Fonds PR-2293 - Pemberton Holmes Ltd. fonds

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Pemberton Holmes Ltd. fonds

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  • graphic material
  • cartographic material
  • textual record
  • architectural drawing
  • technical drawing
  • object

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds

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  • [ca. 1857-1991], predominant 1890-1950 (Creation)
    Pemberton Holmes Ltd.

Physical description area

Physical description

ca. 56 metres of textual records and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1887 -)

Administrative history

Pemberton Holmes Ltd. originated with its predecessor company, Pemberton & Son, a partnership formed in 1887 in Victoria, B.C., between Joseph Despard Pemberton and his eldest son, Frederick B. Pemberton. J.D. Pemberton died in 1893, and the company became jointly owned by Frederick, in the leading role, together with his brother, Joseph, who did surveying work. The Pembertons first described themselves as "civil engineers, architects and surveyors," but the company soon branched out and became one of the largest private mortgage brokerage businesses in British Columbia. In this era, mortgage lending by banks was not permitted, and mortgage money was scarce. The Pembertons successfully sought private investors in England, where capital was more readily available, and where investing in mortgages was deemed more acceptable. Company activities included real estate sales, insurance, investments and building loans, and property management. Other activities, added later, included stocks, bonds and securities, safety deposit boxes, real estate appraisals, and brokers for lumber and timber.

Pemberton & Son were active in real estate and investment in land and industries throughout the province, particularly on Vancouver Island, Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Merritt, Enderby, the Cariboo region and the Kootenay mining districts. Pemberton's major clients included Anderson, Anderson & Company of London; in 1886 that company began to develop a townsite at Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island, selling lots from the original large land grant by Sir James Douglas.

The sale and servicing of fire insurance was naturally related to their mortgage business. In 1893 Pemberton & Son became agents for Sun Insurance Office of England. By 1900 they were agents for North British & Mercantile Insurance Company, and in the next decade they added the Scottish Union & National Insurance Company and the Home Insurance Company of New York. After his appointment as a notary public in 1888, F.B. Pemberton did notarial work, preparing documents for vendors and purchasers, drawing conveyances, and registering transfers of property to ensure they complied with Land Registry requirements.

The Pembertons were active in mortgages and real estate in Vancouver and North Vancouver in the growth period of the 1890s, and F.B. Pemberton opened a branch office of Pemberton & Son in Vancouver in 1910. This branch was acquired by its manager and employees in 1926; they incorporated as Pemberton & Son (Vancouver) Ltd. and became legally separate. Pemberton & Son (Vancouver) Ltd. was dissolved in 1953 after its business had been taken over by the newly-formed Pemberton Securities Ltd. This company used the Pemberton name but had no connection to the Pemberton or Holmes families.

In 1920, F.B. Pemberton was joined in the company by his son-in-law, Henry Cuthbert Holmes. In 1923 Francis John Dupont "Jake" Pemberton, youngest son of Frederick, joined the firm. In 1933, F.B. Pemberton, Holmes and Jake Pemberton decided to end the firm's partnership status and incorporate under the name Pemberton & Son Ltd. Holmes took over the presidency, and in 1944, the directors changed the name to Pemberton, Holmes Ltd. In 1946, they incorporated a new company under the old "Pemberton & Son Ltd." name in order to safeguard that name for future use. This new company remained a non-active subsidiary until 1986. In 1948 the company expanded its staff and services, sold the Pemberton Building on Fort Street (now known as the Yarrow Building), and moved to 1002 Government Street.

By the mid-1970s, the company received its income from real estate commissions and appraisal fees, insurance commissions, mortgage brokerage and collection charges, and rental collection charges. Their real estate department included an Industrial, Commercial and Investment (IC&I) group, a country and island group, and a residential group. The company had offices in Sidney and Ganges, on Salt Spring Island. According to its 1974 annual president's report, the company was also moving into areas such as foreign investment, feasibility studies, property and investment analysis, property development and subdivision, and commercial and warehouse leasing.

From 1965 to 1988, the company was guided by the son of Henry Cuthbert Holmes, Philip ("Pip") Despard Pemberton Holmes. In 1982, Pip Holmes proposed separating the business operations of Pemberton, Holmes Ltd. from its real estate holdings, in order to allow the business to pass to a new generation at an affordable price while keeping the real estate holdings in the hands of the existing shareholders. To accomplish this, in 1986, Pemberton, Holmes Ltd. sold to Pemberton & Son Ltd. all of the business operations of the company, comprising its insurance, real estate, property management, and mortgage broker business. The switching of names took place in 1987 (Pemberton & Son Ltd. changed its name to Pemberton, Holmes Ltd., and Pemberton, Holmes Ltd. changed its name to Pemberton & Son Ltd.). The officers and directors of the two companies were the same, and Pemberton Holmes Ltd. was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the holding company, Pemberton & Son Ltd.

The Pemberton and Holmes families and their companies supported charitable causes, contributing to hospitals, schools, and the creation of parks and greenbelt lands. In each generation, family members maintained an active interest in community affairs, politics, and city planning in Victoria.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of the business records of Pemberton Holmes Ltd. and its predecessor companies, including Pemberton & Son, Pemberton & Son Ltd. and Pemberton, Holmes Ltd. It also consists of records which relate to personal business activities and personal family matters. The records were created between 1859 and 1989, with the bulk of the material dating from the founding of Pemberton & Son in 1887 to approximately 1950. The records document the business and economic life of the province, and many aspects of social history. The geographic scope of the records includes the entire province of British Columbia, and to a lesser degree, parts of the Prairie Provinces and Washington State. Of particular significance are records for Victoria, Oak Bay, Port Alberni and southern Vancouver Island, Vancouver and the lower mainland of British Columbia.

The company records are evidence of a wide range of business and legal transactions, including the brokering of private mortgages, property sales and transfers, the renting of residences and small business premises, insurance purchases and servicing, estate management, and investments in industries such as mining. The parties to the business and legal transactions range from large companies and institutions to the average person wishing to rent or purchase a house, lot or farm. The records reflect that a major client of Pemberton & Son was the Anglican Synod of the Diocese of British Columbia, for whom the company served as financial agent.

The company remained a family enterprise, and it appears the principals of the company tended to maintain personal records intermingled with company records. Frederick B. Pemberton was principal trustee of the J.D. Pemberton estate, which included large land holdings in Oak Bay, which over time were sold and subdivided. The records reflect the fact that the management of the family estate was integrated with the activities of the company. Furthermore, just as his father had farmed in Oak Bay, Frederick operated a farm in Gordon Head and an 1100-acre farm at Cowichan Station; the records generated by these operations were closely interwoven with the company. Similarly, in the case of Brentwood College, the principals of Pemberton Holmes Ltd. had a personal involvement in its founding and management, and at the same time, their company had a business relationship with the school. Personal records include but are not limited to: tax returns, insurance policies, and records concerning purchase and sale of securities, goods and services. They also consist of family photographs, ephemera, and correspondence. The latter includes letters from J.D. Pemberton to his daughter, the artist, Sophie Pemberton.

The fonds includes approximately 2750 business files, originally in docket envelopes, which made up the main filing system of Pemberton & Son and its successor companies. Most of these files consist of client transaction records, including business and legal documents with accompanying correspondence. A majority of the files concern specific properties or lots, and relate to the sale, conveyance, mortgage, rent or lease of those properties. A smaller number relate to a person, estate, organization, company, or subject, but not to a specific property. The physical housing of these files was, in most cases, a string-bound, reinforced, docket envelope, which contained the folded documents. The fonds also consists of a large group of financial records, including 103 bound ledger books, journals and cash books. There originally were links between these financial records and the docket files, but it is often not possible now to establish those links, and significant gaps exist for both groups of records.

Other textual materials include correspondence, annual reports, minutes of directors and shareholder meetings, monthly and annual financial statements and reports, tax returns, legal documents including wills and other estate records, records for real estate sales particularly in the Greater Victoria area, and routine office records. Records of some clients (notably, relating to an estate) have been maintained as they were originally filed, in their own series. There is a smaller amount of ephemera, including newspapers, scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, and collected published material including brochures and pamphlets.

The records include published and unpublished maps, fire insurance maps, subdivision plans, blueprints, architectural drawings, advertising display materials, and photographs of the Pemberton Holmes buildings and various buildings and locations in Victoria and the south Vancouver Island region.

The fonds also contains business and personal records of Frederick George Pennington (Fred) Maurice, who worked for the company for 52 years (ca. 1926-1977) and who became a director of the company. In the 1980s, in his retirement, Fred Maurice wrote an unpublished history, which is a part of the fonds. Largely anecdotal in nature, his manuscript covers Pemberton and Holmes family history (ca. 1850 to 1940) and company history (ca. 1887 to 1940). In the course of his research, it appears Maurice removed some records from their original locations. His handwritten annotations and bookmarks also appear on or with some of the records.

The Pemberton & Son office building at Fort and Broad Street, Victoria, BC, was destroyed by fire on March 23, 1909. In his history, Fred Maurice attributes "significant blanks" in the company's early records to this fire.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated to the Royal BC Museum by Michael Holmes and Richard Holmes, representing Pemberton Holmes Ltd. and Pemberton & Son Ltd. on October 25, 2012


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Contact BC Archives to determine the access status of the records

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Contact BC Archives to determine the terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Series descriptions and file lists are available
A subject index to the series is available:

Associated materials

Related material at BC Archives can be found in:
PR-0414 - Pemberton family fonds
PR-1102 - Ada Beaven fonds
PR-0415 - Joseph Despard Pemberton fonds

Two 'For Sale' signs, and one Pemberton Holmes window sign were transferred over to Modern History in 2021 (2012.249.1, 2012.249.2 and 2012.249.3)

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Further accruals are possible

General note

Accession number(s): 2012.249 ; 2015.209

Physical description

Includes ca. 600 photographs, ca. 300 maps and diagrams, ca. 100 architectural drawings, 4 objects

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