Dodwell's [????-c.1973] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Dodwell's [????-c.1973]

Name: 
Dodwell's
Type: 
Business
Status: 
Inactive
Closed
Date: 
c.1973-01-01 (Year, Month, Day are approximate)

Does anyone remember a store or chain of stores in HK called Dodwell's? It was around in the 70s and I don't think I've seen any on recent trips.

Comments

Hi there,

I believe Dodwell's was acting as an agent for some Marks & Spencer and other British goods.  They folded up in the late 1970's or the nearly 1980's as back then, Marks & Spencer was preparing to open their own branches here.

Best Regards,

T

Yes, I remember it well. As a resident of J.S.T.S. Stonecutters between 1972 & 1974, Dodwells was one of the many places in which we shopped. If I remember correctly, it was fairly close to (Or on), Queens Road, Central. My favourite purchase was "Chicken Chasseur", in a flat tin, (Like Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies). Underneath the tin, it carried the, "St. Michael" logo. Other shops come to mind... "Tom Lee Piano Company" and "Tsan Fuk Piano Company", both suppliers of musical instruments; "China Products", for traditional Chinese furniture and laquered goods; "T.Z.Yeh", high class jeweller and Seiko watches main agent. A great deal of our food shopping was done in the respective Meat, Fish and vegetable markets. Horror stories were rife regarding all three; with watching cattle butchered while you waited for steak from its haunch, or watching a small shark still chewing on another smaller fish in a pan. I remember well, the climb up the "Alleys", to purchase cheap "T" shirts and kiddies clothes. "Buttons and Bows" alley was one of my wife's favourite haunts. Every time we went shopping in Central, we dropped into the "Bluebird" restaurant on Queens Square.(Opposite the Kodak building). Our regular dish was "Black Pepper" steak, which was wonderful. The cost was HK$ 8 per portion, at a time when the exchange rate was HK$ 14 to the £ sterling. I often look back very fondly on those great days...Very happy days......Paul

 

Tsang Fuk Piano Company is still alive and well at the bottom of the Eaton Hotel in Kowloon - and of course Tom Lee is now all over the place.

Hi there,

Back in the 1970's there was one Moutrie Piano Company in the Prince's Building as well.  The company had had British roots and they once in business in Shanghai before WWII.  It had long been gone, however.  I believe the Moutrie family is still doing business in the UK.  Googling for more and found they have production lines in China, however I am uncertain how much is the Moutrie family involved nowadays.

Best Regards,

T

I remember buying packets of onion rings and cheese balls at Dodwell's, can't remember the brand name. Are these available anywhere else in HK now that Dodwell's is gone? Was St. Michael's a brand name? That sounds really familiar, too.

Hi there,

Does Marks & Spencer ring any bells?  Dodwell's was marketing Marks & Spencer goods under the brand name St. Michael (and St. Margaret for some lady's stuffs) back then.  Now that we have Marks & Spencer stores in town you could just browse through their food section and see if you could find your snacks.

Hope this helps a bit.

Best Regards,

T

This is definitely the brand name used by M&S for their stuff - for many years.

Yes, St Michael is known in the UK as the patron saint of knickers!

The Inchcape website says that 'The company known as Dodwell Carlill & Co. was founded in 1891. In 1899 the name of the company was changed to Dodwell & Co Ltd.'

This autobiographical note shows it was already well-established by 1895:

In September, 1895, I joined the Yokohama office of Dodwell, Carlill & Co. (later Dodwell & Co. Ltd.) a British merchant house engaged in
importing, exporting and shipping, with chief offices in London and
Hongkong and branches at the main seaports of China, Japan and the
Pacific Coast.  I soon became secretary to the manager, George Syme Thomson, a big, rugged Scot and brilliant shipping man, who took pains to coach me as we went along and to whose kindly interest I owe a great deal.

In January, 1899, I was sent down to our Hongkong office for several months, where I lived with the bachelor manager, E.S. Whealler, in his mansion "Hazeldene" part way up the Peak.

They were still going strong in 1952. A discussion of inter-hong cricket at that time lists the four major hongs as 'Jardines, Swires, Dodwells, and the Hongkong Bank'.

But in 1973, Dodwells were aquired by Inchcape plc. I wonder what misfortune meant Dodwells was the only one of those four hongs that didn't survive til today?

Some more mentions of Dodwell from Google:

  • Several times between 1916 and 1973, either the Vice-chairman or Chairman of the HK General Chamber of Commerce was a Dodwell's man.
  • There was a Dodwells Ridge Gun Park in the New Territories, manned by the Royal Artillery. (Not sure if this is the same 'Dodwell' though.)
  • There's a 'Dodwell Mansions' up on the Peak.
  • In the recent book 'The Piano Teacher', one of the main characters arrives in Hong Kong after WWII and is met by ' John, who worked at Dodwell's, one of the trading firms'.

Thanks everyone for the great info. I'm not in HK now but will look for those snacks at M&S on my next trip.

Probably a question that is too specialized but reading the names of piano companies above, I am wondering if there are any Chinese-made pianos that are of really good quality or could be.  I am thinking the case of a Chinese-made violin that when its back is adjusted by a violin maker, actually turns out to be a rather good violin.  I heard this years ago.  I am wondering if there is a similar case for Chinese-made pianos.

Also, would one be able to get a European-brand piano (e.g. Steinway or Boesendorfer)?  I would assume you could get new but would there also be a market in HK for this caliber of used piano?  Any piano repair technicians who could, say, replace a sound board in a used piano?  Weird questions, I know, but I'm just wondering (in general) if there are services in HK that supports this type of market.  Thanks!

Vinnie, I read somewhere recently of a man in North America  (I think?) who made his living by importing Chinese pianos, then upgrading them. They are supposed to end up sounding as good as the best names, but still a lot cheaper even after adding the cost of his work.

Sorry, no idea about the second question...

Well that's cool.  I should look into those upgraded Chinese pianos here in my part of the world -- thanks.

I suppose my second question would really be one for "museum curators" and what they think the future holds for a probably dying tradition.  Even with the piano being a seemingly popular instrument to start learning in HK, is there a draw for classically trained musicians to move to HK?  Is classical music alive and well there?  (I probably sound like an old relic ...)

 

Hi there,

Did Yundi Li & Lang Lang ring any bells?  These two world class musicians moved to Hong Kong earlier last year (I think).

Classical music is alive here despite it is not that popular among the younger general public.  We have three local professional orchestras: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra

There are other smaller orchestra and marching bands around.  There had also been visiting orchestras every year.  We just had the Vienna Philharmonics with Valery Gergiev conducting last year.  Last month we have the Staatskapelle Dresden performing with Fabio Luisi conducting.

Best Regards,

T

Thanks for the links!  Wonderful to hear that classical music alive in HK.

Now, my assumption for Cantonese opera is that it's very strong/popular in HK.  If it is, do they display surtitles at performances to make it more accessible to English speakers like some Western opera performances do?

I worked for Dodwells from 1969 based in their head office in Finsbury Circus, in the City of London.  At that time they were an international trading company with extensive interests in HK, Japan and SE Asia.  Among their many activities they had a large buying office in HK which purchased & shipped mainly clothing on behalf of department stores in USA, UK & Europe.  They held the HK agencies for many brands of drinks (whisky, brandy, gin,etc); imported motor vehicles (Morris Minors, Leyland buses, etc); and imported building, specialised and engineering equipment for housing developments, the mass transit railway & many more activities.

The Dodwell stores in HK were a Marks & Spencer franchise.  One of my jobs was to pay M&S on behalf of our HK store.

In 1972 Dodwells was taken over by the then Inchcape Company & parts merged with various Inchcape operations worldwide.  The many HK interests of Inchcape were all moved into one prominent building, but I've forgotten the name.  Times & the world changed.  Inchcape closed their UK trading operations from 1982 onwards & I left the group.  The Dodwell operations were disposed of, & the Inchcape Group is now mainly concerned with motor vehicles.  There must still be a number of former Dodwell staff in HK.

I was but a small child at the time, but I seem to recall that the Marks and Spencer shop in the Ocean Terminal in 1970/71 sold clothes under the label "St Anthony" rather than the "St Michael" label which is familiar nowadays.

was socked and undie-clad from here for years (until breaking lose with own cash)  the green st michael label is ingrained in my memory bank - at least for those items

Moutries was run by Gilman & Company Limited, which was founded in Hong Kong in the 1800s.  My father joined them in 1955 and in later years was Director of various Departments, including Moutries.  This store was a very important part of my life in that I always was able to get the latest Beatles, Rolling Stones or Supremes LPs as soon as they came in.  They had a marvellous "sound system" room where you could listen to the quality of different speakers available for purchase.

Gilmans was later taken over by The Inchcape Group in 1970 or so.

In the early 1970s, I remember going into Moutries in the Prince's Building to view the latest record releases. As you say, it was a different experience then going into record stores! I also recall a local musical publication called something like Melody Maker or Music Maker that would give the latest chart toppers.

 I worked with Dodwells in Hong Hong from 1970 to 1975. When I arrived the Head office was in the old HSBC building in Queens Road C, although the had other offices in Ocean Centre and Queens Road. At that time the Bachelors Mess as in Dodwell Mansions adjacent to HoTung gardens/Stewart Terrace, although I also lived in Thorpe Manor [1 May Road] another Dodwell owned building. In about 1973 Dodwells sold Thorpe Manor on which site is now 1 May Road There is today a thriving old dodwell club called The Teen Cheong Club which as the local HKG name for Dodwells.

Mike H

The building is still there, but, strangely does not show up on the Hong Kong Governement NAMES OF BUILDINGS 2008

Hello i'm looking for old pictures of thorpe manor my mum used to live there in the 50's but any newer photo would be great if you are willing to share online or send via email or by post because i'm old fashioned that way? I've tried to search for Thorpe Manor May road pictures online but none seem to exsist?I know Thorpe Manor was demolished in the early 90's but if you could help me at all or know anyone else that could help i would apreciate it. Its my mums 65th birthday coming up so i wanted to suprise her with a photo of where she grew up!!

 

hope to hear from

12 Melrose road, Galashiels TD1 2AY

I just found a few tidbits of information on the acquisition of Dodwell & Co. by Inchcape.  (Source: Two Centuries of Overseas Trading - Stephanie Jones)  First, Dodwell Motors was acquired in 1970 by Inchcape for $38,541,000 HK dollars.

Then in '72, Dodwell & Co. was purchased for 2,000,000 Inchcape £1 nominal value shares and a £3,200,000 stock loan.  I'm not sure what the market value of Inchcape's shares was in '72, but it should have been around £5.  They reached a high of £6.90 in '73.

Another book (The Son from the West - Evelyn Cromer) puts the Dodwell & Co. acquisition value at £13 million, though it lists the year as 1973.  It also says the Dodwell manager's house in Tokyo was sold for £47 million.  I know gwulo is old Hong Kong and not old Tokyo, but the book has piqued my interest and I'd love to find out where that house was located.

I wonder if this is the same Company (Dodwells) that my Father worked for in the early 1950's. They seemed to be an import/export agency and had extensive links in the old British `Empire' !  They had Headquarters at 24 St Mary Axe, London. As a child I was awestruck with the size of the Offices when my Father took me in on a Saturday morning. Sometimes my Father would be given a lift home in the chaffeur driven Rolls (or Daimler or whatever) with the Director, who had a large house in a very upmarket area of Virginia Water, Surrey ....

Yes, Virginia Water Boy, Dodwell London was indeed located at 24 St Mary Axe.  Chances are that your father worked for them.  However, lots of big companies, shipping companies had offices in that building.

Interesting that they had a Rolls-Royce or Daimler.  I know a few trading companies had the Daimler DS420 limousine for director use, but that was in the 1970s. 

I joined Dodwell Hong Kong in 1964 and left in 1983, in it's Export Dept. and later it changed the name to as in the subject. As far as I can remember, St. Michael was the name when Dodwell group involved in retail business in HK, M&S was used after a few years but I don't know why till now. People in HK knew about Dodwell mainly because of St. Michael Store else they do not know much about the Company other than it's Wine and Spirit Dept. with the sole agency of Martell. Gordon Gin etc. Felt very upset when export business was sold to Lee and Fung in the 90's. After all, I spent my gold ages with the Company. Bet most of my superiors, colleagues then are now retired.

SH

I'm pretty sure that Dodwell's marketed British Home Stores products before going over to Marks and Spencer's...  

I got that wrong- Dodwell's switched to BHS products after M&S set up their own HK chain in the 1980s. The Dodwell stores shut down a few years later in 1989.

That date rings a bell. I can distinctly recall the excitement of the first M&S store and how dowdy Dodwells seemed in comparison. I think Inchcapes did not have their heart in it and had already more or less decided to specialise in motor cars.

Incidentally, at about this time, Swire Pacific made a serious attempt to persuade Sainsburys, a prominent UK supermarket chain, to enter the Hong Kong supermarket wars, offering them space in Pacific Place, pointing out that the two main HK chains had fought themselves to a standstill and suggesting that the unused underbelly cargo space London/HK on CX could be available rather reasonably.

Sadly for HK, Sainsburys declined.

I worked at Dodwell Buying Office from Jan 1988 to Dec 1997. I was at the company's HKG HQ when Li&Fung bought the Dodwell Buying Office in 1995. At that time the company name was Inchcape Buying Services - Inchcape started to change the name away from Dodwell in 1992.

The Li & Fung company in those days was smaller than Dodwell, which was the largest independent buying office with a turnover of around US$1.8bil. This business size almost doubled after joining with Li&Fung.  (FYI - As of 2010 L&F is approaching US$20bil annual turnover - I like to think Dodwell staff played their part in this growth. Certainly Dodwell's network of sourcing offices around the World helped L&F promote their differentiation from the other HKG local companies)

After the Dodwell company was purchase by L&F, most of the senior mgt team in the combined company were from the Dodwell company. This was primarily because Dodwell's had the structure and international scope that L&F had not yet developed.

There are still many people working at L&F's offices around the World that started their careers at the Dodwell International Buying Office (DIBO) company.

Dodwell stores closed in 1989. The 'destination service company 'Teen Distribution Ltd' also closed at the end of 1989. Their main customer was BHS. They were caleld 'Teen' because the Chinese name for Dodwell is 'Teen Chung'.

Dodwell was also the buying agent for large German Department stores such as Kaufhof. During my time the Chairman

was Mr. P. G. Williams who for a period of time also was the Chairman of the Royal H.K. Jockey Club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I worked for Dodwell & Co Ltd. in Tokyo in the mid 1970s. There they were at that timethe largest UK company with a presence in Japan and held the agency rights for a number of prominent UK manurfacturers like Marconi, GEC, GKN, Tube Products. They also exported Japanese machinery like Daihatsu ship diesel engines e.g, to Australia. In Hong Kong their business was very diverse. The 1981 Hong Kong Dollar Directory lists:
Dodwell Emtech Ltd.
Dodwell Hong Kong Ltd. (MD: D.W.B. Christie - who was formerly in Dodwell Japan)
Dodwell International Buying Offices Ltd. (with subsidiaries in a number of SEA countries)
Dodwell Shipping Ltd.
Dodwell Stores Ltd.
Dodwell Trading Ltd. (holding many agencies like Campbell Soup, Libbys, General Mills, Weetabix, Melitta, Leyland, Kent, GEC and lots more)
Dodwell Hong Kong Buying Office Ltd. (Kaufhof, John Lewis, Woolworth, Galeries Lafayette etc)
Dodwell Travel Ltd.

If I am not mistaken the last Chairman of Inchcape Hong Kong  was Paul Cheng Ming-fun who also had a seat in Legco and became something of a political activist in the run up to 1997 perhaps to the detriment of the company's wellbeing. In 1994 and 95 most if not all of Dodwell's assets were disposed and the company has I think since then stopped operating in Hong Kong. In Japan Dodwell was merged into Correns & Co Ltd. its erstwhile rival.

 

 

 

Was the CEO of Dodwells in Hong Kong not a Mr. Deveson in the mid 1970’s?

He and his charming family lived in a beautiful flat just below the HSBC Mess Cloudlands. The latter was of course in Plantation Road.

The Devesons had a lovely daughter, Romaine whom I remember taking to the St.Andrews Ball in the Pen.

They were extremely hospitable to Bank Staff and well I remember Black Velvets being served to us on Christmas Day 1976. If my memory serves me well, I swam in the Cloudlands pool late that afternoon. The water didn’t seem particularly cold to a young Scot!

 

 

Yes, of course we remembers this shop, the one my mom goes to often was in Central, in the basement of Melbourne Plaza. Favourite goodies were cheese biscuits in a bag and Wagon Wheels, my mom gets all our white knee high school socks there, um and cotton underwear. 

Don't worry, its now Marks & Spencer.. so they are still there.