British Consuls in South Formosa

William Holland

The Takao Club

William Holland


 China Consular Service

      William Holland was born on 27 May 1851 at Leamington Priors, Warwickshire. His father was William Holland, a Solicitor in London. Holland entered the China Consular Service through the June 1872 Examination by open competition. After his Mandarin language training as a Student Interpreter at the British Legation in Peking, Holland was transferred as a Third Class Assistant to Ningpo [寧波] for 1876, and spent the next two years at Wuhu [蕪湖]. William Holland was then transferred to Taiwan [臺灣] for 1879.

      William Holland first served on Formosa as a Third Class Assistant at the beginning of 1879. Holland was Acting Consul at Taiwan from 20 October 1879, following the sudden departure to Consul Archer Rotch Hewlett to Canton [廣州], until 1 January 1880 when First Assistant Pelham Laird Warren took charge pending the arrival of the new Consul, George Phillips. Holland was promoted to Second Class Assistant on 1 April 1880. On 17 May 1880, having been in China for nearly 8 years, Holland wrote to Acting Consul Warren to request Home Leave of one year. Holland’s request was granted by the British Legation in Peking and William Holland departed Taiwan on 13 November 1880 for England.

      As was common, once he had received his promotion to Second Class Assistant on 1 April 1880, William Holland felt financially capable of maintaining a wife and set off to England at the end of the year to find one. On 19 November 1881 at St George the Martyr, Battersea, Surrey, William Holland, now aged 30, married Phoebe Ann Cloves, also 30, the daughter of William Cloves, a Barge Owner, and Phoebe Butlar.

      William and Phoebe Holland returned to Canton [廣州], China, where William Holland served under Consul A R Hewlett until June 1883, when Holland, still Second Class Assistant, was transferred to Tientsin [天津]. Phoebe bore her husband two sons at Tientsin: William Francis (Frank) Holland born on 28 November 1883; and Charles Butlar Holland born on 10 May 1885. On 15 September 1885 was transferred back to Ningpo, but his wife Phoebe was ailing. In 1886 William Holland was granted 6 months leave from 26 March 1886 to take his sick wife Phoebe, who was suffering from Hemiplegia, back to England. But Phoebe Holland was too ill and died, aged just 34, on 16 April 1886 on the journey to England aboard the Patroclus. On reaching England William Holland left his two children, Frank and Charles, under the care of a young Governess and her parents at Hammersmith in London.

      William Holland returned alone to Shanghai on 18 June 1887 on temporary attachment before he was posted briefly to Foochow [福州] and then to Newchwang [牛莊] from 21 October 1887 to 20 June 1889. The official records then show William Holland as being stationed at Amoy [廈門] from 14 May 1890 until the beginning of 1891 when he was posted across the Taiwan Strait to Tamsui [淡水].

      William Holland had married again, probably in 1888 at Hongkong, to Florence Anne Reeves, the eldest daughter, aged 28, of James Reeves, a Commercial Traveller, and Emily Reeves née Fisher. William and Florence Holland had two children: Florence Dorothy Holland born on 28 November 1888 at Newchwang; and Lionel Walter Holland born on 1 April 1890 at Tamsui. Florence Anne Holland died of malaria on 4 October 1891, 18 months after giving birth to Lionel Holland, and is buried in the Tamsui Foreign Cemetery.

      William Holland was posted to Tamsui at the beginning of 1890 when he was still a Second Assistant, but served as Acting Consul from 27 February 1890 to 19 May 1892. After ten years as a Second Assistant, Holland was finally promoted to First Assistant on 14 May 1890 shortly after his arrival at Tamsui.

      From June 1892 to October 1893 First Assistant William Holland served as an officer at the Supreme Court of China at Shanghai. He was then sent to Tainan Consular District in October 1893 as Acting Consul to take over from Second Assistant Ambrose John Sundius who was much involved in camphor disputes in the central highlands of Formosa, and Consul Pelham Laird Warren had just departed. Holland, and presumably his two children, Dorothy and Lionel, although they may have already departed for England, resided at the new Anping Consulate. Holland was at the Tainan Consular District only briefly, for, on 10 February 1894, Richard Willett Hurst arrived as the newly-promoted Consul and took charge. William Holland departed on 19 February 1894 to take up his own new promotion and posting as Vice-Consul in charge of shipping at Shanghai.

      Holland remained at Shanghai until 24 January 1895 when he was promoted to Consul and posted to Ichang [宜昌], a rough and tumble post standing at the entry of the Yangtze Gorges on the last perilous stage of any journey up to Chungking [重慶]. Holland arrived at Ichang in June 1895 and remained until 1899 when he took Home Leave.

      Holland arrived back in England, or ‘Home’, on 25 October 1899 at Liverpool. During the early summer of 1900 William Holland, aged 49, married Evelyn Kate Farler, the 22-year-old third daughter of Thomas Henry Farler, a Boarding House Keeper, and Mary Ann Elizabeth Hall at Tormoham, Devon. All William Holland’s children were now happily housed at the home of Carus Wilson Ellis, a Bankers’ Clerk aged 50 from Waterford, Ireland, and his wife Ellen Elizabeth Ellis née Flint, a childless couple living at Penge, Kent. William Holland and his new bride Evelyn Kate Holland set out to Shanghai later the same year of 1900.

      William Holland resumed his posting as Consul at Ichang and on 10 August 1901 he was transferred to as Consul to Swatow [汕頭] where he arrived on 31 August 1901 and remained until his retirement due to ill-health on 22 September 1902.

      William and Evelyn Kate Holland returned to England and lived at ‘Tresco’, Bishop’s Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire; they had no children. William Holland of Windley, Clifton Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, died aged 72 on 5 March 1924 at the General Hospital Birmingham. His widow, Evelyn Kate Holland of Trenarren, Carbis Bay, Cornwall, died aged 67 on 5 March 1945.

      William Holland’s children had varied lives. The eldest son, William Francis (Frank) Holland went to Canada in 1903, when he was 20. The 1911 Canadian Census shows him as a salesman for a Wire Rope Company and lodging in Vancouver City, British Columbia. Beyond that nothing is known.

      His second son, Charles Butlar Holland, returned from England to China to work as a banker with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, Shanghai. At the age of of 37, in 1922 he married Phyllis Jane Orange Bichard, the 18-year-old daughter of Captain William Francis Bichard of Shanghai and his wife Emmeline Elizabeth Bichard. Phyllis Holland and the seemingly only child, Geoffrey D C Holland, who was born in Shanghai about 1929, returned to her parents in England in 1937, but Charles Holland stayed on in the Far East until 1939. Charles Butlar Holland died around 1950 probably in Nairobi, Kenya. His widow Phyllis Jane Orange Holland returned from Kenya in 1956 and died on 12 March 1957 at the Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford.

      William Holland’s third child and first daughter was Florence Dorothy Holland Florence emigrated to Canada in July 1911 and headed for Vancouver, British Columbia, surely to meet up with her half-brother Frank Holland. She quickly found herself a fiancée, for on 6 January 1912 Florence Dorothy Holland, aged 23, married John Montague Burgoyne, a 29-year-old Civil Servant, the son of Daniel Heath Burgoyne and Margaret Burgoyne née Grierson. Dorothy Florence Burgoyne died aged 81 on 26 December 1970 at North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

      Holland’s youngest child, Lionel Walter Holland, went out to Malaya as a rubber plantation manager, working for the Bukit Sembawang Rubber Co., Ltd., of Singapore. On 9 January 1918 Lionel Walter Holland married Amelia Christina Wald, the 28-year-old elder daughter of Captain Joseph Gray, a Master Mariner and Nautical Assessor, and Amelia Gray née Allen, and the widow of George Wald, the eldest son of Alexander Wald of Adelaide, South Australia, at Singapore. Sergeant George Wald of the Singapore Volunteer Rifles had been killed in the Singapore Mutiny of 1915. They had two children but they later separated and Lionel moved to Ghana. There he established Holland Rubber Plantations at Accra on the Gold Coast. Lionel found a new partner in Zoe Inagh Phipps, a widow from Ballinasloe, County Galway, Ireland, nearly 20 years his junior, whom he married in 1952 in Berkshire. Lionel Walter Holland died on 6 March 1953 at Accra, Gold Coast, Africa.

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).

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.

U.K. Probate Records; U.K. General Registry Office; British Columbia, Canada, Records.