Papers of Henry Alexander Ince

Scope and Content

The collection comprises a range of materials relating to the management of Ince's property in Shanghai including correspondence, legal papers, title deeds, rental books, invoices, ledgers, tax returns, press cuttings, technical drawings and maps. A bundle of papers concern land and investments owned by the family of the Revd Charles Henry Foster-Barham of Trecwn, Pembrokeshire, Ince's brother-in-law.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Alexander Ince was born in Calcutta on 19th September 1809, the second son of William Boyd Ince (of Ince, Lancaster, and Calcutta, died 1817) and Frances Elizabeth Ann. Although not much is known of his life, it seems he initially followed in his father's footsteps and entered into the marine service in India. He served as Secretary to the Marine Department in Calcutta, but later moved from civil service into private commerce. He worked for a time for the London mercantile firm of Messrs. Palmer, Mackillop, Dent & Company, which had strong connections with Asia and the Far East. Ince eventually moved to China, arriving in Shanghai in July 1854. The records indicate that Ince acquired property in Shanghai in April 1858 and made his money renting this out to tenants in the British Settlement. The Settlement lay between the old walled city and Soochow Creek, and Ince's land, or part of it at least, appears to have been adjacent to the Creek. Ince was apparently very successful in the construction and letting out of property, though he was involved in at least one land case against the Shanghai Municipal Council. He returned to London in 1867 and thereafter conducted his business through a number of agents including the Oriental Bank Corporation and the Agra Bank.

Some of the papers in the collection relate to land and investments owned by the family of the Revd Charles Henry Foster-Barham, husband of Henry Alexander Ince's younger sister, Elizabeth Maria (1815-1860). In 1868, Ince founded the Barham Memorial School (1875-2001) at Trecwn in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in memory of his late sister, who had been actively involved in local education there. A memorial on 'The Barham Memorial School, Trecwn, Pembrokeshire', written by the Headmaster, Mr W O Hughes, in 1948, described Henry Alexander Ince as follows:

"I am conscious that I should devote far more space in this article to Henry Alexander Ince, the founder of the school, but apart from a few memoranda and some fragments of correspondence, information about him is very meagre. He was a man of great wealth and at one time owned considerable property at Shanghai. It is said that the school premises cost over £7,000 and this, together with the endowment of £5,000 and the Glanbafon estate, represents a formidable sum for those days. Ince seems to have been a man of great strength of character, an upright Christian gentleman in the true Victorian sense. He was, moreover, a man of culture and of wide interests and a generous benefactor of many charities. Reserved in his manner, he dislliked publicity and showmanship, and his tastes were so simple that if a party or a banquet was being arranged by his brother-in-law at Trecwn, he would conveniently return to London rather than be embarrassed by a crowd of footmen and attendants. His attention to detail was probably his outstanding characteristic. The care which he planned and laid out the premises, grounds and gardens was meticulous, and various minutes and memoranda relating the the upkeep and maintainance of the school throw an interesting light on his orderly mind."

Ince remained closely involved with the school, succeeding his brother-in-law, Charles Henry Foster-Barham, as Trustee and sole manager after the latter's death in 1878. As well as furnishing the school and the house attached to it, Ince also spent part of the year in residence there, monitoring the children's progress and teaching classes. It is not known when he died, but he was still active in March 1882, when he recorded the retirement of the school's headmistress, Anne C. Gettings.


The papers are arranged in the following series: correspondence, day book, rental book, invoices, journals, ledgers, balance sheets, tax returns, technical drawings, press cuttings, Barham papers, miscellaneous papers and maps.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred to SOAS in 2002. Since ownership is unknown title to the papers has not been transferred.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist.

Custodial History

For many years the documents lay in a London solicitor's office.