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Archive of Alfred E. Hippisley


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A great proportion of the collection encompasses business correspondence between A.E. Hippisley and Sir Robert Hart. Exchanges of letters with other Customs Officers are complemented by various official and semi-official documents. Some of Hippisley's publications figure in draft and printed versions. There are also many press cuttings. The collection includes Hippisley's diary and memoirs covering the years 1848-1902. Private papers also include several items connected with his uncle William Frederick. There are photographs of Hippisley's friends and British and Chinese officials, as well as pictures from his trips to Macao, Japan and India.


  • Creation: 1842-1940


2.5 Linear metres (18 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English
  • Chinese

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. e. 3586, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 7065, fols. 138-139, c. 7285-98, e. 3586-7, MSS. Photogr. c. 206-7

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 15562


Correspondence, diary and memoirs, miscellaneous papers and photographs of Alfred E. Hippisley (1848-1939), British Customs Official in China. Predominantly in English, some Chinese material also present.

Biographical / Historical

Alfred Edward Hippisley was born in Clifton, Bristol in 1848, where he attended the Bristol Grammar School. He was offered a scholarship at St. John's, Oxford, but for reasons beyond his control had to reject it. Instead, he went to Paris for a year. In 1885 he married Cornelia Howard, an American, whose grandfather George and great-grandfather John Eager were Governors of Maryland, U.S.A. Their only child, Edward, was born and died in 1889. Alfred E. Hippisley died in London in 1939.

Hippisley started his career in the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs Service in 1867 and served in various capacities in Peking, Amoy, Canton, Shanghai and elsewhere. In 1875 he was appointed Assistant Statistical Secretary, which raised him to the rank of Deputy Commissioner. In April 1882 he became Commissioner. He also served as Chinese Secretary from May 1882 to May 1885, as Chief Secretary from April 1896 to October 1897, and as Postal Secretary from April 1907 to April 1908. By Imperial decree of 1st October 1901 he was appointed an Assistant Delegate to the Treaty and Tariff Commission. Although a leading candidate for the post of the Inspector General of Customs in China after Sir Robert Hart, he never succeeded him. He resigned from the Customs in 1910.

For his outstanding services, he was made Chevalier of the Order of Francis Joseph of Austria in 1874 and received the orders of Double Dragon and Rising Sun in 1904, Dragon of Annam in 1908 and other awards. Hippisley played an instrumental role in the development of America's "Open Door" policy in China.

Hippisley had many interests beyond his professional work. In June of 1900 he was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple. He was a member of the Hakluyt Society. He is the author of A Sketch of the History of Ceramic Art in China published in 1902. He also collected the material for Some Notes on the Hippisley Family which, edited and extended by Ivan Fitzroy Jones, were published in 1952. His interest in his family roots also demonstrated itself in restoring the Hippisley gravestones in the churchyard at Chewton Mendip.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to the Bodleian Library in 1988 by Miss Doris Wright, a friend of Evelyn Hippisley, Alfred E. Hippisley's niece.

Related Materials

For further information about the Chinese Customs see the Chinese Maritime Customs Project of the University of Bristol.

See also Papers relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs 1860-1943 in the Library of the School of Oriental & African Studies, London : SOAS, 1973. Bodleian shelfmark 258774 e.14.

Separated Materials

Chinese ink squeezes of the four most famous Song dynasty stelae in Suzhou: the map of China (Zhuilitu) Sinica 6013, the astronomical chart (Tianwentu) Sinica 6014, the chronological table of emperors (Diwang shaoyun tu) Sinica 6015, and the map of Suzhou (Pingjiangtu) Sinica 6016.

In 1936, Hippisley presented the Bodleian Library with a 20-volume manuscript of Wuli tongkao (A comprehensive examination of the Five Rituals), copied from its published version of 1763. The manuscript is described in the Bodleian's Chinese allegro catalogue, MS.Chin.d.67.

Catalogue of the archive of Alfred E. Hippisley, 1842-1940
Finding aid prepared by Margaret Czepiel
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom