Harris Leon Brown was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1843. After school he became an apprentice to Moses Neufeld, one of the largest firms in Warsaw engaged in the Sheffield trades.
When he was 17 years old, he joined the Polish insurrection against Russian despotism; he left Russia for Sheffield with an introduction to Alfred Beckett and Sons (with whom Moses Neufeld did extensive business) and Berry’s and Company Limited. His journey from Russia to Sheffield was difficult being a Polish insurgent; he had to conceal himself at daytime and travel by night by farm carts (rather than railways) to get from town to town until he reached Hamburg whereupon he was shipped to Hull and arrived in Sheffield sometime thereafter.
He established a business in 1861 as a watchmaker; he began trading from 29 Gower Street in 1867; by 1876 H.L. Brown was situated at 24 Angel Street and in 1877 connected directly to Greenwich, with the introduction of the 1 o’clock time signal. Around 1888, the firm moved to 71 Market Place (where the earliest known image of the premises exists). In 1896 the firm moved again to 65 Market Place and in 1906 there is a first mention of a branch on Regent Street in London. He married a Sheffield woman, Ann Kirby (daughter of Charles Kirby, Cutler) at St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane in 1865.
During his early years in Sheffield he joined the Hallamshire Rifles. He was Chairman of Sheffield Jewish Board of Guardians and served as President of the Sheffield Hebrew congregation. He was a prime mover in building a Synagogue in Sheffield and securing a Hebrew burial ground.
He died in 1917 and his son Bernard Brown succeeded him in the business.
During the Sheffield Blitz (1940) H.L. Brown’s was bombed and business moved to 70 Fargate. The firm moved to its current location of 2 Barker’s Pool in 1986. To this day the 1 o’clock time signal still sounds daily.
Image from Sheffield and District Who’s Who (Leng, W.C. and Co Ltd., 1905) (Sheffield Local Studies Library: 920.04274 SST)