The Takao Club

British Consuls in South Formosa



British Consuls


South Formosa


In 1858, China was defeated by the Anglo-French Allied Forces in the Second Opium War and compelled to sign the Treaty of Tientsin on 26 June 1858. The Treaty of Tientsin, with some modifications, was ratified at the Convention of Peking on 24 October 1860; under the terms of the treaty Taiwan was opened as a port for foreign trade. On 27 December 1860 Robert Swinhoe was nominated by the Hon. Frederick William Adolphus Bruce, the first British Minister to reside at Peking, to be the British Vice-Consul to Formosa.

      On 6 July 1861 Vice-Consul Robert Swinhoe, arrived aboard the gunboat HMS Cockchafer at Takow, accompanied by First Assistant George Compigné Braune. Swinhoe and Braune then proceeded overland to Taiwan-fu where the first British Consular Office on Formosa was established on 29 July 1861. 

      However by the end of 1861 the seemingly restless Vice-Consul Swinhoe had moved further north to Tamsui where he believed most of the supposed trade to be centered. By May 1862 his health was apparently so weakened that he was obliged to return to England, where he was to deliver several famous treatises on Formosa and its wildlife during 1863. Vice-Consul Swinhoe returned to Tamsui in February 1864, relieving the ailing Acting Vice-Consul George Braune. The hapless Braune was at last free to take up his new post at Chinkiang [鎮江]: the 26 year-old Braune never reached Chinkiang and his death on 16 May 1864 was reported from Peking. Braune's position at Tamsui was taken up by William Gregory, who was promoted to to British Vice-Consul at Tamsui on 26 March 1866.

      Robert Swinhoe had meanwhile in August 1864 been ordered to return to Takow to set up the British Consulate, as the Chinese Imperial Customs had established at that port. Robert Swinhoe was appointed the British Consul to Taiwan on 4 February 1865. Consul Swinhoe departed  Taiwan-fu in 1866.

      From 1866 the practice was for the Vice-Consul to reside at Tamsui and be responsible for North Formosa and for the Consul to reside at Taiwan-fu, later known as Tainan, and be especially responsible for South Formosa.

      Robert Swinhoe remained the Consul at Taiwan until 9 September 1873, when he was appointed Her Majesty’s Consul at Ningpo.

Consuls Residing at Taiwan-fu (Tainan), Takow and Anping : 1861 to 1910.

China Consular Service
Once the Consulate had settled on Formosa, it was based at Taiwan-fu [臺灣府] (later Tainan [臺南]) where the top Chinese authority, the Circuit Intendant [分巡道] (colloquially the Tao-t'ai [道臺]) resided. Given the difficulty of communication, the practice became that the Consul officially resided at Tainan and was responsible for the whole territory, but especially for South Formosa; whereas a Vice-consul was stationed at Tamsui [淡水] and was responsible for North Formosa.

In 1877 the division of Formosa became formalized when the Consular District of Tamsui was created with Alexander Frater as the first Consul.

In South Formosa, the practice was that the Consul resided at Takow [打狗] and his Assistant resided at Tainan. This fluid system became more so when a Consulate was finally built at Anping [安平] in 1889.

Year Consul Dates Acting Consul Notes
1861   6 July until November

Vice-Consul    Robert Swinhoe

Swinhoe removed to Tamsui in November 1861.
1862   to 10 May.

From 10 May

Vice-Consul Swinhoe

Acting Vice-Consul George Compigné Parker Braune

Vice-Consulate in Tamsui.

Swinhoe departs on leave on 10 May.

1863     Acting Vice-Consul George Compigné Parker Braune Vice-Consulate in Tamsui.

Swinhoe on Home Leave.

1864   to end of Jan.

From end of Jan.

Acting Vice-Consul Braune

Vice-Consul Swinhoe

Swinhoe returns to Tamsui at end of January. Braune departs Tamsui in February for Chinkiang.

Vice-Consulate moved from Tamsui to Takow on 7 November 1864.

1865 Robert Swinhoe   Vice-Consul Swinhoe Vice-Consul Swinhoe promoted to Consul on 4 February 1865.
1866 Robert Swinhoe




1 March - 31 Oct.

From 1 Nov.


Thomas Watters

Charles Carroll

Consul Swinhoe ordered to officiate at Amoy on 28 February. Watters Assistant-in-charge.
1867 [Robert Swinhoe] to 30 November.

From 1 December

Charles Carroll

Thomas Adkins

Swinhoe [absent] from post.

Carroll departs on 2 Dec. to be Vice-Consul at Pagoda Island.

1868 [Robert Swinhoe] until 15 Feb.

15 Feb to 30 Jun.

From 1 Jul

Thomas Adkins

George Jamieson

John Gibson

1869 [Robert Swinhoe] to 14 June.

From 14 June

John Gibson

William Marsh Cooper

Gibson is ordered to Canton but dies en route at Amoy on 28 July.
1870 [Robert Swinhoe] to 19 January.

From 20 Jan.

William Marsh Cooper

Archer Rotch Hewlett

1871 [Robert Swinhoe] to 30 Nov.

From 1 Dec.

Archer Rotch Hewlett

Pelham Laird Warren


Warren was Assistant-in-Charge.

1872 [Robert Swinhoe] to 29 February.

From 1 March

Pelham Laird Warren

William Gregory

1873 [Robert Swinhoe]   William Gregory Swinhoe was Consul until 9 Sept. Chaloner Alabaster was appointed to succeed Swinhoe, but Alabaster did not proceed.
1874     William Gregory  
1875     William Gregory  
1876   to 22 May.

From 23 May

William Gregory

Thomas Watters

Walter Edward King appointed to succeed Alabaster on 20 October, but no evidence that he proceeded.

[Archer Rotch Hewlett]

to 21 February.

22 Feb to 17 Apr.

From 18 Apr. 

Thomas Watters

George Macdonald Home Playfair

Alexander Frater

Playfair was Assistant-in-Charge.

Hewlett was appointed Consul on 9 November 1877, but did not arrive until 1878.


Archer Rotch Hewlett

to 30 April.

From 1 May

Alexander Frater


Consul Hewlett, appointed on 9 November 1877, took charge from Frater on 1 May 1878.
1879 Archer Rotch Hewlett


to 20 October.

20 Oct to 31 Dec.


William Holland

Hewlett was seconded as Consul at Canton on 30 November but left Taiwan in October. Hewlett remained at Canton until 1885.
1880 [Archer Rotch Hewlett]

[George Phillips]

From 1 Jan. Pelham Laird Warren Hewlett [absent].

Warren arrived 29 Dec 1879 and took charge from Holland 1 Jan.

Phillips [absent].


George Phillips

to 15 Feb.

From 16 Feb.

Pelham Laird Warren


Consul Phillips appointed to Taiwan on 25 February 1880 but did not arrive until 13 February 1881.
1882 George Phillips



to 2 July.

2 - 21 July.

From 21 July


Pierre Frederick Hausser

Thomas Watters

In August Consul Phillips was officiating Consul at Swatow until April 1886. Phillips left Student Interpreter Hausser in charge of the Consulate until the arrival of the officiating Consul Watters.
1883 [George Phillips] to 31 March.

From 31 March

Thomas Watters

Pelham Laird Warren

1884 [George Phillips] to 15 February.

15 Feb to 22 Dec.

From 22 Dec.

Pelham Laird Warren

William Gregory

William Donald Spence

Warren, whose wife had died on 14 Jan., departed as Vice-Consul to Pagoda Island. Gregory was the officiating Consul.
1885 [George Phillips]  

William Donald Spence

1886 [George Phillips]


Pelham Laird Warren

to 28 February.

28 Feb to 21 Apr.

From 21 April

William Donald Spence

Michie Forbes Anderson Fraser


Phillips was officiating Consul at Swatow until 19 April 1886.

Warren ordered to Taiwan by Peking on 8 March. Arrived on 21 April, when his rank was still Vice-Consul. He was officially promoted Consul at Taiwan on 19 July 1886.

1887 Pelham Laird Warren      
1888 Pelham Laird Warren


to 4 June.

From 4 June


George Macdonald Home Playfair

Consul Warren took Home Leave.

Pelham Laird Warren

to 27 July.

From 27 July

George Macdonald Home Playfair


1890 Pelham Laird Warren      
1891 Pelham Laird Warren      
1892 Pelham Laird Warren      
1893 Pelham Laird Warren


to August.

August to 29 November.

From 29 Nov. 


Ambrose John Sundius

William Holland


Richard Willett Hurst

to 15 Jan.

From 15 Jan.

William Holland


Hurst was appointed Consul at Taiwan on 1 December 1893 and arrived in January.
1895 Richard Willett Hurst     From 30 November 1895 the Consulate was under the British Minister at Tokyo, Japan.
1896 Richard Willett Hurst to 30 April.    
Japan Consular Service
The Japan Consular Service divided Formosa into two Districts with two Consuls. One Consul resided at Tamsui and was responsible for the Prefectures of Taihoku (Taipei), Shinchiku (Hsinchu), Taichiu (Taichung), and the Sub-Prefecture of Giran (Ilan). The other Consul resided at Tainan and was responsible for the Consular District of Tainan (South Formosa).

Joseph Henry Longford


30 April to Dec.

From December


Ernest Alfred Griffiths

Longford was appointed Consul at Tainan on 4 February 1896, and then to Nagasaki on 28 December 1896.

William Joseph Kenny


to 31 January.

1 Feb. to July.

From July

Ernest Alfred Griffiths


Ernest Alfred Griffiths

Kenny was appointed Consul at Tainan on 28 December 1896. Kenny became very sick on Formosa from June, and was seconded to Honolulu, Hawaii, on 23 October 1897.
1898 [William Joseph Kenny]   Ernest Alfred Griffiths  
1899 [William Joseph Kenny]   Ernest Alfred Griffiths  
1900 William Joseph Kenny 27 July Thomas Harrington Kenny took Local Leave on 27 July. Griffiths on Home Leave.
1901 William Joseph Kenny      
1902 William Joseph Kenny


to 29 January.

From 29 Jan.


Ernest Alfred Griffiths

Kenny took Home Leave, and was then appointed Consul-General for the Philippine Islands on 21 May 1903.

Alfred Ernest Wileman

to 9 November.

From 9 Nov.

Ernest Alfred Griffiths


Wileman appointed Consul for the Consular District of Tainan on 21 May.
1904 Alfred Ernest Wileman      
1905 Alfred Ernest Wileman      
1906 Alfred Ernest Wileman      
1907 Alfred Ernest Wileman 13 Apr to 5 Dec.

Alfred Richard Firth

1908 Alfred Ernest Wileman      
1909 Alfred Ernest Wileman


to 1 May.

From 1 May


William Massy Royds



to 24 March.

24 March to 9 July.

William Massy Royds

Alfred Richard Firth

Firth was Acting Consul at Tamsui and only stayed in Tainan from 21 to 27 March.

Alfred Richard Firth was Acting Consul at Tamsui and only stayed in Tainan from 21 to 27 March 1910, under orders from Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald, the British Minister at Tokyo, to mothball the Consular District of Tainan, pending re-opening or sale of the the Consular properties. Final approval by the British Treasury of this closure was received by Firth on 9 July 1910. The Consular properties were eventually sold on 4 December 1925 to the Japanese Government.

From 1910 on all consular matters were dealt with by the Formosa Consulate based at Tamsui.

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, 2007.

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

The Takao Club

British Consuls in South Formosa