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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-22
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1855-1978
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 57 production units.
Name of creator(s): Dodwell and Co Ltd | exporters of Chinese and Japanese produce


Administrative/Biographical history:

The firm was established in 1858 when W R Adamson and Company (silk dealers) set up in London, with its head office in Shanghai and branches in Hong Kong, Foochow and Hankow. It began to build up an export business in tea and silk, and also a general import business, and began to acquire shipping agencies. The name changed in 1867 to Adamson, Bell and Company.

In 1872 George Benjamin Dodwell joined the company in Shanghai, and in 1891, by which time both Adamson and Bell had retired, he formed Dodwell, Carlill and Company to take over Adamson Bell's agencies. Also in 1891 the head office moved to London. By this stage the firm was exporting tea, porcelain, silk and other Chinese produce from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama and Kobe, and importing flour and lumber from Tacoma on the Pacific coast.

In 1897 a branch was opened in Colombo, chiefly exporting tea to Russia. In 1899 Dodwell and Company Limited was registered as a private limited company. G. B. Dodwell was its first chairman. From 1899 to the First World War, tea sales declined and general merchandising and the shipping agencies became more important. Japan also became more important to the company, chiefly through the export of coal to Singapore and Shanghai.

From the 1920s onwards, Dodwell's trade in the Far East generally fluctuated for various reasons, including the Second World War and the Chinese revolution. However, post-war recovery in Japan was rapid, and the company had begun meanwhile to expand in other directions, including rubber and textiles, and also motor vehicles. Dodwell Motors, a subsidiary, was formed in Hong Kong after the war. It amalgamated in 1969 with Inchcape's Metro cars to form Metro-Dodwell Motors Limited, which took over all British Leyland franchises in Hong Kong.

From the mid 1950s, Dodwell specialised as buying agents for department and chain stores throughout the world, opening their own retail stores in some places, including Kenya and Hong Kong.

In 1972 the whole share capital of Dodwell and Company Limited was acquired by Inchcape and Company Limited. Dodwell had offices successively in Billiter Street and St Mary Axe.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Dodwell and Company Limited, importers, exporters and shipping agents, including board minutes; register of directors; annual reports; financial accounts; private notebooks of George Benjamin Dodwell (relating to the business); correspondence; company handbook; publicity material; newspaper cuttings; photographs; and personal papers of George Benjamin Dodwell.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Japanese.

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

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 Dodwell archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987-88 as part of the Inchcape Group archives. They were catalogued in 1988-9. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

This collection is a sub-fond within the Inchcape Group fonds. See CLC/B/123 for a list of all the companies represented in this collection and a history of the Inchcape Group.

Publication note:

For further background see The House of Dodwell, the centenary history published in 1958, a copy of which is held in the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library.

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:
January to May 2011.

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