Boustead, Sykes, & Schwabe

This page is under construction and is a rough draft.

In 1936 Frank Otto Stoe Man (1914-1986) left England and joined the firm Edward Boustead & Co. where he worked until his retirement in 1972. Boustead was chosen because of a family connection between Frank’s Schwabe relations and Edward Boustead. This connection and a brief history of the company is given below.

9 October 1936 Frank Man at Southampton about to leave for Singapore
9 October 1936 Frank Man at Southampton about to leave for Singapore, second from right. On the right is his cousin Neils Collett.

Franks Man’s mother, Nora (Loeck) Man was the great granddaughter of Fanny Maria Schwabe (1812-1897). Fanny’s brother was Gustav Schwabe (1813 -1897).  In about 1830, Edward Boustead and Gustav Schwabe formed a trading partnership. Man family ‘lore’ has it that at about the same time Edward fell in love with Fanny Schwabe and wished to marry her but the marriage never took place and instead of marrying each other Fanny married Moritz Wolff (about 1832) and Edward married Charlotte Stebbing. Some sources have claimed that the object of Edward’s desire was one of the daughters of Gustav’s cousin Stephan Schwabe but they would have been young adolescents, too young to marry. Furthermore, this ‘lore’ has proved to be just that and the facts are much more interesting as will be revealed below.

Many years later one of Fanny’s cousins, Louis Schwabe, named one of his sons George Bowstead Schwabe (1882 – 1909).

A large elaborately carved Burmese silver bowl which was in Frank Man’s possession was said to have been an ‘engagement’ gift from Edward to Fanny.  The ‘Boustead’ bowl, as it was called by the family, has often been seen by this writer but after Frank Man’s death it was sold by his widow.

The trading company: Boustead, Sykes, and Schwabe.

Edward Boustead arrived in Singapore on 13 March 1828, and The Singapore Chronicle of 27 March 1828  announced: ” …. arrived per British ship Hindustan on the 13th March from Liverpool, E. Boustead, Esq.”

Singapore in the early nineteenth century
Singapore in the early nineteenth century

Boustead originally came to Singapore as the Manager of Robert Wise & Co., and occupied a godown and house on the Singapore river next to that which was then occupied by Mr. Johnston of A. L. Johnston & Co. Boustead lived there until he started on his own account as Boustead & Co., and moved to near Elgin Bridge in what was called the ‘Seven-and-twenty pillar’ house.

Eliza (Sykes) Schwabe whose brother Adam was a partner with Boustead and Schwabe
Eliza (Sykes) Schwabe whose brother Adam was a partner with Boustead and Schwabe

Adam Sykes, who had also been working for Robert Wise & Co., decided to join Boustead when Wise closed. The company was at first known as just Boustead & Co. and it was not until 1 January 1834 that Schwabe joined and the firm became Boustead, Schwabe & Co. It is believed that Schwabe and Sykes were already in business together before joining with Boustead. Not only that, Gustav’s cousin Stephan Schwabe had married Elizabeth Sykes the sister of Adam Sykes thus helping to further bind the two.

In November 1843 Messrs. Boustead, Schwabe & Co. issued a notice that they had opened a house in China in connection with Messrs. Butler, Sykes & Co., in Manila, and Messrs. Sykes, Schwabe & Co., in Liverpool. The partners in their several establishments continuing as before: Edward Boustead, managing in China and Singapore; Benjamin Butler at Manila; Gustav Schwabe at Liverpool; and Adam Sykes at Singapore. Throughout this period partnerships were formed and dissolved at regular intervals as these two notices testify to:

Dissolution of Sykes Schwabe and CoDissolution of Partnership among Schwabe and Sykes and Little
Edward Boustead Advertsement

Schwabe is listed as a German residing at Canton in 1837. He had arrived from Calcutta in November 1836 and sailed for Manila in October 1837. The firm of Sykes Schwabe and Co., which later became Boustead and Co., had its head office at Liverpool with overseas branches at Singapore, Manila and Canton. Schwabe was manager of the Liverpool office from 1845 to 1853. He then returned to China to head the firm of G.C. Schwabe and Co. at Shanghai. This firm was dissolved by lapse of time in 1859 and was succeeded by Bower, Hanbury and Co., Shanghai.

From Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Penang, and Singapore Boustead ships sailed to London, Liverpool, Manchester, Hamburg, and Rotterdam laden with produce from the East such as those listed in this advertisement:

Schwabe Boustead Advertsiement
Boustead Advertisement

And returned with manufactured products from the West – textiles, biscuits, brandies (especially Hennessey’s)  and steel. Boustead and his partners traded with Chinese, Indian, Bugis, Jewish, and Arabian merchants around Change Alley and Commercial Square. One Singapore merchant was to become a lifelong friend and confidant of Boustead – Tan Kim Seng.

Boustead Institute
Boustead Institute

Edward became an active and important leader in Singapore. As well as banking and trading he was a founder of Tanjong Pagar Dock company and was a prime mover of Straits tin – the first tin foundry in Singapore. He owned many ships including one named Boustead, and he formed a syndicate of investors to start a steamship service between India and China. One of the Schwabes gave the name ‘Boustead’ to one of his sons as a middle name.

Boustead Insitute

He was also a founder of the Singapore Chamber of Commerce and a newspaper editor, helping to establish The Singapore Free Press (1835), the forerunner of The Straits Times, as well as The Mercantile Advertiser. He edited for a while The Singapore Chronicle. He was involved in pioneering the Horticultural Society and the first Botanic Gardens. He gave generously to hospitals, schools and churches and because of his compassion for sailors he endowed, from his estate, a home for sailor’s that was named The Boustead Institute. A contemporary description of the Institute ran as follows:

Below, the Boustead offices in Penang decked out with bunting to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1898.

Boustead in Penang 1898

With his warehouses full and many office staff he could no longer live on site so he bought a fine mansion on The Esplanade in 1837 and kept it until he ‘retired’ back to London in 1850. The mansion was converted into a hotel and then in 1935 the hotel was demolished and the site given to the Supreme Court.

Edward Boustead
Edward Boustead

Below a view of Boustead’s Penang office from across the harbor, 1898.

Boustead in Penang 1898 Jetty

A letter from Singapore written in 1834 mentions both Boustead and Schwabe; an extract of which reads as follows:

Mr. Boustead, another of our visitors, is a young man, but he seems to have forsworn the society of ladies entirely, and when he comes to see [my husband] I rarely talk to him, but as he is a very sensible intelligent man, I admire to listen to him when he is conversing. He has a fine gentlemanly appearance, and is considered the most active merchant here. He has a young German by the name of Schwabe for a partner. When we lived in the house of Mr Boustead, [my husband] made the great exertion of asking them to partake of our frugal meal, to which they assented. Every one dines here at half past four on all occasions, and they remain but a short time at table, as every one takes the carriage drive and it is quite dark at a little past six. If you have a dinner party it is the same. The syce brings his master’s horse and buggy, or phaeton, or whatever carriage he sports, and the dinner is over. Unfortunately the day Mr. Boustead and Mr. Schwabe dined with us it rained all the afternoon and riding was out of the question. [My husband] and Mr. Boustead found sufficient amusement in their own conversation, and I entertained the young gentleman without any very great effort until after coffee was served. But then he grew so sleepy it was impossible, so I let him take a slight nap to refresh himself and after dozing until a little after nine he took leave, and has never been inside the house since. I have never mentioned it, as I know it would afford subject for a good deal of mirth and banter at his expense.

Schwabe traveled to and from the Far East a number of times:

  1. Arrived in Singapore 29 August 1836 in Corsair from Calcutta
  2. Sailed from Singapore on 4 October 1836 in Viscount Melbourne to China.
  3. Sailed from Singapore on 22 January 1838 in Jessie Logan to London. (there is of course no certainty that he was going to London. He might have got off at any port at which she called)
Schwabe in Shanghai

Schwabe lived in Shanghai for a while establishing his own company there called G. C. Schwabe and Co.

This firm was dissolved in 1859 and was succeeded by Bower, Hanbury and Co. of  Shanghai. The envelope below is addressed to Schwabe’s company and dated 30 May 1857:

GC Schwabe envelope

Trade was not always done honestly and Boustead, Schwabe & Co. probably had good reason to place the following advertisement in The Straits Times:

Boustead Schwabe 26 Nov 1845
The Straits Times 26 November 1845
Partnership dissolved July 1848

In July 1848 Schwabe, Boustead, Butler and Sykes decided to part company and the various partnerships were dissolved:

Between 1849 and 1851 Boustead was sole partner in his own company. In 1850 he retired to England never returning to Singapore. By 1851 he had moved the company’s operations down from Liverpool to London in order to better coordinate the Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, and Singapore offices.

Edward Boustead and Jasper Young Partnership
William Wardrop Shaw
William Wardrop Shaw. He married the daughter of Thomas Owen Crane

In 1852 Joseph Wise and William Wardrop Shaw, who had been clerks in the house for several years, became partners with Boustead.  In 1856 the firm consisted of Mr. Boustead, W. W. Shaw, and Archibald Buchanan Brown; Mr. George Lipscombe, Henry Frolich and James Young were then clerks. The firm continued so till 1867 when Mr. Brown left, and Messrs. Lipscombe and Jasper Young became partners, and the firm then consisted of Messrs. Boustead, Shaw, Lipscombe, and Young, and continued so for many years.  As we will see Japer Young eventually rose to become the chairman of the company.

1939 The Boustead Mess in Singapore. Boustead European 'directors' to the left and mess staff to the right.
1939 The Boustead Mess in Singapore. Boustead European ‘directors’ to the left and mess staff to the right. Photo taken by Frank Man.
FOS Man 9 August 1939
9 August 1939

By the twentieth century Boustead occupied offices overlooking Collyer quay.

Union Building, Singapore, Boustead & Co's Headquarters and Company launch
Union Building, Singapore, Boustead & Co’s Head quarters and Company launch

Edward Boustead & Co. became an investment house and merchant bank and was a trusted adviser to many Eastern ‘retirees’ who would leave their retirement funds and pensions with Boustead for investment. One such person was Captain Thomas Scott who became a personal trusted friend.

Boustead's Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur next to the Klang River 1964 taken by the author
Boustead’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur next to the Klang River, 1964, taken by the author
Boustead Shell Transport

In 1892 Boustead & Co handled the first shipment of bulk oil to Penang and shortly after this the Shell Transport and Trading Company was formed. Isaac Henderson a partner in Boustead being one of its original directors.

Shell in Malaya

In Penang, Boustead represented and operated on Shell’s behalf until 1920 when Shell itself opened its own branch.

Boustead and his partners also played a leading role as promoter and investor in the tin smelting facility on Pulau Brani, constructed by the Straits Trading Company. From that point onwards, Straits Tin became one of the leading businesses of Boustead & Co.

A Collage of Tin Related Activities by Boustead
A Collage of Tin Related Activities by Boustead
Boustead ad 13 January 1938
13 January 1938

During the late 1880’s, Boustead & Co took quick advantage of the introduction of the rubber tree to Malaya; eventually becoming a leading rubber plantation manager and owner of 49 rubber plantations with a total planted area of 141,629 acres.

Travel Pamphlet with Boustead ad 1921

In the 1950’s and 60’s Boustead expanded into the travel field becoming one of the leading agencies for shipping Lines, airlines, railways, tours, etc. Below the travel office in London:

Bousteads' travel office in Singapore in 1963
Bousteads’ travel office in Singapore in 1963
Boustead Buttery Advertsiement

In March 1956 Boustead went into partnership with John Buttery to form Boustead-Buttery:

When Frank Man retired from the Far East in 1967 he spent the next five years before his retirement at the London office in Leadenhall Street. Below, the Board room:

The Boardroom
The Boardroom

Below, the exterior of the London office at 149 Leadenhall Street, EC3:

149 Leadenhall Street
149 Leadenhall Street

A small booklet published in 19?? was issued by the firm and can be viewed HERE.

In October 1970 Boustead moved its offices out of London to Wootton in Bedfordshire.

Financial Times 2 October 1970

Below, Wootton House, Wootton, Bedfordshire.


A Brief Synopsis of Boustead Family History

(Much of this based on a posting at a Nivern-L  website)
Edward Boustead was born in Irthington, Cumberland in 1800. His parents were Ambrose Boustead and Jane Wanop and he was one of nine children (dates are baptisms):

  1. John 13 October 1782
  2. James 12 February 1786
  3. Ambrose 24 February 1788
  4. Ann 4 July 1790
  5. Mary 16 December 1792
  6. Thomas 11 February 1798
  7. Edward 19 January 1801
  8. Jane 8 May 1803
  9. Eleanor 28 August 1807

In Singapore, Edward Boustead had a mistress, Janidah, who lived in the back of the Boustead house on The Esplanade. She had four children, the eldest was a son called Edward Boustead (Jnr), the second was a girl, Jane Boustead (yet 1841 census in Liverpool shows Jane to be the eldest age 6 and Edward age 4.) A third child died in infancy, and the fourth was named John Johnston.

Edward and Jane Boustead on the 1841 census
Edward and Jane Boustead on the 1841 census
Tan Kim Seng, Boustead's trading partner and close friend
Tan Kim Seng, Boustead’s trading partner and close friend

Boustead provided for her family throughout his life. Upon his departure from Singapore in 1850 he gave Janidah a house on Victoria Street, a plantation in Geylang, and the dividends of 30 shares in Tanjong Pagar Dock Company (now Keppel Corporation). These shares were given to Boustead’s good friend Tan Kim Seng for safe-keeping, who in turn passed them to his son, Tan Beng Swee. Tan Beng Swee paid Janidah the dividends of the shares every year until her death, and then returned the shares to Boustead.

Boustead brought all Janidah’s children to Europe to be educated. The eldest two children, Edward and Jane, were sent to live in Hamburg with the Schwabe family. Edward jnr. moved to Manila and married a young lady from a renowned Manila family. See below section: ‘Eduardo Boustead’

In 1856 Boustead married Miss Charlotte Elizabeth Stebbing, who had been governess to Jane Boustead, the daughter of Janidah, Boustead’s mistress for many years. The wedding took place at Newton Abbot, Devon.

Charlotte Stebbing Marriage at Newton Abbot, Devon
Charlotte Stebbing Marriage at Newton Abbot, Devon

The Bousteads lived at 138 Clarence Road, in Clapham Park, “an exclusive estate of detached villas with extensive grounds on 229 acres South and East of Clapham Common”.

On 23 January 1857 a daughter Helen was born but Charlotte died in the March Qtr 1858, leaving Edward a widower. He never remarried and thus Helen was his only legal child.

Edward Boustead on the 1871 census

So far, a search for Edward on the 1861 and 1881 censuses has not located him. Perhaps he was travelling. The 1871 census indicates a 70 year old Edward Boustead living at 138 Clarence Road, Clapham, with visitors from Scotland, the Martins (George Martin also being a merchant) and servants.  Helen appears on the 1871 census as a scholar at Surbiton House, The Globe, Camberwell.

Boustead died on 29 February 1888 and was buried on 3 March 1888 aged 87.

Edward Boustead's Burial Record
Edward Boustead’s Burial Record

Boustead’s old partner Adam Sykes died the same year on 13 October:

Adam Sykes Burial Oct 13 1888
Adam Sykes’s burial record

On 3 August 1876 Helen Boustead married William Niven at St. James’s Church at Clapham. Helen was 19 and William 29.

Helen Boustead And William Nivern Marriage

In 1877, Helen gave birth to a son, William Edward Graham Niven. She died shortly after, age 20. William Niven Jnr was now the sole legal descendant of Edward Boustead, and inherited Boustead’s fortune.

Edward Boustead's grandson William Nivern with his son David
Edward Boustead’s grandson William Niven with his son David
William Nivern Grave

William Niven, Jnr. attended Wellington College in Berkshire, and later made a name for himself as big game hunter. He married a socialite, Henriette Julia Degacher. Their first child was the Hollywood actor David Niven.

William went into action in the First World War, and was killed in the battle of Gallipoli on 21 August 1915, aged 37, and is buried in Suvla, in present day Turkey. His son, David Niven, in his autobiography writes:

… my father, along with 90 percent of his comrades in the Berkshire Yeomanry, had landed with immense panache at Sulva Bay in 1915. … The troops embarked in the ship’s whalers and on arrival held their rifles above heads and gallantly leaped into the dark waist-high water. A combination of barbed wire beneath the surface and machine–guns to cover the barbed wire provided a devastating welcome: …

Nivern medals from WWI

…. my sister and I were swapping cigarette cards on an old tree trunk in the paddock when a red-eyed maid came and told us our mother wanted to see us and that we were not to stay too long…. after a rather incoherent interview with my mother, who displayed a telegram and tried to explain what “missing” meant, we returned to the swapping of cigarette cards and resumed our perusal of endless trains lumbering along a distant embarkment loaded with guns and cheering young men … 

Left: Great War Gallipoli casualty group of three awarded to Lieutenant W. E. G.Niven, Berkshire 1914-1915 Star British War and Victory Medal with Memorial Plaque and note from Buckingham Palace.  The Medal Index Card notes the medals being sent to the Widow – Lady Comyn Platt of 4 Pickering Place, St. James’, London SW1.

Below the Boustead ‘mess’ Balmoral where the company’s young bachelor’s were housed before the second world war.

Balmoral: The Boustead's bachelor's mess in Singapore, circa 1936
Balmoral: The Boustead’s bachelor mess in Singapore, circa 1936

The Jasper Young / Roper-Caldbeck Years

Jasper Young
Jasper Young

Here we will look briefly at what happened to Boustead & Co. after Edward retried. Much of the Young family history can be found in Pamela Roper-Caldbeck’s  The Jasper Young Story which can be read HERE.

Jasper Young joined Bousteads in 1855 and became Senior Partner on the death of E. Boustead in 1888. Jasper died in 1905 and his son, Arthur Young became Senior Partner and his brother, Bertie Young became a partner too.

On 1 December 1898 William Roper-Caldbeck married Alice Mary Young, daughter of Jasper Young. They had five children (one girl and four boys, in order of age): Julia Christian Dora, Brigadier William Noel, George Reginald [Regie], Lt.-Col Arthur Terence, Harry Bertram.

Major William R-C
William Roper-Caldbeck

After the Young brothers retired the company was led by the Roper-Caldbeck brothers – Reggie and Harry.

Reggie Roper-Caldbeck joined Edward Boustead & Co in London 1925 and was posted to Boustead Singapore the following year. He was chairman of Boustead Singapore from 1939 and presumably Chairman in name throughout WWII when he and other members of the family were imprisoned by the Japanese. He was later also chairman of Boustead PLC (London) until at least 1964\65.

Reggie Roper-Caldbeck
Reggie Roper-Caldbeck

Harry Roper-Caldbeck was out in Asia much later than his brother and was chairman of Boustead & Co (Singapore) from 1947 until he retired in 1979.

Both the Roper-Caldbeck brothers were heavily involved with re-establishing Bousteads after WWII.  It was often the case that the ‘Boustead Men’ (as they were known) retired from the East to Boustead London and ran operations from there – this was the normal process and was certainly the case with Frank Man.


Harry Roper-Caldbeck
Harry Roper-Caldbeck

The Probate Records of the three partners: Boustead, Sykes, and Schwabe:

Edward Boustead Probate 1888Adam Sykes ProbateGustave Schwabe ProbateThe Continuation of Schwabe & Co in Shanghai.

Schwabe & Co. never really went away, instead it evolved into Bower, Hanbury and Co. with Thomas Hanbury in charge. However Schwabe’s interests were represented by Robert Stephen Schwabe, the son of Gustav’s cousin Stephan Schwabe. Below is Hanbury’s obituary in The North-China Herald  & Consular Gazette, Volume 82, 1907.

Sir Thomas Hanbury.
News was received here on Sunday by cable of the death of Sir Thomas Hanbury, K. C. V. O., at Ventimiglia, Italy, at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Sir Thomas Hanbury was the third son of the late Mr. Daniel Bell Hanbury of Clapham, where he was born on June 21 1832. He came out to Shanghai in 1853 to join the hong [company] of Sykes, Schwabe and Co. When he became a partner the name of the firm was changed to Bower, Hanbury and Co., and residents who were here in the sixties remember him as taipan of this hong. When the rebels were in possession of Soochow, and the price of land in the Settlement had reached its lowest point, Mr. Hanbury, as he then was, saw the opportunity that land offered as an investment, and purchased an enormous amount of property. At the time of his death he probably owned more property in the Settlement than any other individual owner, most of which is given up to native shops and dwellings. When he withdrew from active connection with business in 1871 the name of the hong was changed to Ivesoc and Co, to whom Ward, Probst and Co. are successors at the present day. Sir Thomas Hanbury spent the larger part of his later life at La Mortola, Ventimiglia, his residence in Italy. He married in 1868 Katherine Aldam Pease, who, with three sons and a daughter, survives him.

As an astute business man and one of unerring judgement on all occasions, Sir Thomas Hanbury had no equal. He had a genius for finance, and accumulated a fortune with extraordinary rapidity even for those days. There are few residents in Shanghai who will remember him; to the present generation his name is only familiar through his connexion with the Home and the Coffee House, which aie built on land presented by him and bear his name. He received his K. C. V. O. in 1901 and was also & Commendatore of the orders of St. Manrizio e Lazzaro and of the Cross of the Crown of Italy. He founded the Hanbury Botanical Institute at the Royal University, Genoa, and the Museum Praehistoricum, near Mentone, and was president of the Civic Hospital, Ventimiglia.

As noted, Robert Stephen Schwabe represented Gustav Schwabe’s interests in the Far East. Robert’s death was reported by The Japan Daily Mail, Volume 49, 11 January 1908 which can be found on Robert’s page here. :

 Eduardo Boustead

As we have noted above, Edward Boustead had a number of illegitimate children. One of them, Edward (known as Eduardo), first went to Manila and then Paris where he also had a summer residence at Biarritz. More on him to come ….

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper Jul 20 1890
Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper 20 July 1890

Briefly Noted: Thomas Owen Crane
We have noted way above that William Wardrop Shaw, a partner of Boustead’s, married the daughter of Thomas Owen Crane. Here we briefly note the role played by the Crane family in Singapore’s development.

He married Marianna Louisa d’Almeida and they had seventeen children. Louisa was the daughter of Sir Jose d’Almeida. A synopsis of Sir Jose’s life can be found on this web site HERE.

The Will of Thomas Owen Crane formerly of Singapore late of 5 Elliot Cottages, Blackheath, deceased, who died 29 December 1869 at Dagnall Park, South Norwood, was proved at the Principal Registry by the oath of William Wardrop Shaw of Blackheath sole executor.

The following is adapted from ‘ One Hundred Years of Singapore’

Crane Bros. — About the year 1826 Mr. T. O. Crane, father of Mr. H. A. and Mr. C. E. Crane, and the founder of the family, came to Singapore, having left England with the intention of going to India, but being wrecked off the coast of Spain swam to shore, where, after subsisting for a month on rats, shell-fish, and shoe leather, he was rescued by a vessel bound for Singapore. From the first year of his arrival he founded the and brother) being at that time in Austraha. Mr. Crane was successful at a time when Raffles Square was almost a swamp and there was no Esplanade orTanjong Pagar, and he died in 1867. The goodwill of the firm was in 1855 handed over to his two eldest sons — he had fourteen children in all, and thirteen of them were alive in 1902.

The third son, Mr. C. E. Crane, worked in the firm of Hooglandt & Co., and the Borneo Co., and as Manager of the Grove Estate. He retained his interest in Crane Bros, till 1899, but also started the Tampenis Clearwater Dairy Farm in 1890, which he carried on successfully for five or six years, and then converted it into a limited liability company. Mr. C. E. Crane retired to England in 1901. He had seven children, one of them, Mr. C. S. Crane, having been Secretary of the Straits Trading Co. His brother, Mr. Arthur Crane, was back in Singapore in 1917. Henry A. Crane carried on the business with his sons until his death.