Sir Richard Hamilton collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Hamilton to Robert Falcon Scott regarding the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904 (led by Scott).

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Vesey Hamilton was born in Sandwich, Kent, in 1829. He was educated at the Royal Naval School in Camberwell, entering the Royal Navy in 1843. In 1850, he volunteered as mate in HMS Assistance on the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1851 (captain Erasmus Ommanney), sent by the Admiralty to search for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage Expedition. On his return, he was promoted lieutenant and immediately volunteered for the British Naval Franklin Search Expedition, 1852-1854 (captain Henry Kellett), serving in HMS Resolute. This expedition was ordered by the Admiralty to search for Franklin in the region of Melville Island. In April 1853, Hamilton set out on a sledging journey to search and explore northeast Melville Island. Returning around the northern end of the Sabine Peninsula, he charted Vesey Hamilton Island.

On his return from the Arctic, Hamilton served with the Baltic fleet in the Crimean War and was appointed to command a gunboat in the Second Chinese War. From 1858 to 1868, he served in various ships in the Atlantic, after which he saw service in British waters. In 1878, he became director of Naval Ordnance and from 1880 to 1883, commanded ships off the coast of Ireland. After promotion to vice-admiral in 1884, he returned in the following year to the China station as commander-in-chief. In 1887, he was knighted and promoted admiral. Two years later, he was appointed First Sea Lord, a post he held until 1891 when he became admiral president of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Retiring from the Navy in 1895, he devoted himself to literary pursuits. He died at Chalfont St. Peter in 1912.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Dictionary of National Biography, 1912-1921, with an index covering the years 1901-1921 in one alphabetical series, Oxford University Press, London (1927) and Robert Keith Headland Antarctic Chronology, unpublished corrected revision of Chronological list of Antarctic expeditions and related historical events,(1 December 2001) Cambridge University Press (1989) ISBN 0521309034

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

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Further accessions possible.