Papers of Sir John Pope-Hennessy

Scope and Content

Papers relating to Ireland and Parliament (1743-1875); subject files relating to Pope-Hennessy's career (1855-1938); correspondence (1866-1890); personal letters to Pope-Hennessy (1867-1890); papers relating to his colonial governorships in Labuan, West Africa, the Bahamas, Barbados, Hong Kong and Mauritius (1844-1908).

The collection also contains papers (notes, correspondence, etc.) connected with the writing of Verandah: some episodes in the crown colonies, 1867-1889, a biography of Pope-Hennessy written by his grandson James. Included are copies of many of Pope-Hennessy's letters and papers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir John Pope-Hennessy, KCMG (1880), was born in 1834 in Cork, Ireland. He studied medicine at Queen's College, Cork, and in May 1855 went to London to continue his studies at Charing Cross Hospital. He soon turned his attention to politics and obtained a clerkship in the Privy Council Office, at the same time reading for the Bar. In 1859, 2 years before his call to the Bar, he entered Parliament as Member for King's County in the unique role of being an Irish Catholic and Nationalist who was also a Conservative. He lost his seat in the Election of 1865.

Pope-Hennessy was a protg of Disraeli, and it was through Disraeli's influence that he was appointed Governor of Labuan in 1867. In the following year Pope-Hennessy married Kitty Low, daughter of Hugh Low who was Acting Governor of Labuan when Pope-Hennessy arrived. Pope-Hennessy spent 22 years in the Colonial Service during which time he was Governor not only in Labuan (1867-1871) but also in West Africa (1872-1873), the Bahamas (1873-1874), Barbados (1875-1876), Hong Kong (1877-1882) and Mauritius (1883-1889). On retiring from the Colonial Service he moved to Rostellan Castle, the estate he had bought near Cork. After retirement Pope-Hennessy stood for Parliament again and, after a violent contest, won the seat of North Kilkenny; however his health had suffered greatly, and he died at Rostellan on the 7 October 1891.

Access Information

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Marion Lowman, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

Other Finding Aids

The library holds a card index of all manuscript collections in its reading room and a handlist is also available for this collection.

Listed as no. 18 in Manuscript Collections (Africana and non-Africana) in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Supplementary accessions to the end of 1977 and Cumulative Index, compiled by Wendy S. Byrne (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1978).

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Custodial History

Deposited with the Oxford Colonial Records Project by James Pope-Hennessy.


Listed in Private Papers of British Colonial Governors, 1782-1900, by The Historical Manuscripts Commission (1986).