Papers of Henry Michael Barker relating to the history of the Barker family of Alexandria, Egypt

Scope and Content

Papers relating to history of the Barker family from 17th to 20th centuries, in relation to their business and political associations with Alexandria, Egypt. Arranged according to family member, including photos and family trees 1956-1990. Family history information goes back to 1550 to the Derbyshire branch of the family. Also includes signed ts poems dedicated to Alwyn [Henry Alwyn Barker, father of MB] by Daphne du Maurier Nov 1937 'After a decent trip with Boy Browning [her husband] and his Guardians'. Also contains ticket for family's passage on expulsion from Egypt in Dec 1956, and details of claims for compensation. Also includes histories of Barker and Company and the Levant Company, together with information on wills and trusts, and general notes on the history of Egypt, with details on the family monument in Alexandria, and documentation of the Alexandria Schools Trust, including notes on the history of the school, newspaper cuttings, copies of school Annual Reports 1903-1908, copies of letters and speeches 1926-1937 and copies of deeds and official correspondence to do with the administration of the Trust, 1988-1998.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Barker family were a prominent part of the British community in Egypt for several generations, originating from Derbyshire. William Barker (1737-1825) had been the first of the family to move to Middle East, moving to Smyrna, Turkey in March 1760 as a member of the Levant Company. His son Edward (1784-1844) became British Vice-Consul in Cairo and British Consul in Damascus, before retiring to Smyrna with his family. Edward's son Henry Barker (1829-1907) moved to Alexandria from Smyrna in 1849/1850 with his widowed mother, brother and sisters, following his elder brother Frederick (1829-1899) who had gone out earlier in 1845 to establish himself in business. The two brothers founded Barker and Company in 1850, which was to become a successful family shipping and transportation business. Henry took over control of the company on his brother's retirement in 1880, and remained its head until his death in 1907. He was also Consul for Sweden and Norway, Vice-Consul for Belgium, and was a Director of the Anglo-Egyptian Bank.

Henry's son Sir Henry Edward (aka Harry) Barker KB, KCMG (1872-1945) took the Barker family into a very prosperous era, becoming head of the British Community. The family formed part of the highest social circles in Alexandria where many prominent royal and aristocratic international refugees also lived. Visitors to the family in Egypt included Amy Johnston and Anthony Eden, as well as many others. The business Barker and Co flourished under his direction with his son Henry Alwyn (aka Alwyn) Barker CBE (1896-1966) and his grandson Henry Michael continuing in the family tradition until the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956 and the reversal of the open trade policy. All British and French subjects were expelled, and the family business and all assets were sequestered. Barker and Co. was desequestrated in 1959, and liquidated in 1962.

Henry Michael (aka Michael) Barker (1923-1999) was one of the Barker family who was forced to return to England in 1956. He was born in Alexandria, educated in Eton and joined the army in 1942. On demobilisation in 1946, he returned to join his father in Alexandria at Barker and Company, trading mainly in the East Mediterranean. He was elected steward of the Alexandria Sporting Club and Vice President of the International Chamber of Shipping. On his forced return to England in 1956 he became involved in Greek shipping interests, as well as negotiating for compensation from the British Foreign Office. He married three times and had three daughters. He was buried according to his wishes at the family memorial in the Alexandria (Chatby) British Protestant Cemetery (now maintained by the British Consulate, Alexandria) in 1999.

The British community in Alexandria founded Victoria College in 1902 to give Egyptian children a British-style public school education. The school was based on English public school lines, with an English teaching staff and headmaster, but was entirely secular in religious approach. The school's executive committee was made up of leading Alexandrines (Europeans and Judeo-Levantines). Victoria College opened in the Mazarita quarter of Alexandria in November 1902 as a British School following subscriptions from Alexandria's wealthier Judeo-British residents, including Sir Henry Edward Barker (he was Chairman of the Board of Governors 1912-1942). The school year 1902-3 opened with 45, and this increased rapidly, including Christians, Muslims and Jews. The school moved to a new site where the foundation stone was laid at Domaine de Siouf in May 1906 and opened in 1908 and was inaugurated in 1909.

The school was converted into a military hospital during WW1 with the school returning to its old Mazarita premises, but resumed as a school at Ramleh in 1919. The school continued following the abolition of the Protectorate in 1922. A kindergarten was begun in 1927. In 1939/40 the school was requisitioned by the British authorities, with the school turned into a naval-military hospital for the next four years. The school moved into temporary premises at the Hotel and Casino San Stefano. A boarding branch of the school opened in Cairo in 1940, with the San Stefano school being limited to Alexandrines and day pupils only. In 1944, the school returned to its Domaine de Siouf premises, with the Cairo branch staying put in Cairo and becoming its own entity in 1948. In 1950/51, Victoria College Cairo moved from its old premises in the former Italian Shubra school to Maadi. Victoria College celebrated its 50th jubilee in May 1953, and was now a school of 684 students of 28 nationalities. However, in 1956, the school staff were sacked and expelled from Egypt, as were the staffs of the English Girls College, British Boys School and Cairo College. Victoria College became a state school in 1956, taking 6,000 pupils, and the English Girls College in Alexandria became the El Nasr Girls College in 1956, taking 4,000 pupils.

In 1957, the exiled governors of the three schools had started work on compensation claims. Although some compensation was received from Egyptian funds held in London, there was clearly no hope of regaining possession of the three school properties in Alexandria. Various school Trusts were therefore set up as charities to use the income to promote and maintain the teaching of the English language and culture in the Middle East, especially in Alexandria .In 1972, the Victoria College and English Girls School Trusts amalgamated into the Alexandria Schools Trust, and were joined in 1980 by the British Boys School Trust.

The British Boys School was founded in 1928 for boys of English nationality. Likewise, the English Girls College opened in October 1935 in Ramleh, with Sir Henry Edward Barker being also involved with the foundation of both institutions.


The material was prepared in three files by Michael Barker with a view to commissioning a history of the family (which was never completed). The arrangement as instigated by the creator has been retained, although the collection has been repackaged.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply.


Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 18 Feb 2004, and encoded into EAD 2 June 2004.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Donated to the University Library in 2003 by a member of the Barker family.

Related Material

Papers of the Derbyshire branch of the Barker family are held at Sheffield Archives. Papers of John Barker (1771-1849), British Consul General in Egypt, another member of the Barker family, are held at the Bodleian Library (University of Oxford), Herefordshire Record Office, National Library of Scotland and the British Library.


Not known.