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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/140
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1690-1990s
Level of description: Collection
View subfonds/series records
Extent: 6340 production units.
Name of creator(s): Kleinwort, Sons and Co | merchant bankers Kleinwort Benson Limited | merchant bankers


Administrative/Biographical history:

Kleinworts was founded in 1855 by Alexander Kleinwort, although its origins may be traced to Herman Greverus, who established a business as a merchant at 3 White Hart Court, Lombard Street, in 1830. He formed a partnership with Edward Cohen in 1851 under the style Greverus and Cohen and retired in 1855, whereupon Alexander Kleinwort became Cohen's partner, and the firm was restyled Kleinwort and Cohen. Kleinwort had served an apprenticeship and gained some experience as a merchant in Hamburg before going, in 1838, to Havana, Cuba, then an international trading centre based upon its sugar, coffee and tobacco production. In Cuba he became acquainted with his future business partners, Edward Cohen and James Drake, and gained further experience as a merchant and banker. He also accumulated sufficient capital to establish business in London with Edward Cohen.

In 1858, James Drake became a partner, contributing capital and his name, but taking no part in running the partnership, which was known as Drake, Kleinwort and Cohen. He died in 1871 and the firm then became Kleinwort, Cohen and Company, with 80 % of the capital supplied by Kleinwort.

In 1881, Herman Greverus Kleinwort, Alexander's elder son, became a partner, and, in 1883, when Edward Cohen retired, Alexander's younger son, Alexander Drake Kleinwort, also became a partner, the firm being renamed Kleinwort, Sons and Company. Alexander senior died in 1886 and the business was continued by his two sons until 1907, when their nephew Herman Anton Andreae also became a partner. Alexander Drake Kleinwort was created a baronet in 1909, and Herman Greverus Kleinwort retired from active participation in the partnership in 1914.

In 1927, Sir Alexander Drake Kleinwort's two sons, Ernest Greverus Kleinwort and Cyril Hugh Kleinwort, were brought into the partnership. Sir Alexander Drake Kleinwort died in 1935. His brother Herman Greverus Kleinwort withdrew completely from the partnership in 1939 and died in 1942. In 1945 Herman Kleinwort Andreae, son of Herman Andreae, became a partner.

In 1948 the partnership became a private limited company, and in 1955 the company changed its name to Kleinworts Limited and became the holding company for a new company, Kleinwort, Sons and Company, which was created to carry on the banking business formerly conducted under the same name. In 1961 a merger with the firm of Robert Benson, Lonsdale and Company, investment bankers, created Kleinwort, Benson Limited.

The firm had offices at 3 White Hart Court, Lombard Street, 1830-54; 4 Cullum Street, 1855-9; 7 Mincing Lane, 1859-66; and 20 Fenchurch Street from 1867. It is variously described in London directories as merchants; merchants and foreign bankers; and bankers and commission merchants.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Kleinwort Benson Group and its predecessors including Kleinwort, Sons and Company relating to the merchant bank and its clients across the world.

The collection consists of a comprehensive series of business records with archives of constituent predecessors, acquired companies and interests. They include partners' and staff papers, operational materials, accounting and financial records, client records and staff and property papers. The records relate to company origins, partners and staff, clients and business concerns across the globe since the 19th century.

Highlights include Kleinwort, Sons and Company's 'subject files' (series reference CLC/B/140/KS04/03) which contain reports and correspondence concerning business ventures, proposals and clients. They document global business concerns and provide a valuable insight to the working practices of the company. Files document issues faced by the firm and its clients in the early to mid-20th century clients including declined international business proposals, fraudulent and enemy debts arising during times of war.

Other highlights are partners' letter books which record their outgoing correspondence discussing both business and family matters. An example is a letter by Herman Anton Andreae in 1915 on his views in support of the decision to establish conscription (enforced enlistment) in the recruitment of soldiers in the First World War (CLC/B/140/KS02/03/002).

The earliest business records are those of Sharps Pixley Limited and its predecessors Sharps Wilkins and Pixley and Abell (CLC/B/140/SP01 to 06). These include monthly ledgers from 1796 (CLC/B/140/SP03/03) and other bullion dealing series (CLC/B/140/SP04/01).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mainly in English but some documents in local languages as stated in the catalogue. A significant proportion of records of Kleinwort, Sons and Company are in German

System of arrangement:

Arranged by company and business functional classification.

Conditions governing access:

Some records are held off-site and available with 48 hours' notice.

Access to post-1960 records is by permission only. Staff / personnel records are closed under data protection and history interview transcripts are closed for 50 years. For further information please contact a member of staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The archive was deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library in 1980 and 1981, and converted to an outright gift, including any copyright interest, in December 1998. Further records were transferred in 1998 and 1999 via Hampshire Archives Trust. In 2002 a further item was gifted. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further details of Kleinworts and its history see Stefanie J. Diaper, The History of Kleinwort, Sons and Co in Merchant Banking, 1855-1961 (unpublished thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Nottingham University, 1983), and Jehanne Wake, Kleinwort Benson: The History of Two Families in Banking (Oxford, 1997) (LMA library reference: 33.22 (KLE). Copies of both volumes are also held by Guildhall Library Printed Books Section.

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, updated August 2017.

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