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Edward Bates & Sons

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 BAT
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Edward Bates & Sons
Date(s): 1862-1924
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 8ft: 244cm
Name of creator(s): Bates | Edward Percy | d.1896 | merchant
Edward Bates & Sons


Administrative/Biographical history:

Edward Bates (d 1896) spent a number of years in India where he established himself as a merchant in Bombay. In 1848 he left this business in charge of an agent, returned to England and opened an office in Liverpool as an importer of Indian produce. He also began a regular service to Bombay with chartered vessels, and in 1850 he started building up a fleet of sailing ships. Trading was soon extended to include first Calcutta and then the Far East and, when the gold rush began, passenger ships sailed direct to Australia and returned via India or South America. In 1870 the firm was renamed Edward Bates and Sons. Edward went to live in Hampshire and the eldest of his four sons, Edward Percy Bates (d 1899), took over the management of the Liverpool office. The next year Edward became an MP and a regular attender at the House; in 1886 he received a baronetcy. In earlier years Bates had bought steamers and converted them into sailing vessels, but from 1870 the partners began adding steamers to their fleet. They continued to acquire sailing ships as well up to 1884, but in 1886 they had a steel-screw steamer built to their own design, which heralded a change of direction to a smaller number of large modern steamships engaged in general tramping. The Bombay office was closed in 1898 and the business there amalgamated with Killick Nixon and Co. When Edward Percy Bates died in 1899 his son Edward Bertram Bates (d 1903) succeeded to the title and the management of the family business. He in turn was succeeded by Percy Elly Bates (1879-1946), who in 1910 joined the board of the Cunard Company. In 1911 he and his two brothers joined the board of Thomas and John Brocklebank and exchanged their largest vessel for half of the Brocklebank family's shares. By 1916 Sir Percy Elly Bates was running the Commercial Services branch of the Ministry of Shipping and his two brothers had gone to the war; as there was no one in the office to manage their ships they sold them to Brocklebank's. This was the end of their shipowning activities, but the partnership of Edward Bates and Sons continued in business as merchants and private bankers. In 1916 Bates and Brocklebank's both moved their offices into the new Cunard Building and in 1919 Cunard bought all the shares in the Brocklebank Line owned by the Brocklebank and Bates families. Sir Percy Bates became deputy chairman of the Cunard Shipping Co in 1922 and was chairman from 1930 until his death in 1946. His brother Denis (1886-1959) became chairman of Brocklebank's when Sir Aubrey Brocklebank died in 1929. The remaining Brocklebank shares (owned by the Anchor Line) were bought by Cunard in 1940.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Edward Bates and Sons. The major part consists of carbon copies of the daily letters written privately between 1878 and 1902 by Edward Percy Bates from Liverpool to his father Edward Bates in Hampshire and his brother Sydney in London. When he was away from Liverpool the letters were written by another brother (usually Gilbert Bates) and later by his son Edward Bertram Bates. The letters contain information on all the family's business interests, including ships' movements and cargoes, the sale of cargoes and the state of the various markets. As well as personal matters, the correspondence reflects the close-knit circle of shipowners in Liverpool during this period. Records of ships include: a disbursement book, 1902 to 1914; a movements book with details of cargo, 1908 to 1916; cargoes, 1870 to 1896; ships' expenses at different ports, 1869 to 1902. In addition there are copies of correspondence between Gilbert Bates and Edward Percy Bates while the latter was on a trip to India, 1887 to 1888; a small duplicate letterbook records the business and personal letters written by Gilbert Bates 1880 to 1881 (including a visit to India) and continued by Edward Percy Bates, 1883 to 1884, when most of the letters were written to Sydney while be was on a visit to India; copies of letters sent from Liverpool to Bombay, 1879 to 1881; a few loose letters addressed to Edward Bates during the period, 1852 to 1867; by the Bombay office, 1861 to 1865, and by masters of the ships, 1862 to 1877. There are the carbons of letters written by Colonel Denis H Bates (1886-1959), mainly to Sydney E Bates, Percy E Bates and Aubrey Brocklebank, 1919 to 1924. There is a carbon copy of a diary of a visit to India kept by H G Wilson, chief accountant of Brocklebank's, and sent to Colonel Bates; carbons of reports sent by Wilson from India to Brocklebank's, the Anchor Line and Ellerman's, 1920 to 1921; and a few papers of Sir Percy Elly Bates on shipping and transport, 1916 to 1919.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were presented in 1972 by Edward Bates and Sons.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jun 2011.

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:

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