Sri Lanka Anglo-Burgher Genealogy

Captain James Steuart - Family #1267

                                                                 James Steuart   (1790- 1870

                                                              Founder of the firm George Steuart and Co. Ltd

James Steuart, an intrepid and high principled sea captain who sailed the southern ocean at the beginning of the 19th Century. On a voyage to Ceylon he saw the immense potential for economic development and commerce in Ceylon, and founded the firm of M/S George Steuart and Company in 1835                 



                                                         George Steuart  (1808- 1896)

James Steuart, secured the business to his brother George and named the firm after him as his substantive position at the time as Master Attendant of the Colombo Port  precluded him from engaging in any trade.

History of George Steuart & Company Ltd since 1835

George Steuart & Co. Ltd., one of the oldest mercantile establishments in the world and the oldest business house in Sri Lanka can proudly claim to be heirs to a tradition of unblemished excellence in business, spanning over a century-and-a half of economic development in our island nation.

The Company was founded in 1835 by James Steuart, an intrepid and high-principled sea captain, who sailed the southern ocean at the beginning of the 19th century. In the course of a voyage to Ceylon, as it was known then, he recognized the immense potential for economic development and commerce in this country.

In 1835, James Steuart, with his brothers Joseph and George, set themselves up in Ceylon as Merchant Bankers operating on a modest scale. The    firm gradually grew from its original business into an Agency House. There was clear nexus between the original merchant banking and the Company’s new operations as an Agency House. Soon George Steuart & Co. Ltd. made Ceylon a large-scale producer of coffee.

The major coffee blight of the 1870s wiped out Ceylon’s coffee production altogether, but proved to be no more than a temporary setback for the Company; in the ensuing decade it bounced back into the mainstream of business as tea replaced coffee as the country’s leading export.



Modified Register for Joseph Steuart



First Generation


xe "Steuart, Joseph"      1. Joseph Steuart .

xe "Mott, Hannah"

Joseph married Hannah Mott on 17 Sep 1789 in Greenwich. Middlesex. Hannah was born in 1767 in England. She died on 13 Jun 1849 in Tower Hamlets, England.


They had the following children:


              2 M        i.  Captain James Steuart was born on 14 Aug 1790 in Greenwich, Kent England. He died on 4 Apr 1870 in Dover, England.

xe "Cullen, Ann"James married Ann Cullen daughter of William Cullen and Ann C on 29 Jul 1815. Ann was born in 1793.

xe "Steuart, Joseph"

              3 M       ii.  Joseph Steuart was born in 1799 in England. He died on 9 Apr 1843.

              4 M      iii.  Thomas Steuart was born in 1806. He was christened on 22 Jun 1806.

              5 M      iv.  George Steuart was born on 1 May 1808 in Dover. He was christened on 5 Jun 1808. He died on 8 Jul 1896 in Dover.

xe "Dewsnap, Elizabeth Mary"George married Elizabeth Mary Dewsnap daughter of Joseph Dewsnap and Elizabeth Little on 10 Jul 1837 in Southwark, Middlesex, England. Elizabeth was born in 1804. She was christened on 16 Mar 1804 in Greenwich, Kent. She died on 15 Apr 1847 in Galle Face, Ceylon.



Appendix A  -  Notes

1.  Joseph Steuart

Description Will of Joseph Steuart, Master Mariner of Dover , Kent Date 05 September 1825 Catalogue

reference PROB 11/1704 <

Request Reference=PROB+11%2F1704> <

asp? Request Reference=PROB+11%2F1704> Dept Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Series

Prerogative Court of Canterbury and related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers Piece Name of Register: St. Albans Quire Numbers: 501 - 550 Image contains 1 will of many for the catalogue reference


England & Wales Christening Records, 1530-1906 <

enc=1> _about George Frederick Steuart

Name:        George Frederick Steuart 

Gender:     Male      

Birth Date: 11 Aug 1805        

Christening Date:    12 Aug 1805        

Christening Place:  Westminster, London, England       

Age at Christening: 0             

Father's Name:        James Steuart     

Mother's Name:       Hannah



2.  Captain James Steuart

James Steuart , succeeded James Chrisp as Master attendant on June 1 1825 . He wrote ‘an account of the Pearl fisheries of Ceylon' which was published in Colombo in 1843 , and 'Noteson Ceylon, and its affairs '  , published in London in 1862


' Steuart Place ',  Colpetty, is named after him.  He was a man of considerable ability and active habits ,

Combining as he did the functions of merchant banker and boat owner with those of Master attendant and

Superintendant of the Pearl Fishery


(Ferguson)  (see no 49..   George Stewart   re child 5 on list

         and no. 148  Joseph Steuart


P#94-96 STEUART, G. & CO. The firm of George Steuart & Co. merchants, bankers, estate and commission agents, was first started in 1835 by Captain James Steuart who was at that time Master Attendant of Colombo. On its becoming known that he was engaged in private trade he was ordered by the Government to cease his connections. Other arrangements had to be made and in 1839 he handed over his business to his brother, Joseph Steuart, a Master Mariner. Joseph died in 1843 and a younger brother, Captain George Steuart, assumed control and from that time the name of the firm was George Steuart & Co. James Steuart retired from Government service in 1855. He died in England in 1870 aged 70. Captain George Steuart retired from the firm in 1863 and died in England in 1896 at the age of 88._The main business of the firm has been that of estate agency work. As their minted token indicates, the firm had Wekande Mills (Slave Island, Colombo) which employed over 1,000 hands engaged in curing coffee, cinchona, etc.


Kent, Surrey, London: - Canterbury Marriage Licences, 1810-1837

Volume 35

Volume 35


County: London

Country: England

Jas Steuart of St Mary Dover master mariner bach (24) & Ann Cullen of St Mary Bredin Cant sp (22), at St

Mary Bredin. 29 Jul 1815.


Parish Records Collection - burial

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First name(s):           James

Last name:                STEUART              

Date of burial:          8 Apr 1870

Age at death:            79

Calculated year of birth:         1791

Place of burial:         Worcester

Dedication:               St George

County:      Worcestershire


Among other enterprising settlers who bought land at Darley Road, Vauxhall Street, Kew Gardens and Wekanda and built bungalows and go downs, was a pioneer merchant named James Steuart.

He was a Ships'Captain and Master Mariner, but on arrival in Ceylon in the year 1818, set himself up as

merchant and banker.Steuart purchased an extensive tract of land on the shores of the Beira Lake off

Wekanda, and on the further shore off Polwatte extending to the sea off Galle Face. Here he established his business, and lent his name laterto "Steuart Place", by which we call that section of the Galle Road whichruns through his property.


In this perfect setting James Steuart erected the bungalows which have-long been a feature of Steuart Place.

Their lowslung, slanting roofs and pillared verandahs, have weathered the monsoon storms for over a

century and a half. To this day one may see in the garden behind these houses and off the shores of the

Lake the barn which the first Steuart erected for baling cinnamon and the early bungalow which he is said to have first occupied.




The Steuart story does not however stop at this. A few years later, James Steuart, through political

patronage — which was not out of reckoning eyen in those days, was appointed "Master Attendant of the

Roads of Colombo".


 He was permitted the privilege of retaining his private interests. As Master Attendant, shipping came entirely within his purview. The advantage which accrued to him as a private merchant to hold command over the disposal of cargo awaiting shipping, and to make the allocation of the boats which plied from shore to ship, was apparently resented by the other merchant-shippers who competed with him in business.


The Government of that day in the circumstances found itself "press-ganged" to take some action. This resulted in James Steuart being asked to choose whether he would elect to be Merchant-Banker, or Master Attendant. James Steuart planked for the office of Master Attendant, but wrote immediately to his brother George to come out to Ceylon and take over the Merchant-Banker business. So began the well-established busi­ness house, which came to be cahed George Steuart and Company— raised on the foundation laid by James Steuart twenty five years earlier.

James Steuart by his last will drawn up in 1863, left all those lands and houses on both sides of "the High

Road leading from Colombo to Point de Galle"—subject to certain life interests, to the then Lord Bishop of

Colombo and his successors in office. The net rents and profits were to be applied for the propagation of the Gospel in Ceylon according to the formalities and-doctrines of the Church of England.

The life interests, which in the main concerned two old ladies — his widowed and spinster sisters, and two

nieces—came to an end many years ago




On February 1st, 1820, Sir Robert Brownrigg left Ceylon after an eventiful period of office. The journey back is described by James Steuart, the captain of the ship who later founded the well known Colombo business of George Steuart & Co. In his interesting account of how Governors and elephants travelled in those days, he writes:



3.  Joseph Steuart

       Joseph Steuart Master Mariner of the Port of Dover, and commercial Agent, Colombo, who departed

       this life on 9 April  1843  aged 44  brother of James Steuart       



4.  George Steuart

 In ever loving memory of George Steuart, founder of the firm of George Steuart and Co. Colombo, late of

Waverly Lodge, Blackheath, Kent.   Born at Dover born at Dover 1 may 1808   Died at Dover 8 July 1896


Before he left the Colony, Captain Steuart gave up the agency and founding the eminent firm of Messers

George Steuart and Co (Ferguson) He was at one time commander of the Government steamer Seaforth, 

1840-1842 Colombo, even had its first circulating library in 1801, run by Michael Loghlin, a merchant who had sailed in from Madras. He also ran an auction house. Many other European houses and businesses soon sprang up in the Fort. Many of those who managed these businesses were retired sea captains who found that this was a lucrative opportunity to further their careers. Amongst them were L.D. Bussch, George Steuart, George Boyd, James Steuart, F. B. Montcur, John Pierre Jummeaux, W. C. Gibson and George Winter. There was also an English watchmaker.