Papers of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786-1855)

Scope and Content

The papers of Sir Henry Rowley Bishop consist of correspondence including those about: the Royal Academy of Music, 21 November 1822; an oratorio, 1835; the Reid Commemoration Concert, Edinburgh, 1842; the Society of British Musicians, 1847; and, suggestions for future operatic productions, Covent Garden, 1853. Material in the Laing Collection includes: letters to R. Stephenson, Remington, and Stephenson and Co., 1827, 1847, and undated, letters to H. B. Peacock, 1836-1853, letters, 1843, 1844, and letter to Mons. Jullien, 1847, at La.III.366;

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Rowley Bishop was born in Great Portland Street, London, on 18 November 1786. He received his early musical instruction from the Italian composer and teacher Francesco Bianchi. Rowley's first operatic work was Angelina (1804) which was played at the Theatre Royal, Margate, and soon after this he began writing ballet music for the King's Theatre in Haymarket, and for Drury Lane. The success of Tamerlan et Bajazet (1806) at the King's led to a permanent engagement. Rowley's first important opera The Circassian bride was accepted by Drury Lane and performed there on 23 February 1809. On the following night the theatre was burned down and the score was lost, but he re-wrote it from memory. When the Drury Lane company moved to the Lyceum Theatre, Rowley continued to write for them. He was then engaged as composer and director of music at Covent Garden, and his first work there was The Knight of Snowdoun, a musical drama based on Scott's Lady of the lake. A rapid succession of original compositions and compilations and music for plays and operas followed. In addition to his post at Covent Garden, Rowley was director of music at the King's Theatre in 1816 and 1817. His connection with Covent Garden ended in 1824, and in 1825 he was engaged by Drury Lane where he produced The fall of Algiers (1825). His permanent connection with Drury Lane ended in 1830. He continued writing of course, and his work was performed at the Haymarket, Drury Lane and Vauxhall Gardens Theatres. Rowley was for a time Professor of Harmony and Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and in November 1841 he was elected as the Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University, a post which he held until December 1843. The year previously, in 1842, Rowley was knighted by Queen Victoria. In 1848, he became Professor of Music at Oxford University. Sir Henry Rowley Bishop died at his home in Cambridge Street, Hyde Park, on 30 April 1855. He was buried at Marylebone Cemetery, Finchley Road, in May 1855.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letter about the Royal Academy of Music purchased 1972, Accession no. E73.3. letter about an oratorio purchased November 1972, Accession no. E72.61. Letter about the Reid Commemoration Concert purchased April 1979, Accession no. E79.35. Letter about the Society of British Musicians purchased April 1977, Accession no. E77.17. Letter about future Covent Garden productions purchased April 1978, Accession no. E78.8.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.2. Beal-Browell. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show another referencs to Bishop related material (check the Indexes for more details): a request for support for Bishop as a candidate for the Chair of Music at Edinburgh University, 1841, at Dk.6.20/97. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: compositions, 1810-1836, British Library, Music Collections, Ref. Add MSS 36938-68; and, letters to Charles Mackay, 1851-1853, British Library, Music Collections, Ref. Add MS 29905.