Wardley House/HSBC Headquarters Building (1st Generation) [1857-1882] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Wardley House/HSBC Headquarters Building (1st Generation) [1857-1882]

Current condition: 
Demolished / No longer exists
Date Place completed: 
c.1857-05-01 (Day is approximate)
Date Place demolished: 

From the Bank's website:

The bank owed its origins to the business communities of the China coast in the 1860s. At that time, the finance of trade in the region was not well developed and most transactions were still handled by the European trading houses, or hongs, rather than by professional banks. By the early 1860s, local businessmen needed larger and more sophisticated facilities. In Hong Kong, in particular, business leaders required specialist banking services — preferably from a bank that was locally owned and managed.

The founding of the bank in 1865 answered this need. The new company was the inspiration of Thomas Sutherland, then the Hong Kong Superintendent of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, who produced a prospectus for a locally based bank operating on sound ‘Scottish banking principles’. The prospectus attracted the support of a broad spectrum of Hong Kong interests, including American and Indian trading houses as well as European firms, and the initial capital of HK$5 million was quickly taken up in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Calcutta. On this basis, the bank opened for business in Hong Kong on 3 March 1865. Then, as now, the bank’s headquarters were at 1 Queen’s Road. One month later, on 3 April 1865, the bank’s Shanghai office opened for business.


Photos that show this place


David can I ask how I add later buildings to this?

For no particular reason it works the other way - you edit the later building and add the earlier one to it. Which I've just done. Thanks for adding this, we now have the sequence from 1st to 4th generation.

Any idea what was on this spot before HSBC owned it?

Well this one is a bit tricky - HSBC it appears rented what was called Wardley House as their first office and it's unclear when the building was actually constructed. It seems it was partly used by the army for quarters prior to the bank taking over the lease. See ref at bottom.

Anyone with ideas of dates?



This Google search shows notes from Solomon Bard:

When FB Johnson and James Bowman took over the Company, the name of WH Wardley & Co. was retained. In January 1855 they established a branch in Hong Kong, building premises (which became known as Wardley House) at 1 Queen's Road. ...

And this shows notes from Dan Waters:

Today 'Wardley' is the name of an investment company associated
with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. In 1864, Wardley House
(demolished in 1882 when its new bank building was completed) was
the first premises of the Bank. William Henry Wardley was a staff
member of Gibb Livingston. He started his own firm about 1850.
Although the company was taken over by F.B. Johnson and James
Bowman the name was retained. It stopped trading about 1861, before
the Bank was established. But the name, Wardley, has been perpetuated.

HFSiu recently added this photo from the early 1860s.

View of Praya

On the far left it looks as though there's either an empty plot, or a single-storey building.

But then in this photo from Moddsey, taken late 1860s to early 1870s, the three-storey Wardley House can be seen:

1870 Praya Central (Des Voeux Road)

I've just written to the HSBC Archives to see if they can help tell us more about when the three-storey building was completed.

HSBC has installed an exhibition depicting the history of the different buildings on 1 Queens Road in the HQ ground floor lobby. It's to commemorate 25 yrs of the current building. They weren't open yet when I saw them today but they look quite detailed and have a range of photos.

Also I edited the place name and removed completed date.

I've received this very helpful reply from Matthew Edmondson, HSBC's Archives Collections Manager:

I have summarised the information we hold on the building from our records below:

In May 1857 the import and export agents John Bowman and F.B Johnson purchased Marine Lot 104, on which they built the property in question. On completion of the building it was leased to Messrs Wardley & Company* and became known as Wardley House.  A few years later, the building was extended to include an extra wing, facing onto the praya.

In 1862, the building was assigned to D. Sassoon, Sons & Co., [Sassoon's closed on the mortgage to the property, as the branch of Wardley did not prosper].

On 28 October 1864 the Provisional Committee of HSBC approved the rental of Wardley House, as the first premises of the Bank (Arthur Sassoon sat on the Bank’s Provisional Committee, which perhaps facilitated the initial lease of Wardley House.).  The Bank initially moved into the Eastern side of the building, for an initial rent of $500 per annum.  In 1866, the Bank purchased the portion of the property they occupied outright in 1866, for $60,000.  It was not until 1882, that the Bank was able to purchase the other half of Wardley House, which was then occupied by the Chartered Mercantile Bank (initially leased from Sassoon's in 1863).

We do not have any records showing how the building was used between the closure of Wardley and its occupation by HSBC.

*W. H. Wardley had been a clerk with Gibb Livingston and Co. in Canton, and founded his own company W. H. Wardley & Co.  He died in Shanghai in 1853, but his firm lived on, and established a branch of the firm in Hong Kong in 1855 (closed 1861?).

I think the earlier photo above was taken before "A few years later, the building was extended to include an extra wing, facing onto the praya." It seems that the "extension, facing onto the Praya" is what we see in the second photo. It also seems likely the extension was finished before the two banks signed their leases in 1863 and 1864.

So tentative dates are:

  • 1857 May The import and export agents John Bowman and F.B Johnson purchased Marine Lot 104, extends from Queen's Rd C to Praya. Wardley House built, initially on southern half of lot
  • 1857-1863 Date unsure: Building extended to Praya on north
  • 1862 The building was assigned to D. Sassoon, Sons & Co.
  • 1863 Chartered Mercantile Bank lease western half
  • 1864 HSBC lease eastern half
  • 1864 HSBC buy eastern half
  • 1882 HSBC buy western half

More help from Matthew:

We don't know for certain when Wardley House was demolished, but in November 1882 it is noted in the minutes that the Board of Directors agreed to rent premises in the P&O building as a temporary office during the construction work - so that would suggest late 1882.

1864 Wardley House

Credit: Wellcome Library, London Waterfront, Hong Kong. Photograph by John Thomson, 1868/1871. View looking towards west. The building on the left, with the Royal Crest, is the City Hall.