British Consuls in South Formosa

George Phillips

The Takao Club

George Phillips


 China Consular Service

      George Phillips was Consul at Takow [打狗] and Taiwan-fu [臺灣府] (Tainan) from 25 February 1880 to 21 April 1886, when Pelham Laird Warren returned to Formosa as Consul. However George Phillips was officiating Consul at Swatow [汕頭] from August 1882 until April 1886, and 1st Assistant Pelham Laird Warren was Acting Consul. Consul George Phillips had replaced Consul Archer Rotch Hewlett. 

      George Phillips was born on 3 October 1836 at Lower Walmer, Kent, the only son of George Phillips, a Master Baker, and his wife Sarah Ann Mose. Phillips was educated at King’s School and King’s College, London. He was recommended by the China Class at King’s College to join the other two nominees, Arthur Davenport and John Gibson, and enter the China Consular Service as a Student Interpreter in 1857. After a period of learning Chinese in Hongkong [香港], Phillips was first appointed to Amoy [廈門] and then Foochow [福州] in 1859 as a Student Interpreter, but was rapidly promoted to Second Assistant and transferred to Ningpo [寧波] on 30 May 1859. After various postings, in 1866 Phillips returned to Amoy, where he was promoted to Interpreter on 29 November 1866. George Phillips remained nominally at Amoy as Interpreter until November 1877, frequently acting as Consul at Amoy and also acting as Vice-Consul at Pagoda Island [羅星塔] from October 1873 to December 1874.  

      In January 1868 George Phillips married Jane (Jennie) Emily Marsh, the daughter of John Marsh, a Boot & Shoe Maker, and his wife Jane Henrietta Wood of Maidstone, Kent, in the Cathedral of Hongkong. George and Jennie Phillips made their home on Kulangsu [鼓浪嶼], Amoy, where three children were born to them: their elder daughter Edith Emily Phillips was born c1869; their first son George Phillips junior was born c1871; and their second daughter Alice Isabel Phillips was born on 23 January 1876. In about 1879, Jennie Marsh took the children back to live in Maidstone, Kent, so that she could arrange their schooling, she returned to China in about 1883 and a second son, John Robert Phillips, was born on 7 January 1885 at the British Consulate at Swatow. 

      On 9 November1877 George Phillips had been promoted to Consul and appointed British Consul at Kiukiang [九江], a post he held until 25 February 1880 when he was appointed Consul at Taiwan-fu, residing at Tainan and Takow. Phillips officially remained the Taiwan Consul until 1 July 1886, when he was appointed the British Consul at Foochow; however, in fact, George Phillips had become the officiating Consul at Swatow from August 1882 until 19 April 1886, when he and his family took Home Leave to Europe. Phillips was appointed Consul at Foochow on 1 July 1886 shortly after his arrival back in England. As a result he did not take up the post until 21 November 1887, Foochow was his last posting but was forced to depart due to ill health on 6 June 1892, and officially retired on 1 August 1892 at the age of 55. 

      Having returned to England George Phillips lasted a scant 4 years and died aged 60 on 25 October 1896 at his home in Christchurch Avenue, Brondesbury, Middlesex. Jane Emily Phillips lived until she was 87 years old, dying at Castlebar Road, Ealing, Middlesex, on 7 February 1933. 

      Phillips’ elder daughter, Edith Emily Phillips, married Duncan James Reid, a Medical Practitioner from Aberdeen, at Shanghai [上海] in 1890. She died, a widow, at the age of 86 on 22 January 1955 at Farnham, Surrey. 

      Phillips’ elder son, George Phillips, became a physician and surgeon at Edinburgh and married Sylvia Gertrude Gill, the daughter of John Beadnell Gill, a Physician, and his wife Clara Frances How, in 1901at Dover, Kent. He died on 25 December 1948. 

      His second daughter, Alice Isabel Phillips, never married and died at her mother’s home in Egerton Gardens, Ealing, on 4 March 1916, aged just 40.

      Of John Robert Phillips there is no trace. 

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).

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.

T'oung Pao, Vol. 7, No. 5 (1896), Necrologie, George Phillips, pages 593-195.