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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/063
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1749-1925
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 212 production units.
Name of creator(s): Cossart, Gordon and Co | traders in Madeira wine


Administrative/Biographical history:

Francis Newton sailed from Gravesend to Madeira in 1745 and began trading there, at first while employed as a bookkeeper but from 1747-1748 on his own account. In the 19th century his successors, Cossart, Gordon and Company, claimed the year of foundation as 1745 (see printed circular issued in 1867, in Ms 32992/151). The earliest document among the papers now held at Guildhall Library is dated 1749.

The company has traded under the following names: Francis Newton -1758; Newton and Gordon, 1758-77; Newton, Gordon and Johnston, 1777-91; Newton, Gordon and Murdoch, 1791-1801; Newton, Gordon, Murdoch and Company, 1802-5, Newton, Gordon, Murdoch and Scott, 1805-c 1833; Newton, Gordon, Murdoch and Company, c 1833-1839; Newton, Gordon, Cossart and Company, [1839-1864]; Cossart, Gordon and Company c 1864-1953; Cossart, Gordon and Cia. Lda 1953-

Although originally established in Madeira, from its earliest days the business maintained close links with London, and its principals were always British. In 1758 Francis Newton entered into partnership with Thomas Gordon. Newton returned from Madeira to London c 1767 (according to an account written in 1773, in Ms 32992/11) and thereafter appears to have acted in London as the company's senior partner. By the mid nineteenth century the company had a substantial presence in both London and Madeira, with a "London house" as well as the original "Madeira house". The "London house" traded as Webster Gordon, Cossart and Company in the 1840s, when it was based at 6 New Broad Street (1846). The name Cossart, Gordon and Company was used in London before it was used in Madeira, being applied to the London house from 1851. From c 1864, both houses traded under the same name.

The primary business of Cossart, Gordon and Company was the purchase of wine from local suppliers and its export to Britain, the United States, India and the West Indies. In the 18th and early 19th centuries it also traded in a range of other commodities such as cotton, soap, sugar, rice, grain, flour, meat, fish, fruit and dairy products. During the 19th century, however, as the demand for Madeira wines grew, Cossart, Gordon and Company withdrew from trading in general merchandise in order to concentrate on wines.

In 1913 a small group of Madeira wine shippers decided to work together and formed the Madeira Wine Association Limitada. The numbers in this group grew as the benefits of co-operation became clear. Cossart, Gordon and Company joined the Association as a partner in 1953. At the same time, the Madeira assets of the London company were put into a Portuguese company, Cossart, Gordon and Cia. Lda. which supplied the London company's requirements through the Madeira Wine Association (later the Madeira Wine Company).


Scope and content/abstract:

Archives of the Madeira wine merchants Cossart, Gordon and Company. They relate both to its domestic business in Madeira and to its international operations, including its relations with customers and agents in the British Isles, continental Europe, the United States, the West Indies and (from c 1780) India and the Far East.

The documents are chiefly unbound business papers (in bundles, some original) and mostly dated between 1754 and 1898, together with a few family papers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and photocopies of items removed for sale in the late 20th century.


Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Portuguese.

System of arrangement:

The sifting of the Cossart Gordon papers in the late 1980s to find philatelic or other saleable items has led to some disturbance of the original order of the items which remain. It also seems probable that some disturbance of the original order had already occurred, both when the papers were shipped to England and on other occasions while they were still in the possession of the company. Many of the original bundles of bills of lading 1840-1851 (now Ms 32992) contain a note that certain items were removed in 1946 and sent to Blandy Brothers and Company [wine merchants, of Madeira]. Nevertheless, in large parts of the archive the original order remains intact. The papers were catalogued at Guildhall Library in 2002, when several items or bundles which had obviously been misplaced were returned to their rightful place in the archive. (No attempt was made to marry the photocopies and original items however.)

Conditions governing access:

Access only to holders of a History Card. Please see staff if you require a card.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers held at Guildhall Library form part of a larger accumulation of papers which were brought from Madeira to England sometime in the 20th century. These are known to have been stored in a garage in Bungay, Suffolk, in 1978-9. Shortly afterwards they were purchased by Robson Lowe, philatelic dealers, who subsequently sold many documents of philatelic interest to private buyers. The residue was purchased by a schoolmaster who removed a number of further documents before donating the remaining papers to Liverpool University Library in 1983. Under the terms of the donation to Liverpool University Library, the donor retained the right to remove further documents if he wished. Photocopies were made of all the documents removed by him while the papers were at Liverpool, and of many documents removed before 1983. These photocopies are now Ms 33000. It is not known whether these include photocopies of all the documents removed before 1983 or only a selection; nor is it possible to assess how many documents have been removed altogether.The papers held at Liverpool were transferred to Guildhall Library, as a gift, in 1998, and no further documents have been removed since that time. Some of the items sold to private buyers by Robson Lowe were purchased by Guildhall Library in 1999 and these have been catalogued as Mss 32998/1-8 and 32999. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

It is known that in 1978-1979 a series of bound out-letter books of the Madeira house of Cossart, Gordon and Company was held in a flat in Eaton Place, London SW1. These books have not been transferred to Guildhall Library/LMA and their present location is unknown.

In his book Madeira: the Island Vineyard (1984), Noel Cossart stated that Liverpool University held 208 account ledgers of Cossart, Gordon and Company, and it appears that he wrote this in anticipation of the transfer to Liverpool of some of all of the documents held by the Madeira Wine Association. However this transfer did not take place, and no bound ledgers of Cossart, Gordon and Company are held either at Liverpool University or in this collection. It is not known whether they are still in Madeira. The LMA holds only some drafts of account books for 1796-8 and an index to an account book for 1840 (Ms 32997/1-2) which were found with the unbound business papers acquired by Guildhall Library in 1998.

In 1983 Liverpool University was informed that a further part of the archive of Cossart, Gordon and Company, together with some Cossart family papers, remained in the custody of the Madeira Wine Association Limitada in Funchal, Madeira. The nature of the documents which remained in Madeira is unclear, but it seems that they were mostly bound volumes, probably ledgers and other formal account books, and that they dated from the 18th century onwards. The 20th century archives of the Madeira house of Cossart, Gordon and Company, prior to its incorporation into the Madeira Wine Association, are also believed to have remained in Madeira.

Publication note:

Noel Cossart's book, Madeira: the Island Vineyard (1984) is held in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library (AS 2153) and contains information about the history of the company and the Cossart family, as well as the history and spirit of wine-making on Madeira.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

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.

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