Henry Willis II (1852 - 1927)

Henry II, the second son of Henry I, was a much more retiring and introverted character than his father. He was educated at Merchant Taylors School, then in the Charterhouse in London, and started his apprenticeship with the company in 1868, completing in 1872. His forte proved to be reed voicing, which he learned from his uncle, George Willis (1826-1872). It was he who was responsible for much of the reed work at the Royal Albert Hall and Alexandra Palace.

In 1878, he and his older brother, Vincent, were taken into partnership by Henry I and in 1883, Henry II was sent to Liverpool to assist Vincent in the running of the Liverpool Works. In fact, Vincent spent much of his time on devising new actions that Henry II had the whole responsibility for the output of the Liverpool branch. This obsession with invention became a cause of dispute and eventually lead to Vincent leaving the partnership in 1894.

After Henry I’s death, Henry II was so much absorbed in keeping the company’s affairs in order that his health suffered. He retired aged 60, leaving the company in the capable hands of the young Henry III.