Rise And Fall of Empire; Boom And Bust of Dynasty
Dent, the surname, may be derived from the Old Irish word “dinn, dind”, a hill and the Olde Norse “tindr”, meaning “point, crag”.
Or it may be originated from a medieval nickname for someone with prominent or otherwise noticeable teeth, derived from the Olde French “tooth”, .
Dent family (per. c.1820–1927), Far East opium merchants, came to prominence with the brothers and relatives.
The most famous members were the sons and nephew of William and Jane Dent.
They came from Trainlands, Crosby Ravensworth, Westmorland, from North England.
1798 — 1877 William Dent (the forth son)
1859, he was the managing partner of Dent & Co in Shanghai and chairman of HSBC
1863, “a merchant consul” and the representative of Dent & Co.
He quickly established himself amongst the English community there, becoming a consul, getting involved in the syndicate that set up Shanghai’s second race course.
1799-08-04 — 1853-11-28 Lancelot Dent (the fifth son)
1827, he went to Canton.
1839-03-23 Commissioner Lin Zexu ordered the arrest of Lancelot Dent, a British trader who had been one of the prime movers in resisting his demands.
Faced with Lin’s summons to an interview at Canton‘s city gates, urgently reinforced by the appearance of two leading Chinese Cohong merchants in chains,
Lancelot would have acceded if not prevented by fellow merchants.
1800-12-24 — 1886-05-10 Wilkinson Dent (the sixth son)
1835, he went to Canton.
1939-03-23 Present at Lancelot’s discomfiture.
Wilkinson Dent was a key restraining influence on his brother’s readiness to leave the factories and face Lin.
It was the Hong Kong branch of the firm which subsequently became his base.
The East India Company’s monopoly of trade with China was abolished by Act of Parliament. The Company closed down its China station.
With the Company’s departure Macao races needed new patrons.
A Race Fund came into being, and prizes and plates were offered by sponsors.
The foremost among whom was Lancelot Dent.
He also took over the mansion of the President of the Select Committee,
it became today the Camoes Museum .
In a sense, Lancelot replaced the President as the head of Macao society.
Of the owner-riders of the first years, one of the most successful was William Dent.
Mr Francis Chomley was another frequent winner and later appeared as an owner.
Chomley was a member of the Dent firm.
Letters from Thomas Jardine to his brother William, John Dent and Wilkinson Dent, as well as a few letters sent by A. Campbell and others to William Leslie.
The letters are accompanied by the ‘Canton register extra’, 25 May 1841, describing naval fighting with the Chinese.
The papers were originally labeled as relating to Dent & Co., and the letters include references to the company.
Dents moved to Hong Kong exodus of British firms from Canton.
They became the third leading opium trader after the house of Jardine and Russell.
The British Consulate in Shanghai was sited beside the Soochow Creek, with Jardine, Matheson & Co. next door on Lot No. 1; .
With Dent’s, Sassoon’s and other opium firms moving in, soon it was quite an array.
Senior partner John Dent was appointed a JP.
Spring Garden Lane was named after the villa of Dent built in Wan Chai area, after John Dent became the Senior Partner of Dent and Co.
The Dents, were also associated from the very beginning with Hong Kong racing.
In addition to their wide shipping and commercial activities they contributed much to the Colony’s development.
Mr John Dent owned the fabulous Sydney mare KATHLEEN.
KATHLEEN,won the inaugural Glenealy Cup, with Mr Jardine’s English mare MAGGIE LAURIE second, and Mr Fletcher’s Sydney horse PRETENDER third.
PRETENDER had had a good racing career in Singapore and Batavia.
Something like a Champions Stakes race appeared in the programme for the first time — a handicap for all winners.
PRETENDER won, but was disqualified, and the race went to Lottery.
An enjoyable Meeting ended somewhat sensationally.
Another Arab, Mr John Dent’s ERIN-GO-BRAGH had previously enjoyed a high reputation in Madras and Ceylon.
It also performed spectacularly, winning the Canton Cup.
More cups were presented. Mr Wilkinson Dent gave the Powshun Cup (for horses).
It was won by PRETENDER, ridden by Mr Clarke of the 59th Regiment.
Mr Fletcher’s Sydney horse TARTAR won the Union Cup, newly put up by Mr W. Dent, with the same owner’s PRETENDER second.
There were exclamations when in the Plenipotentiary’s Cup on the second day the mighty PRETENDER was again disqualified.
His jockey weighed in no less than 23 lbs. short! He had lost it soon after the start.
The race was given to the second horse, Mr John Dent’s recently arrived GOLDFINDER (ex-BLACK JACK).
This one was an aristocrat, sired by a stud horse, ERIN-GO-BRAGH Carrying 11 st. 10 lbs. he did the two miles in 4 mins. 6 secs.
the Saltoun Cup, presented by Mr A. Fletcher for mixed horses, was won in a canter by the all-conquering GOLDFINDER.
The sensation of this Meeting was a bad accident. Mr W. Dent’s LITTLE BO PEEP, an English mare, fell in the Plenipotentiary’s Cup and broke both fore-legs.
A magnificent race was seen for the Home Cup (I-1/2 miles), a valuable gold trophy presented by Mr John Dent.
It was won by half a head by GOLDFINDER, now entered by Mr Francis Chomley of the Dent firm, and ridden by its owner.
In the newspaper accounts, the race was described as the best seen up to that date on the Hong Kong turf. Said the writer:
“Seven started for the grand prize of the meeting, the Home Cup—a splendid claret vase of English manufacture. TARTAR and GOLDFINDER went off with the lead, each trying to cut the other down. Near the Bridge and up to the Black Rock, it looked like TARTAR’s race; but the pluck of the thoroughbred compensated for bad feet and short work, and he drew ahead up the run-in. And here it was that ELPHIN’s rider made a magnificent rush. ELPHIN, up to the Village turn, was lying last but one. Immediately the straight run-in appeared, he passed his horses like a flash, caught TARTAR and beat him by three-quarters of a length—and lost the race to GOLDFINDER by a short half head. CERITO was fourth; the rest nowhere.”
Two great performers met. A Sydney horse, REDGAUNTLET (10 st. 9 lbs.), had won the Fakei Cup (2-1/2 miles).
Mr W. Dent’s mare CERITO 故事 (11 st. 4 lbs.) second. Time: 5 mins. 20 secs.
They were matched over the same distance next day, and CERITO won, in 5 mins. 14 secs.
Chomley, a member of the Dent firm, became one of the organizers of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation.
Dents were among the prime movers in the establishment of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank and the old City Hall alongside it.
They donated the attractive fountain that stood at the entrance to the City Hall, in Queen’s Road Central.
Partner Francis Chomley was elected the first chairman of HSBC.
When SIR WILLIAM and EXETER were entered for the Home Cup in Shanghai — 100 guineas, 11 miles —
it became a match race. Other owners wisely held back.
John Dent was appointed Senior Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council.
But shortly, Dent‘s headquarter moved to Shanghai.
1867-02-20 Wednesday, one of the great races in the annals of the Hongkong turf, the Challenge Cup.
Battle of the century between Tartan and Scarlet, Jardines and Dents Stables.
EXETER owned by Wilkinson Dent, the winner of the Hongkong Challenge Cup.
Wilkinson Dent carried off the with ‘ugly’ design but ‘badly’ desired Cup.
They had won, beating the Jardine brigade at last.
That was in February. By October, Dent’s legend faded out and was no more.
Dents’ Hong Kong operation collapsed amidst worldwide financial crisis originated in London.
Dent occupied a building on the corner of Pedder Street and Praya Central (the waterfront), where The Landmark complex is now situated.
The first building was constructed in 1850, and was redeveloped in 1864.
Due to the first time financial turmoil of Hong Kong in 1867, Dent closed down the head office then moved to Shanghai.
After Dent collapsed, half of its land on Pedder Street was sold to the newly established Hongkong Hotel Company.
The hotel was duly built, and became Hong Kong‘s first deluxe hotel.
The hotel expanded northwards, and was later rebuilt into a 6-storey structure, completed in 1893,
But the hotel was burned down in 1926.
The site was acquired by Hongkong Land, and Gloucester Tower constructed in 1932.
It was redeveloped into The Landmark in 1979.
William Dent seems to have stayed on in Shanghai for a short time after Dent and Co’s collapse, perhaps trying to sort out the mess.
Then he returned to England and lived in London from the early 1870s until his death.
Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.