Henry Stephenson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares) and correspondence by Stephenson

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Frederick Stephenson was born on 7 June 1842. He joined the Royal Navy in 1855, serving during the Crimean War, the China Expedition and the Indian Mutiny. Advancing to lieutenant in 1861, he commanded a gunboat on the lakes of Canada between 1866 and 1867, and between 1871 and 1874, was commander of the Royal Yacht. Promoted captain in 1875, he served as captain of HMS Discovery on the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876 (leader George Strong Nares), sent by the Admiralty to attempt to reach the North Pole by way of Smith Sound and to explore the coasts of Greenland and adjacent lands. Although the attempt to reach the North Pole was unsuccessful, the expedition made some geographical discoveries and returned with a large quantity of scientific data.

After the expedition, he served in the Egyptian Campaign, and in 1888 was appointed Naval ADC to Queen Victoria. He served as equerry to the Prince of Wales from 1878 until 1893, when he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Pacific Station, a post he held until 1896. Rising to the rank of vice admiral in 1896, he was placed in command of the Channel Squadron the following year. Between 1903 and 1904, he served as first and principal ADC to King Edward VII. He was knighted in 1897 and, in addition to the Arctic Medal, received numerous campaign medals. Retiring from the Navy as admiral in 1904, he died on 16 December 1919.


The collection is split into two sub-fonds comprising of expedition material and correspondence respectively

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 Who was who, 1916-1928, Adam & Charles Black London (1947) and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2 and Arctic exploration and development c.500 BC to 1915 an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing Inc. New York (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003

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.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible