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John Dent (merchant)

John Dent
Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong
In office
26 December 1857 – 8 November 1861
Appointed by Sir George Bowen
Preceded by J. F. Edger
Succeeded by Francis Chomley
In office
12 May 1866 – 20 June 1867
Preceded by Francis Chomley
Succeeded by Phineas Ryrie
Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council
In office
April 1871 – January 1873
Preceded by George Dixwell
Succeeded by Robert Fearon
Chairman of the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation
In office
January 1866 – February 1867
Preceded by Francis Chomley
Succeeded by E. Cunningham
Personal details
Born 1821
Died 1892 (aged 71)
Occupation Businessman
The fountain in front of the old City Hall was built on the donation of John Dent.

John Dent (1821–1892) was an English merchant of the then prominent trading firm Dent & Co. and member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council.


John was born in 1821 in the Far East merchant family. His uncle Thomas Dent started the Dent & Co. in Canton in the 1820s and his two other uncles Lancelot and Wilkinson Dent were the heads of the firm[1] and led to the firm into one of the largest hongs in China and early colonial Hong Kong.

John Dent joined Dent & Co. and became the senior partner of the firm. In 1863, he was elected the third chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. He played a leading role in the establishment of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company[1] and was one of the proprietors when the bank was incorporated in 1866.[2] He returned to London in 1864 with a fortune of about £800,000, which he amassed in China, and joined the formation of the Blakely Ordnance Company and became the chairman of the firm with the capital of £120 000.[3]

John Dent was appointed an unofficial Justice of the Peace in 1844. In 1857, he was appointed member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong.[4] He resigned from the office in 1861 and replaced by Francis Chomley,[5] another partner of the Dent & Co.. He was reappointed to the Legislative Council in 1866.[6] He resigned in 1867 after his firm went bankrupt in 1867 and was replaced by Phineas Ryrie.[7] Dent was also appointed consul for the Kingdom of Sardinia and later the Kingdom of Italy in Hong Kong from 1858 to 1867.[8][9][10]

Dent & Co. went bankrupt in 1867 during the worldwide financial crisis which originated in 1866 in London. They suffered a loss of no less than £200,000 by the malversations of a Portuguese clerk in their employment at Shanghai who was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.[3] The petition for adjudication of bankruptcy was filed in the Supreme Court of Hong Kong on 29 June 1867.[11] Dent had to removed his headquarters in Shanghai and sold the Dent Building to the Hong Kong Hotel Co.

Dent was noted for his luxurious lifestyle which he was reported to have spent £10,000 on a racehorse to win the Hong Kong cup.[1] The clock-tower at the end of Pedder Street and the entrance to Queen's Road in Central, Hong Kong, erected by public subscription in 1862, was at the suggestion of John Dent, whose original design had to be stripped of its original decorative features, owing to the waning enthusiasm of the community.[12] John Dent also donated a fountain at the entrance of the old City Hall.[13]

In 1870, Dent recommenced business as Dent & Co in Shanghai in the premises previously occupied by his old firm.[14] In April 1871 he became the Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council and served in that position until January 1873[15]


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  14. ^ Notice in the North China Herald, June 16, 1870, p437
  15. ^ The Chronicle & Directory for China and Japan 1872, entry for Dent; Municipal Council Report and Budget 1874, p4-5
Legislative Council of Hong Kong
New seat Unofficial Member
With: George Lyall (1857–1860)
Alexander Perceval, Angus Fletcher (1860–1861)
Succeeded by
Francis Chomley
Preceded by
Francis Chomley
Unofficial Member
Served alongside: James Whittall, Hugh Bold Gibb
Succeeded by
Phineas Ryrie
Senior Unofficial Member
Succeeded by
James Whittall
Business positions
Preceded by
Francis Chomley
HSBC Chairman
Succeeded by
E. Cunningham
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