William Keswick

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

William Keswick

William Keswick (15 April 1834 – 9 March 1912) was a British Conservative politician and businessman, patriarch of the Keswick family, an influential shipping family in Hong Kong associated with Jardine Matheson Holdings.


Keswick was born in 1834 in Dumfriesshire in the Scottish Lowlands. His grandmother, Jean Jardine Johnstone, was an older sister of Dr. William Jardine, co-founder of Jardine Matheson.[1] His father Thomas Keswick, from Dumfriesshire had married Jardine's niece and daughter of Jean, Margaret Johnstone, and entered the Jardine business. The company operated as merchant 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 trades including shipping, railways, textiles and property development.

William arrived in China and Hong Kong in 1855, the first of six 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 or Tai-pan of the firm in 1874 until his departure in 1886. He left Hong Kong in 1886 to take control of Matheson & Co. in London responsible only to the firm's senior partner Sir Robert Jardine (1825–1905). He remained the firm's managing director until his death in 1912. Keswick also served as a director in the then British-based fur trading firm Hudson's Bay Company.

He spent three spells on the Legislative and Executive Councils of Hong Kong between 1868 and 1887. Whilst in the colony, William also served as Consul-general for the Kingdom of Hawaii, for which he was made a Knight Commander of the Hawaiian Order of Kalakao (named in honour of Kalākaua, the country's last king). He also acted as consul for the Kingdom of Denmark in Hong Kong.[2]

In 1888, Keswick and the chemist Herbert W. C. Tweddle bought the Negritos oil fields on the hacienda La Brea y Pariñas in Peru. Keswick and Tweddle then formed the London and Pacific Petroleum Company to profit from the property.[3]

After serving as High Sheriff of Surrey for 1897 he was elected Member of Parliament for Epsom at a by-election in 1899, and held the seat until his resignation on 8 March 1912 by the procedural device of accepting the post of Steward of the Manor of Northstead.

William died the day after this resignation at his home, Eastwood Park, Great Bookham, Surrey, on 9 March 1912 aged 77.[4] William had lived in the house since 1882 and on his death, it passed to his son (and only surviving child) Henry.[5]


Keswick married first Amelia Sophia Dubeux (d. 1883) and had two sons:

His grandson, William Johnston Keswick "Tony" (1903–90) was Jardine's Tai-pan between 1934 and 1941 and later Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company[7]


  1. ^ "Keswick". Webster's Online Dictionary. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Epsom Division: The Conservative Candidate". Surrey Mirror. British Newspaper Archive. 13 January 1899. Retrieved 11 July 2014. (Subscription required (help)).
  3. ^ Clayton, Lawrence A. (1999). Peru and the United States: The Condor and the Eagle. University of Georgia Press. p. 91. (Note that on p. 91 and p. 362, the 1991 edition of Clayton's book has the typographical error "Tweedle"; this error is the typesetter's — not Clayton's.)
  4. ^ "Obituary". Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. British Newspaper Archive. 11 March 1912. Retrieved 6 July 2014. (Subscription required (help)).
  5. ^ "A History of Bookham". Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  6. ^ "The War -Casualties". The Times (36085). London. 9 March 1900. p. 7.
  7. ^ "W.H. Auden, Family Ghosts - Sir William Johnston Keswick". Stanford University. Retrieved 11 June 2011.

External links[edit]

Legislative Council of Hong Kong
Preceded by
James Whittall
Unofficial Member
Succeeded by
James Whittall
Preceded by
James Whittall
Unofficial Member
Succeeded by
Francis Bulkeley Johnson
Business positions
Preceded by
William H. Forbes
Chairman of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
Succeeded by
A. Mclver
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Townsend Bucknill
Member of Parliament for Epsom
Succeeded by
Henry Keswick
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Edward Carbutt, 1st Baronet
High Sheriff of Surrey
Succeeded by
Lawrence James Baker