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Papers of Hugh Henry ('Harry') Heatley (1875-1959) relating to his life in East Africa and the UK, with his biography by Rose Heatley

 Single Item
MS. 22701
Held in our offsite storage facility

  • Request

Comprises three folders: 1, Youth and Africa, 1894-1925; 2, 1925-1935; 3, Wales, 1924-1959. Also included is biography of H.H. Heatly by Rose Heatley, 2014.

  1. Biography of Hugh Henry Heatley by Rose Heatley, 2014.
  2. Folder 1, item 1: Exam certificates in Freehand Drawing of Ornament: Elementary Stage, First Class, 1894 and Advanced Stage, First Class, 1895, both from Department of Science and Art of the Committee of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council on Education.
  3. Folder 1, item 2: The New York Times accounts of Heatley's trip to New York to encourage visits by US sportsmen, 25 Sep 1910 and 2 Oct 1910 (photocopies).
  4. Folder 1, item 3: Christmas Card with amusing etching of big game on the Uganda Railway and a menu at the Waldorf-Astoria, 1910.
  5. Folder 1, item 4: Transcript of an account of Harry Heatley and Muriel Thompson's wedding on 18 Nov 1913 published in the Northwich Guardian on 21 Nov 1913.
  6. Folder 1, item 5: Letter from Heatley to his brother in law Jo(seph) Harold Swanwick, 2 Apr 1918.
  7. Folder 1, item 6: Letter of distress to Heatley’s wife Muriel, from L.G. Thomas in Durban, South Africa, 29 Jan 1925.
  8. Folder 1, item 7: 3 letters to Heatley, 1, from the National Bank of India detailing debts of £58,000; 2 and 3, from Allen and Hamilton Solicitors, discussing the sale of the Kamiti property, 3 Feb and 17 Feb 1925, respectively.
  9. Folder 1, item 8: Letter to Heatley’s wife Muriel from C.N.M. Harrison, a Nairobi solicitor, giving detailed account of the situation on various financial fronts, including crushing of sugar cane, 13 May 1925.
  10. Folder 1, item 9: Advertisement in the East African Standard of the sale of Kamiti Ranch, 25,000 acres, with homestead 13 miles from Nairobi on Fort Hall Road. Offers required by 31 May 1925.
  11. Folder 2, item 1: Papers relating to Heatley's patent application for 'Improved construction of walls for buildings', 25 Mar - 6 Apr 1925.
  12. Folder 2, item 2: Letter of commiseration to Heatley from family friend, Lord Bradbury, not keen to provide letters of introduction, 10 Aug 1925.
  13. Folder 2, item 3: Heatley's letter to Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald detailing events that led to him coming back to England and offering his services to the country, 7 Oct 1931.
  14. Folder 2, item 4: Letters to and from Thomas Eggar and Son, Solicitors, relating to the dispute over the Teacher's House and Garden in Arlington, 36 Jun 1934 - 20 Mar 1935.
  15. Folder 2, item 5: Papers relating to the sale of Heatley's effects on 18 Apr 1935.
  16. Folder 3, item 1: Letters relating to the shells painted by Heatley, 21 Feb 1935 - 28 Dec 1937, with a newspaper cutting advertising a display of them and other painting by Mrs Harold Swanwick, his sister, 13 Nov 1935.
  17. Folder 3, item 2: Five letters from Heatley's sister Ethel Lilian (Lil) Swanwick, two of which relate to mineral finds with response from the Imperial Chemical House, 1936.
  18. Folder 3, item 3: Correspondence with Norman, Heatley's nephew, 2 Nov 1936 - 26 May 1959.
  19. Folder 3, item 4: Letters, mainly to Heatley, 23 Nov 1942 - 21 Jan 1944, all relating to the death and estate matters of Ethel Lilian (Lil) Swanwick and including her will of 8 Dec 1941.
  20. Folder 3, item 5: Heatley's letters to Winston Churchill: 1, warning of Welsh Nationalists, 6 Jun 1940 and 2, 80th birthday wishes (with response), postmarked 2 Dec 1954.
  21. Folder 3, item 6: Heatley's poems: 'His Most Gracious Majesty The King, calls for a day of National Prayer' sent to Winston Churchill, 29 Mar 1942; 'His victory' sent to (and rejected by) the Daily Mail, 21 Apr 1945; untitled poem sent to (and rejected by) the Daily Mail, 22 Dec 1945.
  22. Folder 3, item 7: Invitation to Their Majesties' Afternoon Party on 17 Nov 1947, with Heatley's reply, and another letter thanking for Heatley's birthday present to Princess Elizabeth, 10 Nov. 1947.
  23. Folder 3, item 8: Letters from E. Gerrards and Sons taxidermists, 1924-1943.
  24. Folder 3, item 9: Letters from John Rigby and Co. gunmakers, 1925-1946.
  25. Folder 3, item 10: Booklet with history of The Sports Club at No. 8 St. James's Square, 1938.


  • Creation: 1894-1959, 2014


1 box (3 folders)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 22701].

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MS. 22701

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 22701


Papers of Hugh Henry ('Harry') Heatley (1875-1959) relating to his life in East Africa and the UK, 1895-1959, with his biography by Rose Heatley, 2014.

Biographical / Historical

Paraphrased from an unpublished biography of H.H. Heatley by Rose Heatley, September 2014:

Hugh Henry Heatley, known as ‘Harry', was born in Marton, Cheshire in 1875. His father Thomas Heatley was a farmer, and Heatley was the third of four children: Martha Cross, known as ‘Pat’ (1869-1932), Thomas George (1871-1957), and Ethel Lilian Swanwick (1880-1942).

In 1894 and 1895 Heatley passed exams with first class in Freehand Drawing of Ornament, Department of Science and Art of the Committee of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council on Education. He then volunteered for the 'Boer war' and joined the 22nd Cheshire Company, Imperial Yeomanry and Volunteers as a private. He was awarded a medal for Meritorious Service in South Africa 1900-1901, presented by the Town of Northwich. After the war, Heatley studied mining at Birmingham University.

In 1903 Heatley travelled to Kenya, where he acquired farming land: two near Kamiti, two in Nairobi township, one at Athi River, and one at Makuyu. He was one of the settlers who were to help Britain recoup the cost of the East African railway investment. Other settlers included Lord William Northrop Macmillan, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt; Ewart Grogan, who walked from the Cape to Cairo; and Lord Delamere, who became the settlers’ unchallenged leader for the first three decades of the 20th century. It was through Macmillan that Heatley hosted President Theodore Roosevelt at his Kamiti Ranch in 1909. Roosevelt included a chapter about Kamiti in his book African Game Trails: an account of the African wanderings of an American hunter-naturalist. This led to Heatley travelling to the USA in 1910 to promote ‘a Great Jungle Club for African Hunts’.

After his marriage to Muriel Thompson, the couple went back to Africa. Heatley’s fortunes there, however, did not last long as his harvests were not yeilding sufficient amounts of money to cover the rent for the land. In 1923 the official Kenya Gazette published notices 353-358 announcing the administration’s intention to take action to recover six areas of land, on which Heatley had failed to pay rent. Two factors may have contributed to Heatley’s misfortune. One was that farming in Kenya was difficult and required experimentation and a great deal of capital, which many of the early settlers did not have. In addition, virulent diseases could affect crops and livestock. It is also likely that Heatley had overstretched himself and acquired too much land. Soon after, his Nandi estate and then his Kamiti ranch were sold.

Back in England, the Heatleys rented a house in Eastbourne, near Heatley’s sister Lil in Wilmington. It seems that two patent applications made by Heatley at this time (one for improvements in gloves and another concerning the construction of walls) were not successful. It is possible that already by that time his relationship with Muriel had broken down. In March 1926 Heatley started renting the School House in nearby Arlington while Muriel returned to her family in Cheshire. She died there in 1930 leaving her entire estate to her father.

By then Heatley was virtually penniless and soon became dependent on money from his sister Lil. He was also using the address of his London club, the East India and Sports Club at No. 8 St James Square, for any formal correspondence. The Club forwarded his letters to wherever he was living.

In 1931 Heatley tried to improve his situation by writing a six-page letter to Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald, whom he had evidently met some years previously. Indeed, Ramsay MacDonald had invited Heatley to call and see him. However, Heatley did not respond to this offer.

In 1935 Heatley was under notice to quit the School House he rented, and the sale of all his possessions raised scarcely more than £5.00. After that he moved to Wales, where one of his principal occupations was prospecting. He roamed the hills behind Abergele and collected rocks, then enlisted the help of his nephew Norman and sister Lil to identify them.

Undoubtedly Heatley must have spent a lot of time remembering the high points of life in Kenya. Perhaps the only tangible reminders were his ‘trophies’ – skins, antlers or heads of game he had shot. From 1936 onwards, these were stored by Gerrards, naturalists and taxidermists in Camden Town, London.

Heatley occasionally wrote poetry, but failed to get the Daily Mail interested in publishing it. His only earnings were most likely from the small shells he painted. Heatley called at Walkers Galleries in London to see if they thought the shells could be sold at Aspreys. Walkers encouraged Heatley to approach Aspreys direct, and also suggested that he try Harrods, Maples, and Fortnum and Mason. There is no evidence that Heatley did so.

In June 1940 Heatley wrote to the Prime Minister advising on the Welsh Nationalists. Heatley followed up with his poem two years later, and sent a present to Princess Elizabeth who was to be married on November 20th 1947. Heatley was rewarded by an invitation to Their Majesties’ Afternoon Party at St James Palace on November 17, 1947, but pleading ‘seasonable ill health’ he did not attend. In 1954 Heatley wrote to Churchill with some miniature sketches for his 80th birthday and Churchill sent a note of thanks.

Heatley died in penury in a B&B in North Wales in June 1959.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Rose Heatley, 20 June 2014.

Catalogue of papers of Hugh Henry ('Harry') Heatley (1875-1959) relating to his life in East Africa and the UK, 1894-1959, with his biography by Rose Heatley, 2014.
Margaret Czepiel
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom