Keswick family

The Keswick family (pronounced with a silent "w", "Kezzick") are a business dynasty of Scottish origin associated with the Far East since 1855 and in particular the conglomerate Jardine Matheson.

As tai-pans of Jardine Matheson & Co, the Keswick family have at some time been closely associated with the ownership or management of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Indo-China Steam Navigation Company Ltd., the Canton Insurance Office Ltd, (now the HSBC Insurance Co), The Hongkong and Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Limited, Star Ferry, Hong Kong Tramway, the Hong Kong Land Investment and Agency Co Ltd, and the Hongkong and Whampoa Dock Co Ltd.

1st Generation

The Hon. William Keswick (1834–1912)

Main article: William Keswick

The founder of the dynasty, he was born in 1834, in Dumfriesshire in the Scottish Lowlands. His grandmother, Jean Jardine Johnstone was an older sister of Dr William Jardine, the founder of Jardine Matheson & Co. His father Thomas Keswick had married Margaret Johnstone, Jardine's niece and daughter of Jean, and entered the Jardine business. The company operated as opium traders and had a major influence in the First and Second Opium Wars although the company stopped this trading in 1870 to pursue a broad range of other trading interests including shipping, railways, textiles and property development.

William arrived in China and Hong Kong in 1855, the first of five generations of the Keswick family to be associated with Jardines. He established a Jardine Matheson office in Yokohama, Japan in 1859. He returned to Hong Kong to become a partner of the firm in 1862. He became managing partner (Taipan) from 1874 to 1886. He left Hong Kong in 1886 to work with Matheson & Co. in London as a senior director responsible only to Sir Robert Jardine (1825–1905), a son of David Jardine, William Jardine's older brother and the head of Mathesons in London.

He spent three spells on the Legislative and Executive Councils of Hong Kong between 1868 and 1887.

William represented Epsom, Surrey, as Member of Parliament from 1899 and was appointed the county's High Sheriff in 1898.[1]

He died at his home, Eastwood Park, Great Bookham, Surrey, on 9 March 1912.[1] William had lived in the house since 1882 and on his death, it passed to his son Henry.[2]

The Hon. James Johnstone Keswick (1845–1914)

J.J. Keswick, younger brother of William, arrived in the Far East in 1870 and remained for 26 years, mostly based in Hong Kong. Nicknamed, "James the bloody polite", a tribute to his personality. Like his brother, he was a Member of the Legislative Council and Chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce in five spells between 1890 and 1900. He was Sir Harry Smith Parkes' son-in-law and taipan of Jardine, Matheson from the 1890s to the turn of the century. He founded Hongkong Land together with close associate Sir Paul Chater, a development company established in 1889 which remained closely associated with Jardine Matheson.

John Johnstone Jardine Keswick (1842–1904)

John Johnstone Jardine[3][4] Keswick was based in Calcutta, where he headed Jardine Skinner & Co, with a fellow Scot as his business partner John (Skinner) Stewart. J.J.J. Keswick was also the chairman of the Rio Tinto Company (now Rio Tinto Group) in the early years of the 19th century.[5] He lived at Dormont, Lockerbie, Dumfries.[6]

2nd Generation

Henry Keswick (1870–1928)

Son of William Keswick, Henry Keswick arrived in Hong Kong in 1895 the year before his Uncle James left. He had previously spent two years in the New York office of Jardines.

The first gap in the long line of continuous association with Hong Kong occurred when he returned home to represent Hong Kong at the coronation of King George V in 1911. He did return to Hong Kong and the Far East in his yacht "Cutty Sark" in 1922. He remained a Director of Jardines until his death in 1928.

Like his father, Henry served as M.P. for Epsom, Surrey, and on his death left UK estate valued at £466,409,[7] worth approximately £46 million at 2014 values.

He married Ida Wynifred Johnston and had 3 children, David Johnston, Sir William Johnston 'Tony' Keswick and Sir John Henry Keswick KCMG.

3rd Generation

The next family members to be associated with Hong Kong and Shanghai were Henry's sons "Tony" and John Keswick. As well as being directors of Jardines they served as members of the Legislative and Executive Councils in Hong Kong and of the Shanghai Municipal Council responsible for Shanghai's International Settlement. They were also Chairmen of the Shanghai Municipal Council and Chamber of Commerce at various times. When William and his father Henry Keswick returned to the United Kingdom they both served as members of parliament with responsibility for Far Eastern interests.

Sir William Johnstone "Tony" Keswick (1903–1990)

"Tony" Keswick was born in Yokohama, Japan but returned to England as a boy to attend Winchester School and Trinity College, Cambridge.[8] He arrived in the Far East in 1926. Keswick and his brother remained directors of the firm after they had left the Far East. He was in charge of the Shanghai office (at that time the Head Office in the Far East) from 1935 until 1941. He was also Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council during the crises leading to the Pacific War, stepping down in May 1941 to be replaced by John Hellyer Liddell. From 1952 to 1965 he was Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

World War II and the Shanghai Racecourse incident

On 23 January 1941, at of meeting of 3,000 rate-payers on Shanghai Racecourse, Keswick was shot twice by Y. Hayashi, chairman of the Japanese Street Union Association. The shooting occurred after the meeting rejected an amendment proposed by Hayashi, which opposed the imposition of higher taxes and instead recommended acceptance of a loan from an unnamed Japanese bank. Keswick's wounds, one to the left side of his chest and the other to his left forearm, were not considered serious, with doctors commenting that his heavy coat had probably saved his life. Hayashi was subsequently arrested.[9][10][11]

The company's Chinese business interests were later looted by occupying Japanese forces.

Early on in the war, Keswick was appointed chief of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) based in London.[12] Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Keswick flew to Singapore with Duff Cooper, Resident Cabinet Minister for the colony, and returned part way home carrying a report for Prime Minister Winston Churchill.[8] After joining the British Army, he saw service in the Middle East before returning to participate in the Normandy Landings as part of 21st Army Group with responsibility for currency management. By the end of the war he had risen to the rank of Brigadier.


After the war he took over as managing director of Matheson & Co. Ltd, in London, Jardine, Matheson & Co.'s London correspondent. Among his other business activities, he was Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, Director of the Bank of England, Vice-Chairman of Alliance Assurance, and Director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company,[8] later British Petroleum.

He was a friend of the sculptor Henry Moore and placed several statues in particularly scenic spots on the hillsides of the Keswick estate.[13] Keswick was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers, the British monarch's personal bodyguard in Scotland.[8]

Sir John "The Younger" Keswick, or Sir John Keswick, KCMG (1906–1982)

John Keswick followed his brother to the far east in 1929 and replaced him in Shanghai after the shooting incident. Like his brother, John Keswick worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) alongside Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek's spy chief General Tai Li in Chongqing.[12] He later fled Shanghai when the Japanese took the city, escaping with his wife Clare to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and served during the war with Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten's staff.

John Keswick returned to Shanghai after the war to organise in the rebuilding of Jardine's office and to reestablish the firm's trading links throughout China and Asia. In 1949, after the communist party's takeover of China, Jardine's head office was moved to Hong Kong. Despite attempting to work with the communists, business conditions became worse. Operations were closed in 1954 with the effective nationalisation of the company's interests and a $20m loss.

John Keswick became a member of the Hong Kong Executive Council in 1952. He retired as Tai-pan in 1953 and joined Matheson & Co in 1956. He returned temporarily as non-executive Chairman of Jardine Matheson in Hong Kong from 1970 to 1972. While in England, he and his brother financed the buy-out and then public flotation of Jardine Matheson.

He was married in 1940 to the Roman Catholic, Clare Elwes (1905–1998), youngest child of the tenor Gervase Elwes. Their only child was Margaret, known as Maggie Keswick, gardener and author (1941–1995), who founded Maggie's Centres for those suffering from cancer.[14] She had two children with her husband, the landscape architect Charles Jencks, whom she had married in 1978, as his 2nd wife. (Charles Jencks remarried in 2006 Louisa Lane-Fox, former wife of historian Robin Lane Fox and mother of Martha Lane Fox, Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho).

4th Generation

Sir Henry Keswick

Tony Keswick's son, Young Henry, born 1938 as Henry Neville Lindley Keswick, joined Jardines in 1961 and was assigned to the firm's offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. He was made a Director in 1967, Senior managing director in 1970 and chairman in 1972. He retired as Senior managing director and chairman in 1975. He returned to London and is the current chairman of Jardine Matheson Holdings.

Sir Chippendale Keswick

Sir Chips Keswick, Tony Keswick's second son who was born in 1940, was not associated with Jardine Matheson but instead with the London merchant bank, Hambros. He is the current chairman of English football club Arsenal F.C.

Simon Keswick

Young Henry's youngest brother, Simon Keswick, born 1942, joined the firm in 1962 and a Director in 1972 but left Jardines in 1977 to join his brother at Matheson & Co. He returned to join Jardines again in 1983 as Senior managing director and then chairman after his father managed to remove the former managing director David Newbigging. Keswick started the restructuring of the company becoming more international rather than tied to Hong Kong.

He retired as Tai-pan in 1988 after seeing the firm's holding office redomiciled to Bermuda and restructuring the firm's senior management organisation.

5th Generation

The family still owns considerable holdings in the company with a 5th generation working within the company.[15]

Percy Weatherall

Percy Weatherall (born 1957) or Edward Percy Keswick Weatherall, is a great grandson of Henry Keswick (1870–1928). He was managing director of the Jardine Matheson Group from 2000 to 31 March 2006 having joined the board in 1999.

Weatherall joined the Jardine Group in 1976 and worked in a number of senior executive positions in Hong Kong, the USA, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Korea and the Philippines. Prior to becoming "Taipan", Weatherall was chief executive officer of Hongkong Land.

Ben Keswick

Ben Keswick, son of Simon, born 1972, joined the Board in April 2007. He was group managing director of Jardine Cycle & Carriage. He joined the Group in 1998 and held positions in Dairy Farm and Hongkong Land before taking an MBA at INSEAD. In 2003, he was appointed finance director of Jardine Pacific, and was its chief executive officer from 2005 to 2007. Ben Keswick became chairman and managing director (taipan) of Jardine Matheson Limited in April 2012. He also holds senior leadership positions in Cycle & Carriage Bintang and MCL Land; and a commissioner of Astra and United Tractors.

Adam Keswick

Adam Keswick, born 1973, son of Chips, joined the Board in April 2007. He is chief executive of Jardine Pacific and of Jardine Motors. After joining the Group in 2001 from N M Rothschild & Sons, he held positions within Group Treasury and Jardine Pacific. Mr Keswick was appointed group strategy director of Jardine Cycle & Carriage in 2003, and was group managing director from 2005 to 2007. He is also a director of Jardine Matheson Limited.

Family tree

This is the family tree of William Jardine (1784–1843), co-founder of the Far Eastern conglomerate, Jardine Matheson Holdings.

See also




    1. 1 2 "Obituary". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 11 March 1912. Retrieved 6 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
    2. "A History of Bookham". Retrieved 11 July 2014.
    3. Directory of Scotland 1899, pg 507
    4. England & Wales National Probate Calendar Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1966
    5. "Company Meetings, Reports &c.". Aberdeen Journal. 4 April 1902. Retrieved 14 November 2014 via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)).
    6. The Railway News, vol. 51, 1889, pg 164
    7. "Big Scottish Estates". Aberdeen Journal. British Newspaper Archive. 15 July 1929. Retrieved 11 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
    8. 1 2 3 4 "The New Governor". Aberdeen Evening Express. British Newspaper Archive. 13 February 1953. Retrieved 6 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
    9. "Shooting in Shanghai". The Argus. National Library of Australia. 25 January 1941. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
    10. "British Official Injured by Jap". Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. British Newspaper Archive. 23 January 1941. Retrieved 10 July 2014. (subscription required (help)).
    11. "3,000 See Three Shot in Shanghai" (PDF). Daily Sentinel, Rome N.Y. 23 January 1941. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
    12. 1 2 Douglas Valentine (2004). The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs. Verso. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-85984-568-4.
    13. Richard Thompson (21 February 1993). "Profile: Taipan coils for City strike: Richard Thomson assesses the rise of Henry Keswick and the impact of his homecoming". The Independendent, UK. Retrieved 20 June 2011.
    14. Maggie's Centres
    15. Jardine Matheson Limited: Directors


    External links

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