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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-30
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1866-1973
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 157 production units.
Name of creator(s): Gray, Dawes and Co | general merchants and agents


Administrative/Biographical history:

The firm was established in 1865 by Sir William MacKinnon (founder of British India Steam Navigation Company, W. MacKinnon and Company, and MacKinnon, MacKenzie and Company) as a merchant partnership for Archibald Gray, his nephew and Edwin Sandys Dawes. Its shipping agency, charter and insurance work included handling the regular passenger and cargo traffic of British India Steam Navigation Company in London, though before the First World War its activities on behalf of the Company were rather overshadowed by the Glasgow firm W. MacKinnon and Company.

Among secretarial and management activity, it represented, from 1873, the British India Underwriters' Association, formed to insure British India Steam Navigation Company vessels and those of the associated Netherlands Steam Navigation Company. It acted as a confirming house for Smith, MacKenzie and Company and Binny and Company inter alia, and purchased stores for them. During the 1920s, it also acted as buying and selling agent for the Mesopotamia Persia Corporation Limited.

The partnership invested in several firms subsequently associated with the Inchcape group (see introductory note to the Inchcape Group for details of formation of the group, CLC/B/123), among them the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company, Gray, Paul and Company, Gray, MacKenzie and Company, Smith, MacKenzie and Company, and Gibb, Livingston and Company. In c 1900 James Lyle MacKay, the future first Earl of Inchcape, became a partner, and by 1922 Lord Inchcape, together with his sons and sons-in-law, held approximately 75% of its shares.

By the time the partnership was converted into a private limited company in 1952, the third earl, his brothers Alan and Simon and Lord Craigmyle (son-in-law of the first Earl), known collectively as the Seniors, were sole shareholders. In the preparations for the launch of the Inchcape Group in 1958, it was via Gray, Dawes and Company that Inchcape family shareholdings in certain other firms, Binny and Co (London) Limited, Binny and Company (Madras) Limited, Smith, MacKenzie and Company and Gray MacKenzie and Company, for example, were increased.

During the 1960s, the firm lost its shipping agencies and in 1967 its mercantile department was transferred to Inchcape Export Limited. In their place, banking activity was developed. By 1973 the Company was fully fledged as Gray Dawes Bank. It was sold in 1983. The firm had offices at 13 Austin Friars, 1865-1893; 23 Great Winchester Street, 1894-1917; 122 Leadenhall Street, 1918-61; and 40 St. Mary Axe, 1961-83.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Gray, Dawes and Company, general merchants and agents, including partnership deeds; articles of association; correspondence; memoranda; financial accounts; papers relating to investments; papers of the insurance department; papers of the inward freight department; papers regarding the British India Steam Navigation Company Limited; and secretarial papers.

Access & Use

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

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:

Deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987 by Inchcape Plc, together with archives of other companies in the Group. 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:

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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