All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

The Caldbeck & MacGregor Building

Posted: January 25th, 2010 | No Comments »

Last year I posted an old ad from 1936 for Shanghai International Settlement’s finest and longest established Wine and Spirit Merchants, Messers Caldbeck and MacGregor. A couple of people evinced an interest in a little history. Well, here are their premises at their traditional address of No. 4 Foochow Road (Fuzhou Road), close to the Bund. They survived several buildings on that site – though all contained a private bar for good clients and friends and before the 1930s provided about the best place to go for a serious drinking session.

They recreated an English taproom in the back and their last building (as shown below) basically looked like a pub in the Cotswold’s. They specialised in wines and spirits but also sold the Aquarius brand of bottled water (which lives on, sort of, in name at least, as a brand of Chinese made water dispenser and bottled water) – some lightly filtered Soochow Creek soup was not known to be good for the stomach. They also started importing beer from both Chinese breweries up in Tsingtao etc and from British India and even West of Suez. However, drinkers complained that imported beer was always horribly expensive, never served correctly and tasted poor in Shanghai (a fact that appears not to have changed).

Below are the former premises of Caldbeck MacGregor on Foochow Road. As you can see from the commemoration stone laid upon the opening of the building, this structure was completed in 1937. The contractors were Sin Jin Kee (‘Sin’ meaning new and Jin Kee being the Hong name for Gibb, Livingston & Co. Ltd who’s offices were just round the corner on Jinkee Road (Dianchi Road). The architects were the well known firm, who built many, many impressive structures in Shanghai between the wars, Palmer & Turner. As for the man who laid the stone, Sir John Brenan, well, he served as British Consul-General in 1930 and emerged during the Second World War as one of Britain’s leading authorities on China in the Far Eastern Department of the War Office. Brenan was a well-known name in Shanghai thanks to Sir John’s uncle Byron Brenan, who served as the British Consul-General in Shanghai in 1899 and got a road named after him – Brenan Road (Changning Road in Hongkew).

Caldbeck McG - Foochow Rd - jan 10 - 1.jpg

Caldbeck McG - Foochow Rd - jan 10 - 3.jpg

Sir John Brenan sign - foochow rd.jpg

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