Hugh Stowell PHILLIPS

  Hugh Stowell Phillips thumbnail  
Rev. Hugh Stowell PHILLIPS

Hugh Stowell PHILLIPS(1334) was born in 18651 probably in Pendleton, Salford, Lancashire where the family were living in 18712 . He was the elder of two sons of Robert PHILLIPS (1333) (about 1830-1901) and Cecilia Alicia STOWELL (158) (1839-1891). In 1881 the family were living at 4 Petworth Street, Cheetham, Manchester, and Hugh was a schoolboy3. According to his entry in the Church Missionary Society register4, he attended Manchester Grammar School.

Hugh matriculated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he took his BA in 1886, and MA in 1892. He was also at Ridley Hall, the Church of England theological college in Cambridge. He was accepted by the Church Missionary Society on 01 Nov 1887, and was ordained Deacon on 03 Sep 1888 by the Bishop of Manchester for the Bishop of London and the Colonies (if I understand the abbreviations correctly). He was ordained Priest on 23 Nov 1890 by the Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, having already been posted to the South China Mission on 19 Oct 18885. Thus the entirety of his service, until his resignation from the CMS in 1929, was spent with that organisation.

A summary of where he was based, both during his time with the Church Missionary Society, and subsequently, is as follows6:

Despite his long service in China, I have not found that any attempt has been made to write a biography or memoir specifically on him. CMS Missionaries were required to write an "Annual Letter", and many of his have survived7. However, I think it will not be me who reads them. For now, at any rate, apart from the card index summaries of correspondence, for his missionary activities, I have used published texts.

Together with the Rev. H. C. Knox, whose poor health caused him to return home after two years, it was intended that Hugh establish a north-west extension of the Fukien mission. Initially, he and the Rev.Knox established a base at Nang-wa, and eventually a mission house was established at Kien-Yang, but further progress in establishing a line of mission stations from Kien-ning towards and into Kiang-Si province proved not possible, for lack of missionaries8.

There are two sources I have come across on the web which give a idea of what life in the CMS missions in the northern part of Fjuian Province was like. One tells it from the point of view of the Zenana Missionary Society 9, and the other a book written about the Dublin (i.e.Trinity College) University Mission 1887 - 191110. Both missions were part of the wider Church of England mission effort in the province, which lies opposite Taiwan. Helpfully, because of the way the names have changed, the Zenana book has a map at the front, and from this we can see where the various places that Hugh was based were.

Nang-wa, his first base, is about 20 miles NW of Yenping, and Kien-Yang, the second, was probably a good 50 miles further north. Then Kien-Ning, the main town of the Prefecture with the same name, lay between the two. To get into this area at that time involved travelling from Foo-Chow up the river Min, a day in a steam launch and a fortnight in a smaller boat, poled or hauled through rocks and rapids. Turning sharply north at Yen-Ping (Nanping?), his first base Nang-wa was reached. This was a market town by the river, about 15 miles downriver from Kien-Ning.

Considerable difficulties arose because the dialect of Kien-Ning was so different from that of the provincial capital Foo-Chow that the Foo-Chow Christians could not make themselves understood. In 1904 Hugh wrote a paper on the romanised dialects of Kien-Ning11.

One story is told of Hugh's narrow escape on 01 Aug 1895 when eleven people (nine adults and two children) were murdered in the village of Huashan, an eight-hour climb up in the hills above Gutian, the administrative town and a base for both Church Missionary Society and Zenana Missionary Society missions. Those killed were all British subjects, and included three Zenana missionaries from Australia. The Rev Hugh escaped because he was living in a separate house some distance from where the others were attacked. The incident is described in a letter from James GREGORY of the Methodist Hosiptal in Gutian, written at Kucheng, China, on 25 Aug 189512 , in another history of the Fuh-Kien mission13 and in the international press. However, it is clear that normally the missionaries travelled without trouble and were treated hospitably.

  Minnie and Hugh thumbnail  
Rev. Hugh Stowell PHILLIPS and Minnie Mary APPERSON

For a more modern description and assessment of the women missionaries, amongst whom were numbered both of Hugh's wives, there is a paper by Ian Welch 14

Hugh married twice. His first wife was Minnie Mary APPERSON(1557), who was a Zenana missionary working in the same province. Hugh mentions their engagement in a letter of 17 Nov 1891, and in another letter of 04 Mar 1892 says that he hoped to marry on 4 May 189215. In fact they did marry on that date, at the English Church in Foo-Chow 16.

Immediately after their wedding the couple went north to Shanghai, partly on missionary business, and presumably partly on honeymoon. Minnie's letters indicated that they enjoyed living in an English atmosphere for a while. By 23 May they were back in Foochow, and by early June were at Nang-ua heading for Hugh's base at Kien-yang. At the time, however, there had recently been trouble there, and they could not proceed. Instead, they went up to a village in the hills, to escape the summer heat. They did eventually get to Kien-yang, in October, but had to retreat almost immediately because of further trouble, during which the newly built mission house was destroyed.

Hugh and Minnie had two children:

Minnie died on on 17 Nov 1894, not long after the birth of Mary, and I do not know how the children were cared for.

In a letter dated 23 Nov 1895, the Rev. C. Shaw reported that Hugh had left for England, having become engaged to Miss Hankin19. On 18 Feb 1896 Hugh, still only 30 but a widower, married a second time, Alice Maude HANKIN(1335), spinster, 26, daughter of Daniel Bell HANKIN, the Vicar of St Judes, Islington. The marriage took place at St Jude's, Islington, London20 .

It seems probable that Hugh and Alice had just one child:

Hugh died on 17 Mar 194022 , and Alice 24 Jul 1947, aged 7823. At the moment I know nothing much about their lives in Wallington or Guildford.


1) GRO births index, Salford, Lancashire, Dec quarter 1865,vol.8d, p.27.
2) 1871 England and Wales Census, RG10, piece 4011, folio 111, p.6.
3) 1881 England and Wales Census, RG 11, piece 4024, folio 61, p.29.
4) CMS Register of Missionaries and Native Clergy 1804-1904, with manuscript additions. Copies of these entries have been kindly provided by the Project Archivist, Special Collections, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.
5) CMS Register of Missionaries, see note 4 above.
6) Personal communication from Michael Phillips, 10 May 2011.
7) According to information provided by the Project Archivist, Special Collections, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, the CMS archives there include copies of Hugh's Annual Letters, or extracts thereof, for 1889/90-1894/5, 1901-1906 and 1908-1911 in a series of printed volumes which were compiled for private circulation. His Annual Letters for 1917-1918 and 1921-1926 are also in the archives. These, together with more general correspondence, would no doubt provide material for a more detailed account of his missionary life.
8) For Christ in Fuh-Kien, being a new edition (the fourth) of the Fuh-Kien mission of the Church Missionary Society. London: Church Missionary Society, 1904, p.32.
9) The Light of the Morning, The story of C.E.Z.M.S. work in the Kien-Ning Prefecture of the Fuh-Kien Province, China, by Mary E. Darley. London, Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, and Marshall Brothers, 1903. This book can be read online or downloaded at
10) Project Canterbury: A history of the Dublin University Fuh-Kien Mission, 1887-1911. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis & Co. Ltd, 1911. Available online at
11) Phillips, Hugh Stowell. 1904. The Kien-Ning romanised dialects. The Chinese Recorder 35:517-519.
12) Letter 10 in Letters from China, Dr. James J GREGORY, Methodist Episcopal Church Foreign Mission Board, Wiley Memorial Hospital, Gutian, China 1895-1896, Edited by Ian Welch. Available online at
13) For Christ in Fuh-Kien, being a new edition (the fourth) of the Fuh-Kien mission of the Church Missionary Society. London: Church Missionary Society, 1904, p.41.
14) Women's Work for Women: Women Missionaries in 19th Century China. Ian Welch, 2005. Available on the web at
15) From scans of index cards of Hugh's correspondence with the CMS in London, kindly provided by the Special Collections section of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, which now holds the bulk of the CMS and Zenana archives.
16) Victory, being reminiscences of and letters from Minnie M. Apperson (later Mrs. H. S. Phillips) of the Church of England Zenana Society, edited by Mrs E. C. Millard, with preface by Rev. Edward W. Moore. M.A., incumbent of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon. London, E. Marlborough & Co. The publication was noted in The Times, Tuesday 14 Apr 1896, p.10. The wedding is described on p.150.
17) Phillips family tree, received from Michael Phillips on 28 Mar 2011. The birth is also noted in the CMS card index, see note 11 above, and on p. 182 of Victory, see note 12 above.
18) The date of her birth is noted in the CMS card index, see note 11 above, and on p. 209 of Victory, see note 12 above.
19) CMS card index of correspondence, kindly scanned and provided by the Special Collections, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.
20) The marriage register of St. Jude's Church, Islington, London, 1896, entry no.488. Image available through This is a copy of the original register, and has the signatures of both Hugh and Alice. The witnesses were Robert PHILLIPS, the groom's father, and Daniel Bell HANKIN, the bride's father. The marriage was reigstered: GRO marriage index, Islington, Mar quarter 1896, Vol.1b, p.361.
21) GRO births index, Salford, Lancashire, Jun quarter 1897, vol.8d, p.62.
22) The date is given in the Phillips Family Tree, see note 11 above. The death was registered: GRO deaths index, Surrey S.W., Mar quarter 1940, vol.2a, p.1151.
23) GRO deaths index, Jun quarter 1947, Bath Avon, vol.7c, p.75.

© John Stowell 2011             This file last edited on 02 September 2011.

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