Rose, Downs and Thompson – Engineers, Hull and London, branch offices opened in Shanghai and Hong Kong in 1910s

Rose, Downs and Thompson of Hull, UK was a manufacturer of plant for processing edible oils for making animal feeds and  was also involved in supplying dredgers and excavators. This company biography suggests that in the first decade of the 20th century the company opened branches in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

1777 Company established.

1871 Christiana Rose, of Rose and Downs, died

1874 Christiana’s grandson, John Campbell Thompson, joined the partnership.

1870s James Downs visited America, returning with the plans for new machinery in the form of Anglo-American presses; these could press larger numbers of oil cakes than before and the firm soon became the principal British firm for oil mill machinery. Most of their customers were the seed-crushing firms.

By 1876 the company’s name had changed to Rose, Downs and Thompson

1878 “NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership formerly subsisting between us the undersigned, William Johnston, Milson Rhodes, James Downs, and John Campbell Thompson, at the borough of Kingston-upon-Hull, as Engineers, Millwrights, Boiler Makers, and Iron and Brass Founders, under the firm of Rose, Downs, and Thompson, has been determined as from the 30th day of June last. The business, in future, will be carried on, on the same premises, by the said James Downs and John Campbell Thompson, under the said firm of Rose, Downs, and Thompson. Dated, this of November, 1878. Wm Johnston., J. Downs. Milson Rhodes., J. C. Thompson.”

(NB William Johnston of Hull was a hosier; Milson Rhodes, of Glasgow, was a commission agent – both were executors of Christiana Rose, who died in 1871)

1879 The business had been established for over a century; hydraulic engineers of Hull

1880s Diversified into winches, grab cranes and other pieces of steam machinery for trawl fishing. This move helped them survive a period of debt in the 1880s and their financial position improved in the 1890s

Rose, Downs And Thompson Grace's Guides 1882 Bucket Dredger Advert

Courtesy: Grace’s Guides 1882

1893 Incorporated as a Limited Company when difficult times forced the firm to become a limited company

1894 Catalogue of Oil Mill Machinery. 

Rose, Downs And Thompson Grace's Guides 1904 Advert

From Page’s Magazine, 1904 advert Courtesy: Grace’s Guides

c.1906 Charles Downs became managing director

1910s The firm expanded, buying a gear wheel firm in Leeds and opening branch offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

1914 Engineers, Iron Founders and Boiler Makers. Specialities: Oil Mill Machinery, Makers of the Kingston Dredger. Employees 350. 

1916 Death of John Campbell Thompson, of Hull, the chairman

Rose, Downs And Thompson Offices And Showrooms 1917 Courtesy Virtual Shanghai

Rose, Downs & Thompson, Ltd. 3. Shanghai Office and showrooms 1917 Courtesy: Virtual Shanghai

1937 Engineers. 

1939 Robert Apsland Bellwood was technical director.

1951 After 3 years collaboration, the Power-Gas Corporation exercised its option to buy a controlling interest in Rose, Downs and Thompson

By 1961 was part of Davy-Ashmore

1970 Acquired by Tremletts

1974 Acquired by Simon Engineering [Source 1]


  2. Virtual Shanghai Project


  1.  Grace’s Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in the UK
  2. Virtual Shanghai Project is a research and resource platform on the history of Shanghai from the mid-nineteenth century to nowadays. It incorporates various sets of documents: essays, original documents, photographs, maps, quantitative data, etc. The objective of the project is to write a history of the city through the combined mobilization of these various types of documents.
  3. Archives of Rose, Downs and Thompson Ltd. Makers of Oil and Mill machinery, Hull –
  4. The company’s principal archive is in the Hull City Record Office, UK

This article was first posted on 2nd September 2017.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Australian cattle to Hong Kong – 1845 invitation, 1880s delivery?
  2. Netherlands Harbour Works Company – dredging HK harbour / reclamation at Kai Tak 1927
  3. NV Hollandsche Aannemings Maatschappij (HAM) – Dutch dredging company connected to several HK projects


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