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Cox & Kings is the longest established travel company in the world, its history stretching back to 1758 when Richard Cox was appointed as regimental agent to the Foot Guards. Cox & Kings now thrives as an independent tour company with offices in the United Kingdom, India, the United States and Japan.

Contents

History

Richard Cox, the founder

Richard Cox 1718-1803, founder of Cox & Kings

Cox was born in Yorkshire in 1718. His father, Joshua, had made a good living as a lawyer and had moved from his birthplace in Clent in Worcestershire to Yorkshire. He then bought an estate near Quarley in Hampshire. There is little documentary evidence of the early life of Richard Cox, although he must have received an excellent education after which he came into the service of the English General, Lord Ligonier, as a clerk in the early 1740s. He was clearly exceptionally good at making important contacts with all echelons of the army and society, and in 1747 he married Caroline Codrington, daughter of Sir William Codrington who was an established military figure.

Cox’s career really took off when Lord Ligonier led the Flanders campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession. In one letter sent back to London, Richard Cox makes a demand that “suitable winter provisions and housing should be made available for the three English companies” and he became ever increasingly entwined with the organisation of provisions and the general welfare of the troops. Ligonier, in turn, thought the world of his 'beloved Mr Cox', making him his private secretary in the late 1740s. Ligonier went on to become the Colonel of the First Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards) in 1757, and rewarded Richard Cox with the post of 'military agent' after the incumbent died in May 1758. Thus was born Cox & Co, the forebear of Cox & Kings.

There were about a dozen main agents working for the army at the time and each Regimental Colonel chose one to serve their troops. There was not a strict code for the role of an agent; in essence they arranged the payment of officers and men, organised the provision of clothing, acted as a go between for the buying and selling of officers’ commissions and acted upon any special requests from the regimental adjutant. This ranged from the shipment of personal effects to the requisition of weapons or supplies. Cox had taken on the most prestigious infantry regiment, and the 63rd Regiment and the Royal Artillery soon followed suit.

One of the reasons for Cox’s success was his ability to seek out solvent and creative business partners. In 1765 he went into partnership with Mr Drummond, whose family ran the London bank. Cox & Drummond moved from Cox's house in Albemarle Street to Craig’s Court, just off the present day Whitehall. By the mid 1760s Cox & Drummond had blossomed to become agents for the Dragoons and eight more Infantry regiments. Success was built on the company’s reputation for keen attention to the welfare of its regiments. In 1763, for instance, when Robert Clive stormed the fortress of Gheria in India, Cox successfully negotiated with the East India Company who had 'borrowed' stores from Cox's clients, the Royal Artillery. He arranged to receive repayment from the East India Company by way of plunder from Gheria. He had this converted into silver in India and shipped back to London where the funds could be reunited with the Royal Artillery.

Back home, Cox's house on Albemarle Street (opposite the present day Ritz Hotel) was famous for its raucous and eccentric parties. During his later life, his cellar records show that over 240 bottles of port were consumed in a year with other drinks of choice being claret (44 cases in stock), sherry (86 cases), Madeira (20 cases) and others including champagne, Málaga, Burgundy and Cape. In addition, he was a patron of the arts, being closely acquainted with David Garrick and other notable actors of the time, and was a founding financial investor in the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. He was also a generous benefactor to St George’s Hospital on Hyde Park Corner (now the Lanesborough Hotel).

The records of the family estate at Quarley show that Cox spent over £3,000 per annum running it, much of it lavished on his wife. He often invited people to the estate for weekends to pursue the typical living of a landed country gentleman. It is clear that both in London and the country, Cox was a polished and generous host with a highly engaging personality, and it is little wonder that he was able to make such good connections within London society.

By 1768, Cox & Drummond was flourishing with a turnover of £345,000 per annum. During the 1770s the company continued to grow, aided by war in the American Colonies and the ever present threat of invasion from France. Cox repeated his good fortune with business partners, taking in Mr Mair upon Drummond’s death in 1772, followed by his own son Richard Bethnell Cox in 1779 and then Mr Greenwood in 1783. It was during this time that the company expanded its banking interests, offering loans and accounts to exclusive members of London's elite. Frederick, Duke of York, introduced Cox’s business partner Mr Greenwood to his father George III, as 'Mr Greenwood, the gentlemen who keeps my money' Greenwood replied rather cheekily that, 'I think it is rather his Royal Highness who keeps my money,' to which George III burst out in laughter and said, 'Do you hear that Frederick? Do you hear that? You are the gentleman who keeps Mr Greenwood's money!'

The company was thriving by the time of the outbreak of war with France in 1793 employing some 35 clerks. In 1795 they served 14 regiments of cavalry, 64 infantry regiments and 17 militia regiments, becoming the largest military agent for the army. Richard Cox died in August 1803, leaving his grandson Richard Henry Cox firmly established, with Mr Greenwood as controlling partner. Cox's longevity as a military agent had made the army dependent on his services for the smooth running and organisation of a busy and stretched military serving all around the globe. Cox lived in a time when Britain was radically changing. Rigid social structures were breaking down and enterprising people could make themselves exceptionally wealthy. He was the epitome of those driving the London economy, generously investing in a multitude of people, ideas and commerce.

The 19th century and onwards

Military officers, more especially in their earlier years, are not noted for the exercise of strict economy in their private expenditure, and when the imprudent or unwary subaltern after an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve his position by a desperate resort to Epsom Downs, or to money lenders, saw ruin staring him in the face, it was to Craig's Court that he instinctively bent his steps. There he was sure of an indulgent hearing, and of such material help as the case might admit of, and often when the strict exigencies of business compelled the firm to harden their hearts against the appeal, the generosity of an individual partner would come to the rescue, and by timely aid, accompanied perhaps by a paternal warning for the future, would thus save a young life from wreck.

It was due to these high levels of service that Cox & Co grew through the 18th and 19th centuries. Timely alliances with the great banking families such as the Hammerlseys and Greenwoods secured an established position in London, and by the end of the 19th century most Regiments used Cox & Co as their agents. As the empire grew, Cox & Co met the demand for officers to be looked after.

The company set up five branches in India between 1905 and 1911, supplementing those in Alexandria and Egypt (1919 and 1920) and Rangoon (1921).

When the Great War began Cox & Co employed some 180 staff, of which one third joined the army. During the Great War some 250,000 men were on their books, 50,000 cheques were cleared a day and a special department was set up to deal with the influx of American soldiers in 1917. By the end of the war some 4,500 worked for the firm.

In October 1922, Cox & Co bought Henry S. King Bank, who were had a large network in India. They also moved into new offices in Pall Mall.

In 1923, Cox & Co were still suffering from the downturn in business caused by the surrender of the Germans in 1918. They were forced to sell to Lloyds Bank.

During the 1930s, Lloyds sold their Indian interests to Grindlays Bank who also took the Travel and Shipping Agencies also which continued to flourish in India. When a change in British banking regulations meant Grindlays had to sell off non-banking interests, a partnership between Ajit Kerker and Anthony Good bought Cox & Kings. The company remains independent to this day and is run by CEO Peter Kerkar.

The USA office was opened in June, 1988 in New York, NY. In June, 1998 the USA office was moved to Tampa, FL. The USA office is run by Nathaniel Waring, President.

References and sources

  • Dictionary of National Biography
  • Lloyds Bank Pamphlet (1990), Cox's & King's: The Evolution of a Military Tradition
  • Lloyds TSB Archives. Cox & Co 1758 to 1922 - an excellent selection of company records, the private papers of Richard Cox and partners. Details [1]
  • Marcus Potter (2006) 'Richard Cox' Cox & Kings Travel Compass Magazine
  • Pressnell & Orbell. (1985) Guide to British Banking

External links








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