Douthwaite-Groves Papers

Scope and Content

The core of the collection consists of five exercise books containing hand written transcriptions made by her father of more than 200 letters sent by Constance Douthwaite to her family in Bristol between 1887 and 1896. There are a few letters from Dr Douthwaite, written for the most part when Constance was unable to write herself.

Book 1 of the letters begins with detailed descriptions of Constance's first voyage to China with the Judd family in 1887, and then goes on to recount her first impressions of China and of daily life in an isolated mission station. As the months passed the letters gradually became more and more unhappy as homesickness set in, and Constance had growing doubts over an ill advised engagement into which she had entered before leaving for China. She went back to England in 1889 hoping to resolve the issue of her engagement, and having succeeded in this she returned to China in October 1890 to marry Dr Douthwaite.

The letters in books 2, 3 & 4 are concerned with life and work in the Chefoo mission station, and contain much family and domestic detail, particularly of the development of her children. Constance also gives a series of eyewitness accounts of the Japanese invasion of Shandong Province early in 1895.

In Book 5 Constance finds it hard to conceal her disappointment that a fourth pregnancy means that the family's departure for England would have to be delayed until the new baby was old enough to withstand the rigours of the voyage. Sadly this was never to be, as Constance died in March 1896, four weeks after the birth of a baby boy. The remainder of Book 5 is made up of a series of sad letters from Dr Douthwaite to her parents in Bristol, written as he tried to create a new life for his three motherless children.

The final part of the collection consists of a transcript of Douthwaite's memoir, which covers his life up to 1875 and the completion of his first year in China. There are also transcripts of a few letters from Douthwaite to his family in Sheffield.

The entire collection is supported by a set of appendices, including a brief biography of Anthony Norris Groves, some notes on his descendents, and biographical notes on the many members of the CIM and other missionary organisations which are mentioned in the letters. These are included to help readers make sense of the many references Constance makes to her family and colleagues throughout her letters. A CD of transcripts and the draft catalogue to this collection are also included.

Administrative / Biographical History

Arthur William Douthwaite was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in 1848, one of the nine children of George and Ann Douthwaite. When Arthur was aged six, his mother and two brothers died from pulmonary tuberculosis, and in the consequent family upheaval, he was sent away to live with an aunt in Preston. While he was away, his father remarried, and on his return home Arthur found it difficult to relate to his new stepmother. His education was sporadic; he left school aged twelve, and did not resume further education until he was sent to a private tutor when he was about fifteen. Through this he developed an interest in science and when he was eighteen he became apprenticed to an apothecary.

Over the next few years Douthwaite gradually turned away from a life of "youthful dissipation" to evangelic Christianity, and was recruited by the China Inland Mission and sent to China as a medical missionary in 1874. A year later he married Elizabeth Doig, and together they spent four years as pioneer missionaries in Chehkiang Province.

Due to on-going health problems Douthwaite was offered the post of superintendent of the CIM's Chefoo station in 1882, a post he retained until his death in 1899. In 1884 he went to the United States where he obtained the medical qualification of M.D. (USA), and returned to Chefoo to continue the development of medical services. During the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 - 1895 Douthwaite organised the emergency treatment of many wounded Chinese soldiers, for which services the Emperor Of China awarded him, along with eight other medical missionaries, the Order of the Double Dragon.

Mrs Elizabeth (Lily) Douthwaite died in 1887, and in 1890 he married Miss Constance Groves, a grand daughter of Anthony Norris Groves. She died in 1896 after giving birth to their fourth child.

Constance Harriet Groves was born in India in 1867, eldest daughter of Edward Groves, the third son of Anthony Norris Groves, and Isabella, née Reeve, herself the daughter of missionaries. Constance was brought up in a loving and Christian household, but life was never easy as her father suffered periodic bouts of mental illness. In 1887 Constance went to China as governess to the children of Charles and Elizabeth Judd of the CIM. Her first two years in China were unhappy ones, but after certain issues were resolved, she was able to become Douthwaite's second wife in 1890. This was a seemingly happy marriage, marred only by the death of their first baby at only four weeks old.

Conditions Governing Access

Originals can only be consulted only with written agreement of the Archivist. Transcripts of original material available in J. D. Owen, J. Gullick & S. McClure (eds.), 'Married to a Missionary: Constance Douthwaite's letters to her family, 1887-1896, with additional letters from her husband Arthur Douithwaite MD', unpublished, 2009 [copy available in Special Collections Reading Room].

Restrictions Apply

Acquisition Information

Placed on deposit as a permanent loan by the surviving grandchildren of Dr & Mrs Douthwaite, February 2010

Alternative Form Available

Transcripts of original material available in J. D. Owen, J. Gullick & S. McClure (eds.), 'Married to a Missionary: Constance Douthwaite's letters to her family, 1887-1896, with additional letters from her husband Arthur Douithwaite MD', unpublished, 2009 [copy available in Special Collections Reading Room].

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright held by depositors

Related Material

The archive of the China Inland Mission (CIM) at SOAS will also hold a small amount of material relating to the Douthwaite family as well as a great deal of information on the CIM's activities in China. Furthermore, published sources - such as the 'Chinese Recorder' and 'China's Millions' - will also contain relevant information.

See also MS 381162: 'The Life of Edward Kennaway Groves: His Achievements and His Disappointments (1836-1917)', by John D Owen.