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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-11
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1856-1967
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 438 production units.
Name of creator(s): Borneo Company x Borneo Co Ltd


Administrative/Biographical history:

Encouraged by the prospect of economic expansion in Sarawak, Borneo, Robert MacEwan and Robert Henderson, Glasgow merchants with well-established interests in the South China seas, and John Charles Templer, a lifelong friend of Rajah Brooke of Sarawak, combined to launch the Borneo Company in 1856. The firm's foreign headquarters were in Singapore, and, in addition to Sarawak, it soon traded in general commodities all over the Far East: in Calcutta, the Dutch East Indies (Java and Sumatra), Hong Kong, Malaya [Malaysia] and Siam [Thailand]. Of these, the operations in Sarawak and Siam were probably the most significant.

SARAWAK: Under a royalty agreement concluded with the Sarawak treasury in the mid 1850s, the company was authorised to exploit all the country's mineral deposits. Initially, operations concentrated on the extraction of antimony ore, but, from the 1870s, company prospectors added cinnabar, coal and, most lucratively, gold to the range of minerals mined. In addition, the company developed a banking and agency business, ran a mint for the Rajah, and experimented with miscellaneous crops such as sago, indigo, tobacco, pepper and rubber. Close contact with the first and successive rajahs allowed for great diversification of interests and the operation of a commercial monopoly in the company's favour until the Second World War.

SIAM [Thailand]: A branch opened in Bangkok in 1856 following introductions made to King Mongkuk by the Danish explorer Ludwig Verner Helms. Activity included rice milling and trading; the export of sugar, salt and tin and import of calico, metals, marine stores and opium; wharfage work; and agency business. The value of these miscellaneous trades was however small in comparison with the profit derived from the extraction of teak in the northern districts. Upcountry branches at Chiengmai and Raheng directed forest operations from the 1880s onwards under the terms of successive teak leases. By 1914, the company had its own sawmill in Bangkok, and was exporting steadily to Europe, India and the Far East. Trade in teak continued relatively undisturbed until the Second World War.

The firm became a limited company in 1890. From 1922, the company was quoted on the London Stock Exchange. Increasing emphasis on the distribution of motor vehicles led in 1925 to the formation in Singapore of the subsidiary Borneo Motors Limited. The firm took over motor distribution in Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and Brunei.

After the Second World War, during which many Far Eastern staff were incarcerated by the Japanese, the company continued to expand into Brunei, North Borneo and Canada.

In 1966, the firm became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Inchcape Group of trading companies.

The Borneo Company had offices at 25 Mincing Lane, 1856-9; 7 Mincing Lane, 1859-74; 28 Fenchurch Street, 1874-[1932]; 143-149 Fenchurch Street, [1932]-1955; 62-63 Mark Lane, 1956-1967; 40 St Mary Axe, 1967-1988.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Borneo Company, as follows:
1.Deed of settlement; memorandum and articles of association: Ms 27174-7;
2. Board, AGM and committee minutes; annual reports and accounts: Ms 27178-90;
3. Secretary's papers: Ms 27191-8;
4. Accounts: Ms 27199-231;
5. Overseas operations records:-
Agency and general agreements-Ms 27232-43;
Java and Sumatra-Ms 27244-58;
Malaya and Singapore-Ms 27259-76;
Philippines-Ms 27277;
Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei-Ms 27278-304;
Siam-Ms 27305-29;
6. Investments, takeovers and subsidiary company papers:-
Australia-Ms 27330-45;
Canada -Ms 27346-50;
Hong Kong-Ms 27351;
Colombia-Ms 27352;
Cuba-Ms 27353;
India-Ms 27354-5;
Java and Sumatra-Ms 27356-9;
Malaya and Singapore-Ms 27360-400;
Netherlands-Ms 27401-2;
Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei-Ms 27403-19;
Siam-Ms 27420;
United Kingdom-Ms 27421-3;
7. Publicity and sales material: Ms 27424-6;
8. Staff records: Ms 27427-43;
9. Property records (London only): Ms 27430-6;
10. Centenary celebrations and notes for centenary history: Ms 27437-43;
11. Photographs: Ms 27444-66;
12. Branch records:-
Sarawak: Kuching-Ms 27467-70;
Siam: Bangkok -Ms 27471-4.

Access & Use

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

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 archives were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1987 and 1988 by Inchcape Plc. 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 details of the company and its history, see the following, a copy of which is held by the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library: H. Longhurst, The Borneo Story: the First Hundred Years of the Borneo Company Limited (1956).

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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