The Origins of Deacons in Hong Kong | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

The Origins of Deacons in Hong Kong

I see that the origins of the history of Deacons has been recorded on their website:

"The firm takes its name from a young English solicitor, Victor Deacon, who arrived in the burgeoning British colony of Hong Kong in 1880 to join the legal practice established by William Bridges in 1851.

Within two years, the irrepressible Victor Deacon was made a partner and within 20 years, under his own name, he had firmly established Deacons as one of the colony's leading law firms, a position it has retained to this day"

William Henry Brereton QC

In 1861, William Henry Brereton QC    (born Dublin 1824) joined the law firm of  Henry Charles Caldwell (Notary Public) in Hong Kong. W H Brereton became partner & a Notary Public and the firm was known as 'Caldwell and Brereton'.

In 1871, after Charles Henry Caldwell left Hong Kong the firm was known as 'Brereton and Wootton'.

 In 1880, the firm was joined by Victor Hobart Deacon and became known as 'Brereton, Wootton and Deacon'- There are several references to this firm in the Jardine Matheson Archive which is held at Cambridge University (see link - ). 
Today the firm is called 'Deacons'.
W H Brereton was appointed Queen's standing Counsel in London for the Chinese government on 30 March 1886. He was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in Kensington on 17 June 1886.
William Henry Brereton QC died of Bright's Disease at his home on Mount Gough, The Peak, in Hong Kong on 24 Oct 1887 and is buried there in Happy Valley cemetery.
His age is given as 59 in the death announcement (China Mail 25 Oct 1887).
As a lawyer he was known as "a shrewd adviser and a ready speaker".(see obit. The China Mail 24 Oct 1887).
Accounts of his law cases appear in the Hong Kong newspapers of the time.

His official papers are held in the Jardine Matheson archive at Cambridge University.


According to the member profile of Deacons on the link below for the Hong Kong Chamber of Comerce-

"The firm's namesake, Victor Deacon, arrived in Hong Kong aboard the Peninsula and Oriental steamship "Ravenna" on July 7, 1880.

The 33-year-old solicitor joined the partnership of Messrs Brereton and Wotton, a direct continuation of Bridges' original practice. While it had been just 19 years since Bridges' departure, much had changed and the practice was now one of four firms of solicitors that were flourishing in Hong Kong.

In just two years, he had quickly become respected as one of Hong Kong's leading conveyancers, and in 1882, Mr Deacon was admitted as a partner, thus adding his own name to the firm's."


According to the Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, William Thomas Bridges ( left Hong Kong in April 1861, so Victor Deacon wouldn't have had any direct contact with him in Hong Kong.

But it could be that "the law firm of  Henry Charles Caldwell (Notary Public) in Hong Kong" was descended from Bridges' legal practice, so that Deacons can trace their roots back that far. Does anyone know when Henry Charles Caldwell arrived in Hong Kong, and if he worked with Bridges at all?

Regards, David

Dear David,

We have previously corresponded with regard to the history of our firm, Wilkinson & Grist. According to Norton Kyshe " The History of the Laws and Courts of Hong Kong"  Henry Charles Caldwell arrived in Hong Kong from London by the ship Northfleet on the 2nd June 1859. He had a very colourful past in Singapore as well as a successful  career in Hong Kong. Please give me your email address and I will forward to you the relevant page from Norton Kyshe.

Daniel Edmund Caldwell, his nephew, was articled to Henry Charles Caldwell. After qualification Daniel Edmund Caldwell started his own practice in 1883 and our firm traces its roots to him. He was later joined by Wilkinson and when Daniel Edmund Caldwell left the firm, Wilkinson was joined by Grist and the firm changed its name in 1891 to WIlkinson & Grist 


John Budge

Dear John,

Daniel Edmund Caldwell must have joined the firm of his uncle Henry Charles Caldwell in Hong Kong when William Henry Brereton QC was a partner

Dear John,

Thank you for writing. I'd found the Norton Kyshe entry, but should have added that mention here. (See 

It mentions:

[H C Caldwell] entered the office of Messrs Cooper-Turner and Hazeland, solicitors; then he articled himself to Mr R.C.Owen, the barrister (who under the provisions of Ordinance number 13 of 1862 had elected to act as an attorney), being admitted some years after as an attorney and solicitor of the Court. He soon made for himself a lucrative practice and became one of the leading solicitors in Hong Kong.

But doesn't make clear the link to Bridges.

It's interesting to hear about Wilkinson, and see how the roots of the different local law firms go back to the same small number of individuals.

Regards, David