Papers of Sir Frederick Maze

Scope and Content

Papers include personal and semi-official letters, letter-books, reports and circulars, dated 1922-1943, relating to Sir Frederick Maze's work with the Chinese Maritime Customs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Frederick William Maze was born in Belfast on 2 July 1871, the son of James Maze, a linen merchant, and Mary Hart, whose brother, Sir Robert Hart (qv), was head of the Chinese Maritime Customs. Educated privately and at Wesley College, Dublin, Maze entered the Chinese Martime Customs in 1891, towards the end of his uncle's tenure as Inspector General of the Customs In 1899 he was made Acting Audit Secretary at the Inspectorate General in Peking and the following year, during the Boxer Rebellion, he became Acting Commissioner at Ichang. In 1901 he became Deputy Commissioner firstly at Foochow and then from 1902-1904 in Canton. He opened the Custom House at Kongmoon, West River in 1904, and was subsequently Commissioner in Tengyueh (Burma Frontier) 1906-1908, Canton (1911-1915), Tientsin (1915-1920), Hankow (1921-1925) and Shanghai (1925-1929).

Maze was offered the post of Southern Inspector General by the Nationalist Government on three occasions during 1927, but declined. However in 1928 he became an advisor to the National Board of Reconstruction and also accepted the post of Deputy Inspector-General of Customs. Finally in 1929, he was appointed Inspector General, a role he served until 1943, during one of the most tumultuous periods of China's history. He was based in Shanghai, which the Japanese occupied in 1937, but continued in his role as Inspector-General until shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, when he was was interned by the Japanese in the 'Bridge House', formerly the New Asia Hotel in Shanghai, along with almost 200 other British and American prisoners. Released in 1942 and repatriated to Portuguese East Africa, Maze returned to China in an effort to help his staff still imprisoned there. He served in Chungking, where a temporary base for the Customs had been established, but after a few months resigned from the service on health grounds in 1943. The British Government awarded him a KCMG in 1944, and he also received numerous honours from other countries, including China, Japan, Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, France, and Germany, and the Vatican.

Maze was interested in, and helped to promote, many aspects of Chinese life and culture, in particular its maritime architecture. He assembled an unrivalled collection of scale models of Chinese junks and sampans, built in Hong Kong and Shanghai by Chinese craftsmen, and donated the collection to the Science Museum in London in 1938. He was also an honorary member of l'Association des Amis du Musée de Marine, Paris.

Maze married Laura Gwendoline (1888-1972), an Australian from Queensland, in 1917. After Maze resigned from the Chinese Maritime Customs, the couple retired to live in Cape Town, South Africa, and later Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, where they moved to in 1948. Maze died in Canada on 25th March 1959.


The papers are arranged into three main groups, and into categories within the groups. Group I: confidential letters and reports (1900-1943); confidential letters (1882-1923 and 1940-1941); miscellaneous correspondence (1929-1930); letter- books (1900-1905); Group II: semi-official letters (1904-1928); semi-official circulars (1911- 1913); Group III: Inspector General's personal correspondence (1937-1941); Inspector General's personal correspondence with non-resident Secretary in London (1939- 1940); Inspector General's personal correspondence with British Embassy (1938- 1940). Within these groups, material is arranged chronologically.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Donated in 1959.

Other Finding Aids

Published Guide: Papers Relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs 1860- 1943, (SOAS, 1973)

Related Material

Related Collections at SOAS: See published guide: Papers Relating to the Chinese Maritime Customs 1860-1943 , (SOAS, 1973). In addition to Sir Frederick Maze, these include the papers of George H. Fitzroy (MS 258361); Sir Robert Hart and his correspondence with James Duncan Campbell (PP MS 67); Edward Charles Macintosh Bowra and Cecil Arthur Verner Bowra (PP MS 2), and Sir Francis Arthur Aglen (MS 211355).

Associated Material held elsewhere: Sir Frederick Maze, memoirs and papers, National Maritime Museum, manuscripts Section [ref. MS79/165]; Sir Frederick Maze, Correspondence (1929-1941), Science Museum Library, London [ref. MS 2084].