Formerly:    J & F Graham Shipping Co.
Address:     80 Strand Road
Year built:   1900
Architect:    Thomas Swales (architect), Robinson & Mundy (contractors)

Thanks to its wealthy, diplomatic ownership, this building is in immaculate shape. Its fine lattice windows and entrance awning, covering the sidewalk, give it elegant airs in a stretch of Strand Road full of impressive buildings. The British Council operates here and offers English language classes. The back of the building is rather unattractive, facing a parking lot that separates it from the Strand Mansion. Both 37th and 38th Street are blocked at the Strand Road end for security reasons.

Diplomatic ownership ensures the building’s immaculate shape

The building, completed in 1900, was first the Rangoon headquarters of Glasgow-based shipping and insurance company J & F Graham. The company already had branches in Bombay and Calcutta when they came to Burma at the end of the 19th century. Like most companies of its kind, J & F Graham Shipping Co. had a litany of exclusive distribution deals with companies from other parts of the Empire. They imported and exported most imaginable products.

The Royal Court of Arms can be found above the entrance

The British Embassy took over the property after Burmese independence in 1948. Ironically maybe, it became a popular venue for students in the 1980s. They were attracted by the country’s only English language library, which offered a regular supply of uncensored Western media as well as the free use of a photocopier. By contrast, the mere possession of an unauthorised typewriter outside the embassy was a punishable offence. On 8 August 1988, dockworkers walked down Strand Road from the port until they reached the embassy. In the present-day lore of the 1988 events, it is said they stopped at the embassy and laid down their tools in symbolic protest. This simple act was the beginning of a national strike that led to the historic uprisings.