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The East India Company

Introduction
Early years
The London headquarters
Ships and shipbuilding
A dangerous business
Company cargoes
The East India Docks
Final years
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The London headquarters

The Old East India House

The Old East India House in Leadenhall Street (1648-1726).
View full size imageThe Old East India House (1648-1726). © NMM

The East India Company's first premises were in the City at Leadenhall Street. This was the 'great mansion house' of Sir William Craven, who had been Lord Mayor of London in 1610.

This structure was rebuilt in 1726 and then replaced in 1799-1800 by a much larger building designed by the architect Richard Jupp. 

The New East India House

Opened in April 1800, the 'New East India House', was described by C. Northcote Parkinson:

Quotation marks left
A view of the East-India House, Leadenhall Street.
View full size imageNew East India House, Leadenhall Street. © NMM
Austere, classical and built of stone. The pillars crowned by a pediment containing figures in relief, designed to indicate the nature of the business transacted within its walls.

Commerce, represented by Mercury, attended by Navigation, and followed by Tritons on Sea Horses, is introducing Asia to Britannia, at whose feet she pours out her treasures.

East India Company House in 1817.
View full size imageEast India Company House in 1817. © NMM

The King is holding the shield of protection over the head of Britannia and of Liberty, who is embraced by her - By the side of His Majesty sits Order, attended by Religion and Justice. In the background is the City Barge etc. near to which stand Industry

Quotation marks right
and Integrity - The Thames fills the angle to the right-hand, and the Ganges the angle towards the East.

Opulent surroundings

Interior of East India House.
View full size imageInterior of East India House. © NMM

It was within the opulent surroundings of East India House that the courts of the Company were held, and all its official and general business conducted. Later on, as the Company grew to become the dominant commercial and political power in India, huge areas of the sub-continent itself were governed from Leadenhall Street.

The Company's power and prestige always ensured that events at East India House captured the attention of the British government and the capital's elite.

The end of an era

Mantlepiece from East India House.
View full size imageMantlepiece from East India House. © NMM

James Mill, the Scottish philosopher and author of the History of British India (1817) worked there, as did his son, J. S. Mill, who entered as a clerk in 1823 before eventually becoming head of his department.

The building was pulled down in 1862 to make way for the offices of Lloyd's. Its furniture had already disappeared several years before into the India Office in Whitehall.

Today, no trace remains of the Company's splendid headquarters. The new Lloyd's Building stands in its place.

 


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Find out more
GalleriesThe Lords of the Ocean: Ships of the East India Company
The East India Company's ships were the most magnificent vessels of their era
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory GreenwichNew Opportunities Fund 
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