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MS 363 Papers of Sir Robert Waley Cohen and Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen

Sir Robert Waley Cohen

Sir Robert Waley Cohen (1877-1952) was born in London in September 1877, the second son of Nathaniel Louis Cohen and his wife, Julia Matilda Cohen. Waley Cohen was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, and then on a science scholarship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Initially, after Cambridge, Waley Cohen took unpaid research work at the Meteorological Office, but in 1901 began working for Shell. The following year Shell and Royal Dutch joined forces and in 1903 they formed the Asiatic Petroleum Company. Waley Cohen was appointed as assistant manager. He was to remain working with the company until his retirement in 1928. Waley Cohen was involved in various international negotiations and deals on behalf of Shell, including with the Egyptian government concerning exploration rights and the building of a refinery at Suez and, in 1910, to purchase the Shanghai-Langkat Oil Company in the Far East, greatly expanding Shell's influence in that area of the world. During the First World War, Waley Cohen was appointed petroleum adviser to the Army Council. He was appointed KBE in 1920, in recognition of this work.

Waley Cohen was involved in Anglo-Jewish community activities throughout his life. For nearly forty years he was a leading figure in the United Synagogue and still held the office of President at his death. He was a founder member of the Council for Christians and Jews, and played an active role in the organisation. Although opposed to Zionism, he helped to create the Palestine Corporation. Waley Cohen supported the educational institutions which he had attended, and he was involved in the Sir William Ramsay centenary appeal at University College, London.

In 1904 Waley Cohen married his kinswoman, Alice Violet Beddington (1882–1935). They had three children, but she died as a result of a motor accident in Palestine in 1935. Waley Cohen died at his London home in November 1952.

Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen

Sir Bernard Nathanuel Waley-Cohen, first Baronet, (1914-1991) was born on in May 1914, the elder son of Sir Robert Waley Cohen and Alice Violet Beddington. He was educated at: Wellesley House, Broadstairs, HMS Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, Clifton College, Bristol, where he became head of Polack’s, the Jewish House founded by his great uncle, Lionel Cohen, and Magdalene College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge, Waley-Cohen helped to found the undergraduate newspaper, Varsity Weekly. From 1932 to 1923, he was a member of the Public Schools Empire Tour to New Zealand; he represented Clifton at Duke of York’s Camp, Southwold in 1932 and from 1933 to 1936 he was a member of staff of Duke of York’s Camp. From 1936 to 1939 he was active in London Boys Club Movement.

In 1937, he joined the Honourable Artillery Company but was discharged after an accident the following year. During the Second World War, he served as an executive officer attached to the Port of London Emergency Service, in the Home Guard and, from 1940-7, as principal at the Ministry of Fuel and Power, concerned with building up emergency stocks of coal at strategic positions throughout the United Kingdom.

Waley-Cohen’s career in the city began at Lloyds in 1936. He became chairman of Simo Properties Ltd and Subsidiary and Associated Companies in 1955 and from 1955-9, he was chairman of Abbotsbury Investments Limited and Subsidiaries. In addition, he became director of O.M.Kleeman Limited in 1957, director of Teetgen and Company Limited in 1958 and chairman of Carlisle Property Trust Limited and Subsidiaries in 1959. He became a director of the Palestine Corporation; in 1947 he was made Vice Chairman, and in 1952 Chairman, of the Palestine Corporation and Associated Companies (Merchant Investment Banking in the Middle East).

In 1936 Waley-Cohen became a liveryman of the Clothworkers’ Company. In 1949, he was appointed one of HM Lieutenants for the City of London and elected as 98th alderman for the Portsoken Ward and in 1955 he was elected sheriff and then in 1957, created KBE. Waley-Cohen was elected Lord Mayor in 1960. In 1961 he was elevated to a baronetcy and ten years later, in 1971, he was appointed a commissioner and deputy chairman of the Public Works Loans Commission.

He held numerous positions on Anglo-Jewish organisations including: Vice President of the United Synagogue; Treasurer of the Jewish Welfare Board; Honorary Treasurer of the Jewish Board of Guardians,1948-53; a member of the Finance Committee and Council of Clifton College and a member of the College Committee and Chairman of University College, London, 1971-80.

In 1952, Waley-Cohen inherited from his father the Honeymead Estate at Simonsbath on Exmoor, where he bred prize winning cattle and sheep. He also was a member of the General Purposes and Finance Committee of the British Field Sports Society

About the collection

The papers of Sir Robert Waley Cohen (A3006/1) are divided into three series: personal and family papers, 1882-1952; a small series of speeches and publications by Robert Waley Cohen; and alphabetical sequences of files that form the bulk of this part of the archive.

Personal and family papers include: transcript of letters and correspondence, 1882-1920, from Waley Cohen to his parents, including from Clifton College and from Cambridge; personal and family correspondence, 1904-52, including between Waley Cohen, his wife Alice and their children, a series of letters to Oliver and Hetty Sebag-Montefiore, 1950-2; papers relating to the death of Alice Waley Cohen, 1935; condolence letters and papers relating to Waley Cohen’s death, 1952-3; papers relating to Waley Cohen’s estate and pension, 1947-8, 1951-60; illness, 1951; police summons and Automobile Association, 1920-50; property at Honeymead, Exmoor, 1926-52 and Kenwood, 1919-26; recollections of Waley Cohen; account book of Alice and Robert Waley Cohen for stocks 1911-15; Cohen and Waley family histories papers and photographs of Cohen family members.

Text of speeches and articles by Waley Cohen, 1914-52; correspondence, answers to queries relating to biography, 1931-8, 1962; correspondence regarding a paper by William Napier Shaw and Robert Waley Cohen to the Royal Society, c.1900-1.

Alphabetical sequences of files: business, Shell and oil industry files relating to Admiralty and fuel contracts, 1913-20; African and Eastern Trade Corporation Ltd, 1922-31, 1961; Baldwins, 1929-36; business, 1906-50; Petrol and War Office, 1918-19, 1960, n.d.; Royal Commission on Fuel and Engines, 1911, n.d.; Shell, 1899-1960: TNT - “Double bottoms”, 1915, 1918; United Africa Company, 1929-33,1960.

Files of individuals: Sir Oswald d’Avigdor Goldsmid, 1919-43; Norman Bentwich, 1939-41; Sir Basil Henriques and Jewish Fellowship, 1916-47; Neville Laski, 1934-9; A.H.Richards and Defence of Freedom and Peace, 1936-7; Rothschild family members, 1929-52, and a letter from [Nathaniel Rothschild, first Lord] Rothschild, President of the United Synagogue, to Nathaniel Cohen concerning a scheme for the foundation of a synagogue in East London 11 Mar 1890; Isidore Salmon and Lord Samuel, 1929-39; Charles Singer, 1936-40; Sir Arthur Wauchope, High Commissioner for Palestine, 1933-7; Chaim Weizmann, 1920-45.

Organisations and subject files: American League for a Free Palestine, 1945; Anglo-Jewish Association, 1943, 1948; Anglo-Jewry and essential services, 1942; appeals and jobs and charity,1915-18; Cambridge, Hillel House, Perse School, 1925-9; Cambridge Synagogue, 1920-8, 1935-7, c.1960s; Cambridge University, 1919-60, including Cambridge University Appointments Board, 1899-1934, 1956, Jewish students, 1938, and H.O.Jones Memorial Fund, 1912; charity, 1919-52; Chief Rabbi, 1928, 1931; civic, 1923-52, including the Clothworkers’ Company luncheon, 1940-9; Clifton College, Bristol, 1918-52, including Association of Governing Bodies of Public Schools, 1941-3, Albert Polack presentation, 1949, Joseph Polack Memorial Scholarship,1932-5, B.W.Watson legacy, 1942-5; Council of Christians and Jews, 1942-6, 1952-60; Economic Board of Palestine, later Economic Board for Israel, 1920-55; First World War, 1914-18; Germany and Jews, 1934-6; Jewish community, 1913-52, including United Synagogue; Jewish defence and refugees, 1938-42; Jewish Museum, 1931-2; Jewish religious education, 1941; Jewish Religious Education Board festival dinner, 1925-6; Jewish Welfare Council for the Troops, Central Council for the Welfare of Jewish Members of the Forces, Jewish War Memorial Council and War Memorial Fund,1919-20; Jewish War Memorial and Jews’ College, London, 1920-30; Jewish war problems; 1939-44; Jewish youth movement, 1937; Jews College, London, 1938; jobs: correspondence 1920-49; League of Nations Union, Headway, Focus Publishing Company, 1937-9; music, 1919-52; Palestine and Zionism, 1917-49; Palestine Corporation Ltd, 1921-52, 1960; politics, 1923-48: including correspondence with F.Stanley Jacskon, MP, Lord Jessel, Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Davies; Public Schools Appointments Bureau, 1948-50; refugee camps, Kitchener, Haig and Richborough Camps, 1939-40; refugees, 1939-43, including emigration, 1939, evacuees, 1940-1, children, 8 Feb 1939, and Jewish, 1943; religious revival, 1940-1; shechita, 1932; letters to The Times, 1930-49; University College London, 1930-52,; University College London and Ramsay Memorial, 1926-9; youth club work, charity, music, c.1960

Chronological sequence of files, 1920-47, 1956

The papers of Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen (A3006/2) contain general personal papers and correspondence, 1860, 1920-90; papers regarding Bernard Waley-Cohen’s schools and colleges, 1930s-1977; the 1928 Rodney Term at Dartmouth Britannia Royal Naval College, 1946-86; the Waley-Cohen Honeymead estate, field sports, farming and horses, 1860, 1930s-80s; the Portsoken Ward and Lodge and St. Botolph-without-Aldgate, the Portsoken Ward Church, 1921-88; papers as sheriff and alderman of the City of London, 1954-6; papers as Lord Mayor of London, 1960-2, papers regarding Bernard Waley-Cohen’s magistracy, 1957-79; papers about the Wisdom Trust, 1944-66; Bernard Waley-Cohen’s property companies, 1957-65; Waley-Cohen’s work in Jewish communal leadership, 1940s-1990 and many photographs, mostly from Waley-Cohen’s mayoralty year but also family photographs.

Date range:

1860, 1882-1990

Former references:



107 boxes




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