Ivor Stewart-Liberty. This house called Pipers is just a little way from the green, about 250m from the Cock and Rabbit. At the entrance to Pipers is a wooden figurehead of Admiral Lord Howe taken from the Navy’s last wooden warship, HMS Impregnable (previously called HMS Howe). The timbers of HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan were used for the mock Tudor extension to the Liberty store in London. By the 1930s the estate employed around one hundred people directly or indirectly and almost every family was dependant in some way on The Lee Manor estate.
What you can visit
The Lee village.
Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty’s grave at St John’s Church, The Lee.