Ultra Ganges / South East Asia

Administrative / Biographical History

The impetus for the London Missionary Society Mission to South East Asia (known as the "Ultra Ganges" Mission) was the fact that between 1808 and 1842 missionaries were not allowed to operate within mainland China. Outlying posts were used by the LMS to preach to the large number of expatriate Chinese and sailors, in the belief that they would provide a springboard to mission activity in China when it was opened up to Protestant missionaries. The mission covered particular stations and areas within modern day Malaysia (Malacca and Penang) and Indonesia (Amboyna, Java and Batavia). There was a brief attempt in 1810 to establish a mission in Burma [Myanmar], and two missionaries - Edward Pritchett and Jonathan Brain were sent to Rangoon for this purpose. This mission soon failed as a result of the outbreak of war and the death of Brain.

A mission station was established by William Milne at Malacca [Melaka] in 1815, providing a school for Chinese children, worship and catechism classes; they also worked with the indigenous Malay people. The first notable baptism in 1816 was that of Leangafa [spelling variations include Leang A Fa, Leang A-Fa, Leung A-Fa], a Chinese printer, who later went on to aid the LMS in China. The emphasis of the Malacca mission was certainly preaching, and the mission produced a high volume of books, tracts and leaflets. In 1843 the Anglo-Chinese Theological Seminary was established at Hong Kong, which led to the closure of the Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca, and the Malacca mission.

A mission at Penang [Pinang], or Prince of Wales' Island was established in 1819, with stations at James Town, under Walter Medhurst (until 1821), and George Town, under Thomas Beighton and John Ince. A printing press was established, which produced materials in Malay and English. The press was run by Thomas Beighton until his death in 1844 when the mission ended.

A mission to Java [Jawa] and Amboyna [Ambon or Pulau island] was begun in 1814, at a point when Java was under British control (1811-18). The mission at Batavia [Jakarta] was run by two German missionaries Gottlob Bruckner and John Supper, and one Dutch missionary Joseph Kane until 1822 when Walter Medhurst took over the mission. The mission lasted until 1844, and missionary work was carried out amongst the Malay people and Chinese.

The mission in Singapore was established in 1819 by Samuel Milton with the aid of residents such as Sir Stamford Raffles. From 1838 to 1844 the mission was carried out under John Stronach, and it finally closed in 1847.

There had been hopes to set up a mission to Siam [Thailand] in 1831, but the appointed missionaries were directed to go to Northern India instead and the project was never accomplished.

The opening of China in 1843 effectively brought the Ultra Ganges Mission to an end. However, the closing of the mission to China in 1951-52, as a result of the Communist revolution, brought the decison to renew the mission to South East Asia. The Chinese Presbyterian Church in Singapore and Malaya welcomed missionary staff from both the LMS and the Presbyterian Church of England and four missionaries were appointed, bringing the total in Malaya to six. A Joint Malaya Group was formed as part of this ecumenical co-operation. By 1961, links were made with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, while in the same year Singapore and Malaya became independent from Britain.


The materials relating to the Ultra Ganges Mission are arranged into the following classes: Incoming correspondence: Rangoon (1809-1810); Incoming correspondence: Penang (1805-1869); Incoming correspondence: Malacca (1815-1859); Incoming correspondence: Singapore (1817-1884); Incoming correspondence: Amboyna (1814-1831); Incoming correspondence: Batavia / Java (1814-1843); Journals (1813-1841).

South East Asia material from 1951, including photographs, correspondence, reports, and Malayan Council files can be found in the China & East Asia division.

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