British Consuls in South Formosa

Charles Carroll

The Takao Club

Charles Carroll


 China Consular Service

      Charles Carroll was the Acting Consul for Taiwan [臺灣] from November 1866 to December 1867, and spent much of his time living at Ch’i-hou [旗後], on the south side of the Takow [打狗] lagoon, in the old MacPhail building, which had been leased by the British government. Carroll was acting Consul at the time of the wreck of the American barque Rover, under Captain Hunt, in March 1867 on some rocks off the south-east coast shore of Taiwan. The captain, his wife and all of the crew except for one Chinese sailor were slaughtered by the local aborigines. When the news reached Takow, Carroll accompanied Commander George Doherty Broad of H.M.S. Cormorant down to the South Cape, or O-luan-pi [鵝鑾鼻], to investigate. The landing party, which included the intrepid Carroll, was met by a volley of musketry and a shower of arrows: one seaman was wounded and the ship’s boat beat a hasty retreat. Nothing daunted, when the American frigate Hartford and corvette Wyoming came down from Japan in June 1867 under Rear Admiral Henry Haywood Bell to avenge these murders, Acting Consul Carroll accompanied the Americans. Again in one of the landing parties, Carroll found himself in an ambush and narrowly escaped death, a fate which befell the leader of his party, Lieutenant Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s body was brought back to Takow and buried in the grounds of the British Consulate at Ch’i-hou, there being no foreign cemetery at that time: the remains were later removed by the Americans who managed to lose them upon arrival back in the United States. Charles Carroll succeeded Thomas Watters and was replaced by Thomas Adkins.

      Charles Carroll was born in 1837 at Finsbury, Middlesex, the fourth son of Samuel Carroll, an East India Merchant, and Martha Charlton. At an early age he joined the army and fought in the Crimea in 1855-56. He returned to work in a mercantile house, probably that of his father in Mincing Lane, London, which traded with China and the Straits Settlement. Carroll entered the China Class at King’s College, London, from where he joined the China Consular Service in 1858. He was first posted to Foochow [福州] on 21 September 1858 as a Student Interpreter, and spent much of his time at Foochow rising to 1st Assistant and Acting Consul at that port in 1866. There followed his posting to Taiwan, before his return to Foochow and final posting to Pagoda Island [羅星塔] as Vice Consul from 15 June 1868 until his death on 28 December 1876.

      Although it was common for bachelor Consular officers to have Chinese mistresses, the situation was tolerated as long as scandal did not ensue. Scandal did ensue for Carroll when it was discovered in May 1868 that the Chinese woman with whom he had lived for years had been using her position to maintain an illegal gambling-house. Whether this extended back to his time in Taiwan is not known, but seems almost certain, in any case the scandal stymied Carroll’s hopes of promotion to Consul and set his thoughts of marriage in motion. First he travelled to New Zealand in 1869-1870 to visit his family who had emigrated to Wellington in 1862, and where his mother had died in October 1865. Then he travelled back to England, where he married Eleanor Rampling Neale Ward, the daughter of John Rampling Neale Ward, the proprietor of the Eagle Inn in New Road, and Eleanor Radcliffe, in early 1871 at Gravesend, Kent.

      Charles Carroll and Eleanor Rampling Neale Carroll née Ward had four children: Charles Edward Carroll, born c1873 at Foochow; John Cecil Carroll born 26 July 1874 at Edinburgh, Midlothian, and christened at St George, Gravesend, Kent; Francis Radcliffe Carroll, born on 12 December 1875 at Foochow; and Eleanor Florence Carroll, born c1877 at Foochow.

      Charles Carroll died of apoplexy on 28 December 1876 at Nantai [南台], the foreign settlement at Foochow, yet his widow, Eleanor Rampling Neale Carroll, proved herself to be highly capable. Back in England, Eleanor Carroll took up teaching and was soon the principal of a private girls’ school, which she developed into the Crescent House College, Bromham Road, Bedford. After retiring from the college in 1913, Eleanor Rampling Neale Carroll lived on to die at the age of 90 on 31 December 1939 at North Lea, 1 Mill Road, Eastbourne, Sussex.

     According to the 1911 England Census, Charles Carroll and Eleanor Rampling Neale Carroll née Ward had five children that were born alive. In 1911 only three were still living and two had died; of the three it was only possible to trace two: Francis Radcliffe Carroll; and Eleanor Florence Carroll.

      Francis Radcliffe Carroll was educated at Bedford Grammar School and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1894, obtaining a B.A. in 1897. After becoming an M.R.C.S., and L.R.C.P. (London) in 1901, he became House Physician at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, until 1903, when he became House Surgeon at the Metropolitan Hospital until 1904. On 6 November 1909 Francis Radcliffe Carroll, a Physician and Surgeon at Caterham, Surrey, married Dorothy Lawson Whale, the daughter of George Whale, a Solicitor, and Matilda Mary Ann Lawson, at St John’s Church, Blackheath, Greenwich, London. For many years he was general practice as Carroll, Hill and Avery in Caterham. Francis Radcliffe Carroll of The Corner, Whyteleafe Road, Caterham, Surrey, died aged 71 on 19 April 1947 at Caterham and District Hospital, Croydon Road, Caterham. His widow, Dorothy Lawson Carroll of The Corner, Caterham, Surrey, died aged 85 on 14 October 1964 at The General Hospital, Redhill, Surrey.

       Eleanor Florence Carroll married Guy Sully Owen, a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, the younger son of Arthur Owen, the Principal Clerk at Trinity House, and Mary Webber, in 1914 at Bedford. Guy Sully Owen of The Anchorage, Stockcroft Road, Balcombe, Sussex, died aged 83 on 18 January 1962 at 61 St Georges Square, Westminster. Eleanor Florence Owen died aged 90 in 1967 at Hounslow, Greater London.

Sources: Lo Hui-min and Bryant, Helen; British Diplomatic and Consular Establishments in China: 1793-1949, Volume II Consular Establishments 1843-1949; SMC Publishing Inc., Taipei, Taiwan, 1988.

The National Archives, British Foreign Office Files, series FO 228 (China) and series FO 262 (Japan).

Ruxton, Ian [ed]; The Correspondence and Diaries of Sir Ernest Mason Satow; (various titles).

Oakley, David Charles; The Story of the British Consulate at Takow; Privately published, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2007.

Coates, P. D.; The China Consuls: British Consular Officers, 1843-1943; Oxford University Press, 1988.

Public Records Office, Hong Kong; The Carl Smith Collection.