C. E. Warren & Co., then C. E. Warren & Co. Ld. [1899-1941] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

C. E. Warren & Co., then C. E. Warren & Co. Ld. [1899-1941]

C. E. Warren & Co., then C. E. Warren & Co. Ld.
c.1899-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)
c.1941-07-31 (Day is approximate)

Photos that show this organisation


The dates of C.E. Warren & Co. are 1899-1918 and the actual dates of C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd. are 1918-1941 (although officially 1918-1956).

C.E. Warren & Co.’s headed writing paper gives 1899 as the date of inception. I’ve recently been sent one of the last letters written by my uncle Leslie Warren to his wife and children before leaving Hong Kong in July 1941. It was probably the last letter to be written on the C.E. Warren & Co.’s headed paper using the St George’s Building address. Leslie had taken over the management of the company on the death of his father Charles E. Warren in June, 1923.

C.E. Warren & Co. existed under that name until 1918 when it was registered as a limited company with Companies House and became C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd.. Although the company was wound up in July 1941, just before Leslie Warren left Hong Kong, for some reason, Companies House failed to register its closure until 1956.

Here are some extracts from Leslie Warren’s letter of 2 May 1941. He mentions his assistant William Russell. P.M. Xavier and especially Jose Goularte d’Aquino had been with the company since before his father died in 1923. (I don’t know who Santos is.) David Scott Robb was an accountant with Lowe, Bingham & Matthews. The Maycock family had been long term friends of the Warrens.

You people must be awfully fed up with the conditions, but it looks as though you’ll have to stay in England now. I’m so sorry you are not in Australia with the Evacuées. Well, you’ll  be wondering what is going to happen to me with the firm closing down. Well we gave up our Town Office two days ago & moved down to Wanchai, and, as soon as all the Stocks and Property have been sold, everything will be finished. Russell is an Overseer for A.R.P. Construction Work, and Xavier has just got a job as Accountant in the Govt. Food Controller’s Office – a wartime job. Robb, our Liquidator, got him the job. Aquino & Santos are still with us. Now, what about Leslie then – I haven’t been sleeping, but have made contact with several possibilities. I have applied for the position of Lieutenant Quartermaster of the H.K. Volunteers, as the post is going to be vacant soon, but of course, I may not be selected, as there are several applicants. There is a house provided as well as the necessities, on top of the salary. I’ll be lucky if I get it. Secondly, and this is my best bet, a big concern with Branches in Shanghai, H.K., Manila, Singapore and Bangkok, are thinking of opening up a Plumbing Dept. in Singapore or Bangkok. If they do, I shall be appointed Manager with a decent salary, agreement, &c. The Head is arriving down from S’hai in 2 weeks’ time, & he wants to meet me to discuss terms. I hear business is very lively at Bangkok. If anything comes off, I shall cable you. It’s no use trying to start anything here, as conditions are very bad. I’d like to get in the P.W.D. here if all else fails. (…) I’m still with the Maycocks, Eva & Willie, & they look after me like a brother. I’ve put on 10 lbs since I came here! It is just getting warm, and I’m sure you’re more comfortable where you are. I hope you are managing alright with your money; it’s awful having to cut your allowance. (…) I’m sure you are all very busy, - especially as Diana is doing war work. I do hope you will all be safe. The war news is very bad, but of course we will win in the end, as always. Still, you are in a bad place for possible bombings. Well, cheerio for the present . I hope to send you some good news soon. Tons of the best.     Dad



The company moved to the ground floor of the China Building (facing Queen's Theatre) on 1st February 1925 

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press page 2 14th February 1925

C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd Hong Kong Daily Press Page 2 14th February 1925.png
C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd Hong Kong Daily Press Page 2 14th February 1925.png, by eurasian_david

Many thanks for spotting this announcement. We don’t have it and I’m always so grateful for the sharp eyes and expertise of my Gwulo colleagues. My Warren cousin who researched the family company only found the following announcement from the China Directory of 1926, and it’s great to have the exact date of the move.

“War Lun, Warren & Company Ltd., C.E., Sanitary and Heating Engineer, Tile, Granite and Marble Merchants, Monumentalists. China Building (Facing Queens Theatre), L.B. Warren Director, A.C. Warren, J.G. d’Aquino, P.M. Xavier.”

Leslie Warren, only 25, was gradually getting the company back on its feet with the help of the accountant, John Fleming. He had been joined by his brother, Arthur, now 19. Jose Goularte d'Aquino had been a long term stalwart of the company. He and Philip Xavier would stay with it till the end.

So I’m amending the 1926 date in my Hong Kong family chronology, which currently runs to 23 pages, single spaced and may shortly qualify as a book. All other snippets from the newspapers, (which hardly ever give up their secrets to my searches), very gratefully received.

Don't know if this advert is any use to you Jill, but always thinking of you when I see the  C.E. Warren name!

I know you already have the old address at Des Voeux Road but wondered if you had details of what servcies the company offered in the early days

C.E. Warren & Co. Hong Kong Daily Press page 1 24th September 1902.png
C.E. Warren & Co. Hong Kong Daily Press page 1 24th September 1902.png, by eurasian_david

Totally of use, david! This ad earns itself another entry in the “Warren Chronology”. As I said when you found the1925 ad, my late cousin wasn’t able to find everything. He only had access to the SCMP, which kicked off in 1903, so we don’t have 1902 as the date when C.E. Warren & Co. first had premises in 30 Des Voeux Road. The company must have moved after the Jurors List was published. C.E. Warren’s entry for1902 still gives his address as Wyndham Street. As it happens, I’ve just had a blitz of C.E. Warren ads in the SCMP and was surprised at the variety of products offered over the years. At this very early stage, C.E. Warren was concentrating on sanitary ware. This is what his experience as a Sanitary Inspector had qualified him for and what Hong Kong certainly needed at the time. A 1903 article mentions that he also equips and supervises the building of whole houses together with drainage and sanitation. An ad the same year mentions “coated cast iron drainage pipes and traps”. I’m interested in the mention of the company’s agency for “Mosaic Tiles”. Was this a Hong Kong company, I wonder? C.E. Warren & Co. soon went into the manufacture of tiles on its own account. This was its main product by 1910 when the company moved its factory to Bowrington. I’m not sure how soon the company went into monumental masonry. St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery doesn’t have a searchable data base similar to Patricia Lim’s. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that the 1905 grave of Kathleen Kew is the first CEW & Co. grave in the Protestant Cemetery. As Charles Warren converted to the Catholic faith, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were earlier CEW & Co. graves in St. Michael’s. Thank you so much for your interest, david. I’m about to put in order all the C.E. Warren products from the ads that I’ve salvaged (I had to give up as there were over 10,000 recorded and I certainly haven’t got them all.)

Hi Jill, 

I'm glad that has been useful. As an extra, the same advert was placed in The China Mail, page 5, 24th September 1902. The extra crucial clue is that the advertisement was dated 1st June 1902. So we can say the move to 30 Des Voeux Road happend by that date.  

best wishes






That's a very astute spot, david - and now another amendment is needed to the Warren Chronology! - Many thanks. I'm wondering what the firm "Mosaic Tiles" was. Was it a Hong Kong company or based elsewhere? Coincidentally, Charles Warren later called his most successful racehorse "Mosaic Tile". By 6 November 1903 on p. 1 of the first number of the SCMP, C.E. Warren & Co. was advertising itself as the agents for the Taiwan Stone and Lime Company instead.

Here is another ad I have come across. It said est. 1900 although you had mentioned stationary had its inception year as 1899. 

C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd The Hong Kong Telegraph Page 2 5th April 1920.png
C.E. Warren & Co. Ltd The Hong Kong Telegraph Page 2 5th April 1920.png, by eurasian_david

You're right that the 1940s letter head gives 1899 as the founding date of the company. In 1920 Charles Warren was still alive and chose to give 1900 as the date when he officially went into business under his own name.

Another one for you Jill,

In an ad in March 1901 it gives the address of C.E Warren, Building Contractor, as 25 Aberdeen Street

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press, page 3, 18th March 1901


As an aside, just so that I or anyone else can be of use to you, because of a number of changes in the name of the business and its locations, can you do a timeline and post it here of 1) Name of the company 2) Exact address 3) Exact date it was at that address or earliest and latest known dates at the address (if do not know, go to nearest month, year or decade as appropriate) 

Thank you so much, David. I don't have this ad.  A later article about the company mentioned that it was in Aberdeen Street in 1901 but I didn't have the evidence. Charles Warren's father-in-law, John Olson, had earlier bought 25C Aberdeen Street (I.L. 60 B) so it makes sense that he could have let my grandfather use it as his business premises briefly. 

I shall have a look at the chronology of the company, in so far as I have it, and put it up on this link as soon as I can. Thank you for the suggestion.

David, I had a go at doing a timeline of the company in the way that you suggested, but, given that posts aren’t limited only to the Gwulo site, I was unhappy with putting an imperfect history out onto the general internet, when I hope to have a much more complete one eventually. I’m about to travel and my mind is focussed elsewhere, but what I will do is to look at apparent gaps in the company’s history and enquire about those individually. If you would like to ask me about something specific, David B. will give you my email address. I’m most grateful for your offer of detective work on my behalf and to my other Gwulo colleagues for letting me know about CEW ads and newspaper snippets that I should never otherwise have found. 

That's ok Jill. You're obviously free to do what you comfortable with. I thought that if David gave you the editing rights for this thread you can put a working timeline of the company at the header which you can then update in real time every time you discover something new. 

Anyway, came across this filter ad of C.E Warren and Co. Ltd from 31st August 1920 from the bottom left corner of page 2 of the China Mail



Many thanks for this, David. I'm especially interested in the CEW ads before my grandfather died in June 1923. They sometimes reflect the company fortunes at the time. I'm adding to the parallel family story all the time and I'm really grateful for any new finds. The household products go alongside the building business. I put the finishing touches to a chapter today covering 1910 to 1913, which was when the business suddenly seemed to make a leap. 

C.E. Warren Hong Kong Telegraph, page 6, 27th August 1940.png
C.E. Warren Hong Kong Telegraph, page 6, 27th August 1940.png, by Hong Kong Telegraph

You can add air raid shelters to your ever growing list of products! 

Not sure if this has been mentioned elsewhere on Gwulo but C. E. Warren & Co.  installed Italian marble partitions and nickle fittings throughout all lavatories in the Peninsula Hotel as well as did granite work at the main entrance. An advert appears in the Hong Kong Telegraph dated 8 December 1928.

No, I haven't got a note of the Peninsula commission, which must have been a high prestige contract for Leslie Warren. His brother, Arthur, an artist, joined the company in 1923 and would have provided useful input on design. Unfortunately Arthur developed TB in 1928 and went to England for treatment, dying in 1930. Other high prestige contracts of a similar nature followed however. Many thanks for alerting me to this one.

C. E. Warren Co. Ltd - To Let Office Space at No. 32 Des Voeux Road Central
C. E. Warren Co. Ltd - To Let Office Space at No. 32 Des Voeux Road Central, by Moddsey

The above ad is an interesting sign of the company's fortunes - not so good in 1920. Earlier in this thread eurasian_david invited me to put up a time line of the C.E. Warren & Co. history and its addresses. Elsewhere I have already posted a query about 1-5 Perfection Place I.L. 2040 which, according to the Rate Books, was owned by C.E. Warren & J. Olson in 1916-17. I'm hoping that one of the erudite contributors to Gwulo will be able to tell me whether 1-5 Perfection Place at that date was a site of one of the C.E. Warren tile factories or what. Information from the internet suggests that Perfection Place was a site of residential properties, but there is no current record of our family members ever having lived there. Can anyone help me about the status of Perfection Place in 1916 and earlier?  It has the same Inland Lot number as Warren Street, but I don't think it was absorbed into Warren Street.

In 1910, the Hong Kong Telegraph covered the Industries of Hong Kong and the first in a series of articles was of Messrs. C. E. Warren & Co. See here The article mentions the tile factory on Sharp Street, Bowrington and hardware factory at 100-108 Wanchai Road. 

Thanks for posting the “here” link to the valuable (to me) HKT article on C.E. Warren & Co. You will note that I quoted from it in my two replies to Liz B’s post on Hong Kong’s Industrial Heritage https://gwulo.com/comment/56131#comment-56131

The article gives 1901 as the date that the company was established, rather than 1899 (later given on the company headed notepaper) or1900 in an advertisement of around 1920. Charles Warren only left the Sanitary Board in December1900 according to the Blue Books, so 1901 must have been the first year that he felt confident to go it alone as a private company. The partnership agreement between Charles Warren and John Olson jnr was not actually drawn up until August 1906, although the younger man probably joined the company straight from school in 1901. I don’t have any earlier address than 1910 for the Warren tile works, which perhaps doubled as the yard for monumental masonry. I’d be grateful to know if it is recorded anywhere as, from the volume of tile production mentioned in the article, there must have been one.

hong_kong_telegraph_page_4_29th_march_1940.png, by Hong Kong Telegraph

Many thanks for this ad, David. I don't have it. Thank you too for the info re Hannah Warren and Vivian Kong's site yesterday. Reply is in composition!

c.e._warren_co._ltd_hong_kong_telegraph_page_4_29th_october_1940.png, by Hong Kong Telegraph

I have a different A.R.P. ad sent to me by Leslie Warren's son some time ago. He considered it the "final degradation" of the company, but as Leslie was an active member of the Signals Corps, surely these anti-war products were a socially responsible sideline for the company. On the other hand, kitchen and bathroom products were perhaps no longer in demand with British women and children being evacuated. Perhaps that side of the business went downhill between March and October 1940. Leslie Warren's final letter from Hong Kong (above) after winding up the company in May 1941 says that conditions were very bad in the colony.

c.e._warren_co._ltd_hong_kong_telegraph_page_8_25th_june_1940.png, by Hong Kong Telegraph

Thanks a  lot, David. I've certainly missed many of the CEW ads, especially the later ones. My kitchen looks pretty much like this!