Constantine Phipps collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Naval North Polar Expedition, 1773 (led by Phipps) to Svalbard and the surrounding Arctic ocean

Administrative / Biographical History

Constantine John Phipps was born in 1744, the eldest son of the first Baron Mulgrave, a peer of Ireland. In 1760, he entered the Navy, serving in the West Indies before advancing to the rank of lieutenant in 1762 and commander in 1763. He embarked upon a career in politics in 1768 when he was elected Member of Parliament for Lincoln.

In 1773, Phipps led the British Naval North Polar Expedition, sent by the Admiralty to determine how far navigation was possible toward the North Pole from Spitsbergen. Sailing in HMS Racehorse, in company with HMS Carcass under Captain Skeffington Lutwidge, the expedition reached a farthest north of 80° 48 minutes North in July 1773 before impenetrable ice forced them to turn back. His narrative of the expedition was published in 1774.

On the death of his father in 1775, Phipps succeeded as second Baron Mulgrave and was later created a peer of Great Britain as Baron Mulgrave in 1790. In 1777, he won the parliamentary seat for Huntingdon and was appointed a lord of the Admiralty. At the Battle of Ushant in 1778, he commanded HMS Courageux, in which he remained until the end of the war in 1783. In 1784, Phipps was elected Member of Parliament for Newark-upon-Trent and was appointed joint paymaster-general of the forces, later serving as commissioner for the affairs of India. Resigning due to ill health in 1791, he died on 10 October 1792 at Liege.

Published work A voyage towards the North Pole undertaken by His Majesty's command, 1773 by Constantine John Phipps, Caedmon of Whitby Press, Whitby (1978) SPRI Library Shelf (3)91(08)[1773]


The collection 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 volume 45, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1896) and National Maritime Museum and Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) ISBN number 0824076486 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.