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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/112

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1844-1995

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 3354 production units.

Name of creator(s): Harrisons and Crosfield Ltd | traders in tea, coffee, rubber, timber, chemicals, and other agricultural products


Administrative/Biographical history:

Daniel and Smith Harrison and Joseph Crosfield entered into partnership in January 1844 to trade as tea and coffee merchants at 6 Temple Street, Liverpool, under the style Harrisons and Crosfield. The partnership moved in July 1854 to 3 Great Tower Street, London, becoming from the 1860s one of the largest tea traders in Britain. In the 1890s the company admitted a number of new partners (Charles Heath Clark, George Croll, Arthur Lampard and Eric Miller) and changed the direction of its business. The company took on the blending and packing of teas, and imports from Ceylon were stored in a warehouse on Ceylon Wharf, Bankside in Southwark. The company was also increasingly involved in rubber and plantation estates in the mid-20th century, and acquired shareholdings, often acting as agents and secretaries, in a number of plantation companies. By the late 20th century, Harrisons and Crosfield managed nearly half a million acres of tropical crops in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Southern India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The firm became a limited company under the style Harrisons and Crosfield Limited in May 1908.

Much of the company's interest in tea was disposed of in 1916 on the formation of Twining, Crosfield and Company Limited. As well as diversifying into rubber plantation Harrisons and Crosfield Limited had interests in timber (through its stake in British Borneo Timber Limited, later called Sabah Timber Company), and especially from the 1950s, palm oil, speciality chemicals and other estates agency work, including the related business from insurance and shipping. From the late 1960s the company again changed direction moving to consolidate its interests in a number of divisions, including the "Harcros" group of timber merchants and building suppliers, chemicals, animal feeds and other agricultural products. Most of the interests Harrisons and Crosfield had in individual plantation companies were merged into larger companies (e.g. London Sumatra Plantations) in the 1960s and afterwards, and those companies have subsequently been sold. The firm became a public limited company in 1982. In late 1997 the firm started the disposal of all its timber and building supplies and food and agriculture divisions, to concentrate on speciality chemicals. From January 1998 the firm has been known as Elementis Plc.

Harrisons and Crosfield established branches in the following places:
AFRICA: Nairobi branch opened in 1962/3, becoming part of Phillips, Harrisons and Crosfield from 1965 (see Ms 38092-4).
AUSTRALIA: Offices opened in 1910 in Melbourne. From 1914 Harrisons and Crosfield operated under the style Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary, with further branches in Sydney and other places (see Ms 37842-92).
BELGIUM: Office opened in Brussels in 1963 (see Ms 37090).
BORNEO: The company operated through a subsidiary company Harrisons and Crosfield (Borneo) Ltd, registered 1918 in Sandakan (Ms 37541-61). See also records of Sabah Timber Company Ltd (Ms 38103-78).
CANADA: Harrisons and Crosfield operated through offices at Montreal (opened 1905), Toronto (c 1940) and Vancouver (c 1947) (Ms 37199-207), and through a subsidiary company Harrisons and Crosfield (Canada) Ltd (Ms 37562-9). See also the records of Dillons Chemical Co (Ms 37570-1).
CHINA: Office opened in Shanghai in 1908 under the style Westphal, King and Ramsay, and from 1918 as Harrisons, King and Irwin (Ms 37642-52). See also the records of Tait and Co which operated in Taiwan (Ms 38195-204).
HOLLAND: The company operated under the style Harrisons and Crosfield (Holland) N.V., 1951-9 (Ms 37576-80).
HONG KONG: Harrisons and Crosfield operated under the style Harrisons, King and Irwin from 1946 (Ms 37642-52), and from 1963 as Harrisons and Crosfield (Hong Kong) Ltd (Ms 37581-6).
INDIA: Branch office opened in Calcutta in 1900 (under the style Lampard, Clark and Co, Ms 37914-25), and Quilon in 1911, with other offices at Calicut and Cochin (Ms 37208-50). See also the records of Davenport and Co (Ms 37462-8).
INDONESIA: Branches opened in Medan and Batavia (Jakarta) in 1910, with sub-offices at Bandoeng (Bandung) from ca. 1916, and Sourabaya (Surabaya) from c 1921 (Ms 37251-82).
JAPAN: Branch office in Kobe opened in 1917 (Ms 37283). See also the records of Jarmain, Davis and Co (Ms 37900-1).
MALAYA: Office opened in Kuala Lumpur in 1907 under the style Crosfield, Lampard and Co (Ms 37447-55). From 1921 see the records of Harrisons and Crosfield (Malaya), which also had branches at Singapore and Penang (Ms 37587-627).
NEW ZEALAND: Wellington branch opened in 1910, and from 1914 Harrisons and Crosfield operated in New Zealand under the style Harrisons Ramsay Proprietary Ltd (Ms 37842-92).
SRI LANKA: Colombo branch opened in 1895 under the style Crosfield, Lampard and Co (Ms 37447-55). See also the records of Harrisons Lister Engineering Ltd (Ms 37653-76) and Harrisons and Eastern Export Ltd (Ms 37635-41). From 1908/9 see also the records of Harrisons and Crosfield's Colombo branch (Ms 37284-309).
SWITZERLAND: Office opened in 1962 in Lausanne (Ms 37090).
TAIWAN: See records of Tait and Co (Ms 38195-204).
UNITED STATES: New York branch opened in 1904 under the style Crosfield, Lampard, Clark and Co (Ms 37456-61), from 1908 as Irwin Harrisons and Crosfield Inc, with branches in Philadelphia, Chicago and other places.
Harrisons and Crosfield also operated through a subsidiary company Harrisons and Crosfield (America) Inc of New York (Ms 37523-9). See also Harrisons and Crosfield (Pacific) Inc (Ms 37530)

Harrisons and Crosfield were appointed as secretaries and/or agents to almost all of the plantation companies in which it had a shareholding. The secretarial function was performed in London and included the provision of full management support to the boards of individual plantation companies and the administration of share registers. The overseas branches of Harrisons and Crosfield (eg Harrisons and Crosfield (Malaya) Limited) acted as agents.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Harrisons and Crosfield Limited, traders in tea, coffee, rubber, timber, chemicals, and other agricultural products. The catalogue includes: corporate records (including articles of association, agreements, minutes and annual reports and accounts); share records; internal administration records (including directories of operations, directors' and general letter books); accounting records; operational records (including reports on estates); branch records (including correspondence and accounts); insurance department records; papers concerning the careers of directors; staff records; premises and property records; historical notes, photographs and plans; records of subsidiary companies, and companies for which Harrisons and Crosfield acted as secretaries and/or agents.

The archive includes records relating to Harrisons and Crosfield's activities as secretaries and/or agents for other companies. As these records were generated as part of Harrisons and Crosfield's role as secretaries and/or agents for another company, they have been catalogued as records of that particular company. However, they comprise correspondence and other papers of the head office of Harrisons and Crosfield, and supporting papers acquired by Harrisons and Crosfield (e.g. memoranda and articles of association, and annual reports and accounts) to assist in that role. The records of the companies for which Harrisons and Crosfield acted as secretaries and/or agents are arranged so that each company is followed by its subsidiary companies (if any).

Access to records less than 30 years old (or records less than 70 years old which relate to staff) should be sought from Elementis plc (contact details may be obtained from a member of staff).


Language/scripts of material: English, Dutch, German, Spanish and French.

System of arrangement:

The collection has been divided into 167 sub-fonds. Sub-fonds 001-016 comprise Harrisons and Crosfield records (such as accounting, share records, staff records and branch records); while sub-fonds 017-167 comprise the records of subsidiary and associated companies, arranged alphabetically by name. Within the sub-fonds the records have been arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records of Harrisons and Crosfield and its subsidiary and secretarial companies were transferred to Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section between 1990 and 1998. The records were presented as a gift to the Library, except the minute books of some subsidiary companies which are held as a deposit. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.


Publication note:

Published histories of the company are available in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library: One Hundred Years as East India Merchants (1943); Peter Pugh (ed. Guy Nickalls), Great Enterprise: A History of Harrisons and Crosfield (1990); Geoffrey Jones and Judith Wale, "Diversification strategies of British trading companies: Harrisons and Crosfield, ca.1900-ca.1980", Business History 41 (1999), 69-101.

DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: November 2010 to January 2011.

Business records | Documents | Information sources
Chemical industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Cocoa | Plant products | Agricultural products
Cocoa dealers | Mercantile personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Cocoa trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
Coffee trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
International trade | Trade
Overseas trade | Trade (practice)
Plantation records | Documents | Information sources
Plantations | Agricultural land
Rubber goods | Industrial products
Rubber industry and trade | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Silk industry | Textile industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Tea | Plant products | Agricultural products
Tea trade | Food trade | Trade (practice)
Timber industry | Industry
Timber merchants | Merchants | Mercantile personnel | Personnel | People by occupation | People
Tin industry | Metal industry | Manufacturing industry | Industry
Tin mining | Mining

Personal names

Corporate names
Harrisons and Crosfield Ltd | traders in tea | coffee | rubber | timber | chemicals | and other agricultural products

Australia | Oceania
Borneo | South East Asia
Canada | North America
China | East Asia
City of London | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe
India | South Asia
Java | Indonesia | South East Asia
Kenya | East Africa
Malaysia | South East Asia
New Zealand | Oceania
Papua New Guinea | Oceania
South Africa | Southern Africa
Sri Lanka | South Asia
Sumatra | Indonesia | South East Asia
USA | North America