Wilks & Jack Ltd – early 20th century Engineers and ship designers

Wilks & Jack Ltd 20th Century Impressions A

“This firm was founded in 1902 by Mr. E. C. Wilks, as a marine engineers’ and surveyors’ bureau.

Mr. Wilks was joined in 1903 by Mr. W. C. Jack, formerly Ingenieur en Chef of the Tonkin River Mail Service, and late assistant manager at the Kowloon establishment of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Company.

During the five years of their association as E.C. Wilks & Co. the firm designed and superintended the construction of quite a number of river steamers and launches, at the same time taking up the agency of the General Electric Company of England, and acting as representatives of other machinery makers of the United Kingdom, amongst them Thornycroft, Allen, Dudbridge, and Petter.

In December, 1906, the business was converted into a limited liability company under the style of Wilks & Jack, Ltd. with the former proprietors as general managers. Operations have been greatly extended since that alteration. New offices and show rooms have been opened in Des Voeux Road Central, and an electro-plating and electric repair workshop has been started in Robertson Road, Kowloon. The show rooms are replete with all the latest electrical appliances as well as with the newest types of incandescent gas fittings, and the agency for the Welsbach Company has been secured. The electro-plating ateliers are up to date in every respect, and are constantly being enlarged to cope with the increasing demands made upon them.

Wilks & Jack Ltd Shop Image Early 20thC HK University Library

Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong… Courtesy: HKU Libraries

The machinery in stock at Hongkong and Kowloon comprises steam dynamos, oil and gas engines, lathes, pumps, and steel tools, which are in the charge of Mr. Percival H. Nye, electrical engineer. A passenger launch, tug boat, and lightering service is also run in the harbour under the supervision of Captain O.B. Wilkes, the firm being entrusted with important Government contracts in this branch of their business.

The general managers having a complete knowledge of local requirements and a long and and varied experience of marine engineering and shipbuilding in all its phases, undertake the permanent superintendence of steamers and launches running from the fort [sic] , inspect vessels and machinery of all kinds while under construction, and estimate for, or superintend, general repairs. They also submit designs and estimates for steamships and launches for sea or river service, and make a speciality of craft of lighter draft than have hitherto been built in Hongkong. Vessels are inspected and trial trips run on behalf of prospective purchasers.” (1)

This 1908 advert published in the same year as the above mentions the company offices and showrooms at 14 Des Voeux Road, Central and Electro-Plating and Repair Shops in Kowloon.

Also that it was the Sole Agent for:-
W.H. Allen, Son & Company of Bedford, England
The General Electric Company of England
The Welsbach Incandescent Gas Light Company
J.B. Pettee and Sons Limited, Yeovil, England

and sold Thornycroft Motors and Allen’s Pumps

Wilks & Jack Ltd Advert China Mail 14.4.1908

China Mail 14th April 1908

This article was first posted on 3rd April 2017.


  1. Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China  (1908) ed. Arnold Wright


  1. Grace’s Guides – Welsbach Incandescent Gas Light Company

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