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In 1730, Henry Burmester and John Nash founded Burmester & Nash in London, a cereal trading company. They moved to Vila Nova de Gaia and in 1750 began shipping port wine to the British Isles and the rest of Europe. The family name originates from the German word 'Burgmeester', meaning 'mayor' - as the family came from the small north Germany city of Moelln.
The firm was dissolved at the end of the 18th century, when Henry Burmester Jr. and his two sons, Fredrick and Edward, set up a new port wine company, H.Burmester & Sons.
After the death of his father in 1822, Fredrick became a prominent member of the British community in Portugal as Treasurer of the Factory House in Porto, whilst continuing to pursue his business interests in London as a founding member of the Westminster Bank. From among the 12 siblings, it was John William Burmester who operated in the financial sector, founding and running the London County Banking Company.
The invasion of Portugal by Napoleon's troops forced Frederick Burmester to abandon the country for a time, leaving no direct descendents behind him. Later, in 1834, Johann Wilhelm Burmester, a distant relative from Hamburg, was asked to run the port wine side of the company, changing the company name to J.W. Burmester & Cº in 1880.
His marriage produced six sons, who all continued the family's commercial interests in the areas of port wine, insurance, bottle production, shipping and textiles. The eldest son, Gustav Adolf, together with his brother Otto, were the two great port entrepreneurs of Casa Burmester.
The First World War had a fairly negative impact upon the port sector. It was up to the new generation to ensure the business got back on track. João Guilherme Burmester, his son-in-law, Hans Steinmetz, and his nephew, Karl Gilbert, oversaw the company's recovery, assisting and becoming involved in the creation of new organisations that began regulating production, sales and exports from the port sector.
From 1952 onwards, the Burmester Gilbert generation - Helmut and Arnold- took over the business, having founded, in 1962 another port company - Gilberts e Cº. From generation to generation, the Burmesters and Gilberts were noted for their know-how and commitment to the port business, raising the Burmester profile and ensuring the highest level of international recognition.
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