James Phillippo was born October 14, 1798 in East Dereham, Norfolk, England. He was the son of well known builder Peter Phillippo and Sarah Banyard the daughter of a wealthy farmer. He was not a diligent student, but won prizes for his extraordinary memory and his ability to recite poetry or long passages from books. According to his 1874 autobiography he became something of a ne’er-do-well after he left school, but after two near fatal accidents he reassessed his life. He took religious instruction with Rev. Samuel Green and in 1816 he invited his family to the Dereham Baptist Church to witness his baptism. They came with some reluctance. His father was a staunch member of the Parish Church and had threatened to disown him. A considerable number of the town attended service. James’ family continued to attend the church, and his mother also became a Baptist.
After working for his father for a while James became a book keeper, printer and book binder before he felt the call of missionary work and applied for training. He began his studies in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire in 1821 before being directed to Bradford Academy in Horton in January 1822 to continue his training. While in college he became great friends with another student, James Murcell. They remained friends and correspondents for the rest of their lives. Neither had been christened with a middle name and they took each other’s last name as their middle name as a sign of their friendship. James Phillippo Murcell went on to become an influential Baptist clergyman in England. In the annual report of the Northern Baptist Education Society for the year ending August 1823 the report of the President of the Academy, Rev. William Steadman, D.D., includes the sentence "Mr. Phillippo also has pursued his studies under the patronage of the Missionary Society, and is expected soon to go to Jamaica".
After finishing college James was to be married before going abroad as was the common practice for a soon-to-be missionary. In October, 1823 he married Hannah Selina Cecil in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and almost immediately they sailed for Jamaica to take over the station of Rev. Thomas Godden who was then in failing health and had been recalled to England. Under the auspices of the Baptist Missionary Society they left Gravesend, England on October 29, 1823 aboard the Ocean commanded by Captain Whittle, an ex Naval Officer and lay Baptist preacher.
It must have been a very difficult decision for James and Hannah to leave all their family and friends, possibly forever. They both knew that there was a good chance they would not survive the tropics for long. It was not an exaggeration to say that the Caribbean the “graveyard of the white man”. The fevers, heat and humidity killed many colonists, sometimes within weeks of arriving at their new homes. The beginning of the trip was inauspicious – gales and heavy rain lashed the ship until they passed the Bay of Biscay. After that the winds were fair and the voyage went well.
They first saw the Blue Mountains of Jamaica on December 18 and landed at Port Morant on the 19th. The next morning they set off for Spanish Town forty miles away it was a long day’s sail and they arrived in Port Royal late in the evening. Next morning, Sunday, December 21, they made their way to Kingston. It must have been a strange feeling to arrive so close to Christmas without the cold weather they had grown up with. They remained in Kingston until after the Christmas festivities before leaving in early January 1824 for Spanishtown, their new station and the place where they were to make their new home.
Their new home must have come as a terrible shock. It was in a former Army compound surrounded by a brick wall. Their house was very small with two stories and only one filthy room on each floor. The inner walls had been painted black to ease the failing sight of the previous missionary. They set to work with the optimism of youth and themselves a workable home. Later the ground floor became their first school. This was not the original mission-house, just an out-building. The original had been destroyed in a fire on July 17, 1820, one of the chapels and other church buildings destroyed by the planters in an unsuccessful bid to drive the missionaries from Jamaica. They were upset that the Nonconformist missionaries (chiefly Baptist, Wesleyan and Methodist) were educating slaves and teaching them the Bible. Moreover, the missionaries had been actively agitating for the abolition of slavery. Despite the enmity and anti-missionary bias of the council, the missionaries and members of other, established, religious groups began to call ever more stridently for an end to slavery and its abuses.
James began an almost fifteen year fight against the sometimes violent hostility of the planters and the discrimination and endless petty penalties inflicted by the corrupt colonial council. The council felt it had the right to rule Jamaica as it saw fit, despite the objections of the Governor, the official Parliamentary representative. Although the violence of the planters began to fade the hostility remained and the council made all the missionaries lives as difficult as they could. Indeed, the Rev. Phillippo had to appear before the Committee of the House of Assembly for a license to preach. He was turned down and within days, on December 11, 1824, was arrested for not enrolling in the militia as required by law. He was forcibly enrolled even though he was severely ill and as a “man of God” he was specifically exempted from this duty. Then he was fined for missing a militia drill. Under the protection of the Governor, the Duke of Manchester, Phillippo appeared in court, had the fine waived, his credentials were accredited and his preaching license finally granted on January 7, 1825. Almost immediately he opened a school and set about raising the funds to build a new chapel. Although many of the planters remained hostile by the end of 1825 most of the petty annoyances and grievances had eased and some of his former tormentors even donated to the school and chapel, but the hostility never truly abated until slavery was finally abolished.
The wife of a Baptist missionary was every bit as much a missionary as was her husband. Their home was the place where hospitality was always available and as a missionary’s wife it was her job to receive callers and visitors and serve them refreshments. James and Hannah lived above the school in which they worked side by side. She taught the girls and he taught the boys, a division of labour firmly established by the Missionary Society in the late eighteenth century. Even though she suffered from extreme ill health herself, she was always available to visit the sick and the poor, especially the women and children. It was also her job to interview female applicants for church membership. In addition she oversaw the organizing and running of women’s groups. These groups included such things as Bible study; reading and writing; simple medicine; basic hygiene and organizing relief for the poor. And, as was the practise, she was the supervisor of the growing Sunday School.
On February 18, 1827 James opened the Phillippo Baptist Church at the entrance to Spanishtown on the corner of William and French Streets. It still stands, but is now a government office. Only a month later, in March, in poor health after three stillbirths, Hannah Phillippo was sent home to England to visit her family and recuperate. This was a fairly common practise in missionary work in hot, humid climates that were sometimes referred to as the ‘graveyard of the white man’. A year later she returned to Spanish Town in good health and immediately resumed her missionary support duties.
By 1831 both James and Hannah were again afflicted with poor health. They and their two young daughters were recalled to England for extensive rest and recuperation. Sadly, the baby did not survive the trip and only James, Hannah and daughter Hannah reached England. After a period of enforced rest, James took on the task of bringing the abolitionist view to the British public along with Thomas Burchell and William Knibb. They preached and lectured all across England about the abuses of slavery and appeared before Parliament in pursuit of complete abolition. By the end of 1833 their health had much improved and they returned to Jamaica with Hannah and two infant boys, James and George, leaving February 7, 1834 and arriving March 13. While they were in England their station had been overseen by the Rev, John Clark. The two families remained friends for the rest of their lives and many years later James’ son James would marry John’s daughter Hannah and George would marry John’s daughter Mary.
Slavery was a key issue, not just in Jamaica, but throughout the British Empire. Although the slave trade had been abolished in England in 1807, it was still permitted to own slaves in the Colonies. As an outspoken abolitionist James and other members of the Baptist clergy, notably William Knibb (Knibb the Notorious), and Thomas Burchell continued their crusade when they returned to Jamaica. Complete abolition was achieved with the Emancipation Act of 1834 and on August 1, 1834 slavery was over. As a missionary who had campaigned fearlessly, both in Jamaica and England, for the abolition of slavery it only seemed natural that James would take a leadership role in the housing of the newly freed slaves. He knew that many slaves would be emancipated, but left with neither home nor source of income, so he envisioned a village where newly freed slaves could live and work. He bought twenty-five acres of land ten miles north of Spanish Town in the St Catherine Hills where he founded Sligoville, the first Free Village. The terms of buying plots of land were very generous and many plots were sold before the village buildings were finished. The cornerstone was laid on September 25, 1834 and the village opened on July 10, 1835.
In the following years it became the model for many other villages built for emancipated slaves. The settlement had been named Sligoville in honour of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquis of Sligo, and Governor of Jamaica at that time. This first free village was followed by Sturge Town, Kitson Town, Clarkson Town (later Clarksonville), Kensington and Vale Lionel built by Rev. James Phillippo; Bethel Town and Mount Carey by Rev. Thomas Burchell; Kettering and Hoby Town by Rev. William Knibb; Wilberforce and Buxton by Mr. Clark; Victoria by Rev. John Clark ; and The Alps and Calabar by Mr. Dexter.
Although the Emancipation Act of 1834 had officially ended slavery, the problems fro the ex-slaves worsened. The Apprenticeship Act of 1834 required freed predial (field) slaves to apprentice for seven years and all other slaves to apprentice for five years, both to prepare for their freedom and to help offset the financial cost to their former owners. They were to be provided shelter, food and a wage. This Act was simply a way for planters to maintain slavery (as declared in the House of Lords by Lord Derby), forcing ex-slaves to train for jobs at which had already been working and frequently denying the food, shelter and wages promised. Horrific punishments were inflicted on the supposedly free ex-slaves for the most minor infringement of the rules. The Act was to be in force for fourteen years. One, unintended, benefit of the Act was that as free people, Sunday was a day of rest, so former slaves all over the Empire had free time and many attended churches.
The missionaries had seen the vicious treatment of apprentices and preached against these abuses and wrote to their supporters in England. The planters answered this pressure with punishments of great brutality, much worse than during slavery. The savagery of the planters was so severe that Parliament began to fear an insurrection amongst the former slaves and after great pressure from many Colonial churchmen and abolitionists in the Colonies and in England the Apprenticeship Act was repealed on August 1, 1838.
After slavery and apprenticeship ended one of the most crucial developments in Jamaica was the increase in the number of Free Villages. These were lands purchased and sponsored by churches and philanthropists, usually based on the model created by Phillippo in the 1830’s. The villages were usually large parcels of land divided into smaller lots with small homes for sale to their newly freed members at very low prices. This created a new landscape of Jamaica that still exists.
In 1839, James, along with his two friends, William Knibb and Thomas Burchell, began lobbying for the creation of a theological college in Jamaica for the training of ministers. It was also planned to later add a school for the community’s children. On June 12, 1842, James, Hannah and their younger son Edwin set off for England aboard the Rawlings. Ostensibly, the trip to England was for their health, but also it was an opportunity to lobby the Missionary Society for permission and funding for the college and school. Their passage was very quick and they arrived in London on July 9. While in England Phillippo traveled extensively, lectured and wrote Jamaica: Its Past and Present State, a definitive look at Jamaica at the time. The trip was successful and fully recovered they returned to Jamaica aboard the Trent in December 1843.
The dream of a college became a reality when the Baptist Missionary Society of London and the Jamaica Baptist Union sponsored the creation of this college. Calabar Theological College came into being in 1843 and was first sited in the little free village of Calabar, near Rio Bueno, Trelawny. The name "Calabar" had been brought to Jamaica by slaves from Nigeria, West Africa, where there was an old river-port city by that name. In 1868 Calabar College was moved to East Queen Street, Kingston, where a "Normal" school for training teachers and a long-awaited high school for boys were added.
Although James had made several trips back to England he always came back to Jamaica. He had also made long trips to the USA and Canada as well as a tour of Cuba and the Windward and Leeward Islands meeting fellow missionaries. He never stopped preaching and constantly traveled all over Jamaica to bring the ‘Word of God’ to those who needed it. When his beloved wife, Hannah, died in 1874 at the age of 82 James could no longer bear to live in the mission-house and retired to a small cottage outside Kingston. He continued his missionary work until he retired on Sunday July 7, 1878. He lasted less than a year after his retirement, worn out by a long, hard life in an unfriendly climate. He was well respected by the Jamaican people at all social levels and died May 11, 1879 in Spanishtown at the age of 81.
James was also the author of three books about Jamaica, the most important being Jamaica: Its Past and Present State published while recuperating in England in 1842. James and Hannah had nine children, five of whom died in childhood, their four surviving children were:
Hannah Elizabeth Phillippo was the first born on April 25, 1829 in Spanish Town, St Catherine’s, Jamaica. She married William Claydon and after being widowed married Casey Bale Berry, but had no children.
Edwin Phillippo was born in 1835 in Spanish Town, Jamaica and died in Spanish Town on 18th November 1872, aged 37.
Hon. Sir George Phillippo was born in Spanish Town, St Catherine’s Jamaica in 1833. He went to school in England, trained as a barrister and was called to the Bar in 1862. He did not practice law in England at that time, but returned to Jamaica to practice law. There he married Mary Clark, the daughter of Rev. John Clark, a colleague of his father. Mary’s sister Hannah was married to George’s brother James. Later in 1862 George was called to the Jamaican Bar and, although he did practice law in Jamaica, within a few years he began an illustrious career with the British Colonial Service and took up appointments in many parts of the world. His wife Mary died April 16, 1890. That same year he married Eliza Hughes, daughter of Thomas Hughes while in London. He had no children.
He retired from Colonial Service as Chief Justice of Hong Kong on October 5, 1888. In 1897 he was appointed as the British High Consul in Geneva, Switzerland. After he retired from public life in 1910 he decided to remain in Geneva and it was there he died
on February 16, 1914.
From Burke’s Peerage Knightage 1906:
- PHILLIPPO, Sir George, Knight (1882);
Her Majesty’s Consul at Geneva since 1897;
Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple, 1862;
Admitted to the Jamaica Bar, 1862;
Queen's Advocate, Sierra Leone 1868;
Attorney-General of British Columbia, 1870;
Puisne Judge, British Guiana, 1871;
Puisne Judge of Straits Settlements 1874-6;
Attorney-General of Hong Kong 1876-9;
Chief Justice of Gibraltar 1879-82,
Chief Justice of Hong Kong 1882-88;
Has Perak medal;
Born 1833, son of late Rev. James Mursell Phillippo
Married 1st, 1862, Mary, daughter of Rev. John Clark. She died 16 April, 1890.
He married 2ndly, 1890, Eliza, daughter of Thomas Hughes.
Address - 8, Rue de la Cloche, Paquis, Geneva.
- Barrister-at-Law, Inner Temple, 1862
Admitted to the Jamaica Bar, 1862
Queen's Advocate, Sierra Leone 1868
Commissioner, later Attorney-General of British Columbia, 1870
Member of the Legislative Council of the Colony of British Columbia, 1871
Puisne Judge, British Guiana, 1871
Puisne Judge of Straits Settlements 1874-76
Acting Attorney-General of Hong Kong 1876
Attorney-General of Hong Kong 1877-9
Chief Justice of Gibraltar 1879-82
Chief Justice of Hong Kong 1882-88
Was awarded the Perak medal for service
Retired from the Colonial Foreign Service October 5, 1888
Returned to private law practice 1888-97
Appointed Her Majesty’s Consul at Geneva 1897
Retired from public life 1910
Died February 16, 1914
Elizabeth Selina Phillippo married Thomas Edward Butcher Cope on June 14, 1878 in Kingston, Jamaica. Secondly she married Cecil Holliday and they had a son.
- John Cecil Hamilton Holliday was born in 1884 in Cheshire, England
- Joan Wickham was born in Shanghai, China.
Sir Francis Cecil St. Aubyn, was born in Kingston, Jamaica on 18 Apr 1895 and died in 1978. He became 3rd Baron St. Levan November 10, 1940 on the death of his uncle John Townshend St. Aubyn, 2nd Baron St. Levan. He married Clementina Gwendolen Catherine Nicolson on October 6, 1916 and had five children.
- Jessica Gwendolen St. Aubyn born. February 9, 1918
John Francis Arthur St. Aubyn born February 23, 1919
Oliver Piers St. Aubyn born July 12, 1920
Phillippa Catherine St. Aubyn born June 19, 1922
Rowan St. Aubyn born March 11, 1925
- Constance Penelope Crichton-Stuart
Patrick Dudley Crichton-Stuart born 15 May 1909, married Sheila Mary Kendall on 22 July 1948 and they had two children
Patrick James Crichton Stuart born June 4, 1954
Caroline Mary Katherine Crichton Stuart born November 3, 1949
George Jekyll Phillippo was born in Kingston, Jamaica and went to university in England where he read law.
From Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900: George Jekyll Phillippo Cavendish House on April 21, 1884 [3rd son of the Hon. James Cecil, MD of Kingston, Jamaica] Matriculated Easter 1884. Migrated to Downing Oct. 1, 1885. BA 1887, admitted at the Inner Temple May 8, 1866. Called to the Bar, Nov. 18, 1889. (Law Lists, 1940; Inns of Court.)
He married Mary Josephine Smith/Pike/Reischl on January 07, 1904 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and died there on April 08, 1922. He claimed Mary’s daughter from a previous marriage as his own.
- Florence Gertrude “Edna” Reischl Phillippo
- Cecil Phillippo and another unnamed son.
- Elaine M. Phillippo was born in1905 in Shanghai, China
Frank Gregory Phillippo There is no other information available at this time.
Helen Nora Beatrice “Nell” Saunders was born in Kingston, Jamaica never married and returned to England with her parents. She was a nurse during WWI and spent her last years in Cheltenham, England. She died in the mid-1960's.
Arthur 'Hugh' Rich Saunders was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1886 and was killed on March 8, 1916 in Basra, Mesopotamia during WWI. He was a Captain in the 1st and 2nd King Edward's Own Ghurkha Rifles (The Sirmoor Rifles). He never married.
Harold Cecil Rich Saunders DSO was born in Kingston, Jamaica on April 28, 1882. He married Dotothy May Triscott in June, 1915 in England. He was a much decorated Major in the East Yorkshire Regiment with service in many parts of the world. He was killed in Soissons, France on May 30, 1918 at the end of WWI. They had one child
Arthur David Rich Saunders MBE was born July 05, 1917 in Chelsea, England. He died in 2000 in Haverfordwest, Pembroke, Wales.
Elizabeth Mary “Elsie” Saunders was born in Kingston, Jamaica and married James Llewellyn Stenhouse RA in 1906 and they had three daughters. Elsie died shortly after the end of WWII.
Cynthia Mary Louise Stenhouse was born in England in 1907 and died in England in 1965.
Jennifer Maitland Stenhouse was born in 1908 in Sheerness, Isle of Sheppy and died 1992 .
- Phillippa Katherine Stenhouse was born in Cambridge in 1916.
- Daphne Walford
- Margaret Janet Louise Saunders was born on December 16, 1912 in Loverna, Saskatchewan and died on November, 10 1986 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Arthur Phillippo Rich Saunders was born in 1914 in Empire, Alberta and died in December, 1988 in Sydney, Australia.
Ian Phillippo Rich Saunders was born in 1916, in Loverna, Saskatchewan and died on March 14, 1998 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Harold Phillippo Rich Saunders was born in 1919 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and died on October 11,1940 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Frank Phillippo Rich Saunders CD, RCN was born on August 31, 1922 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and died on July 24, 1969 near Ukiah, California, USA.
The diary of Hannah Elizabeth Teal
The prayer book of Emma Louise (Phillippo) Saunders
Jamaica : Its Past and Present State by James M. Phillippo of Spanish Town, Jamaica (London ; John Snow ; 1843)
Life of James Mursell Phillippo – Missionary in Jamaica by Edward Bean Underhill L.L.D. Honorary Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society (London : Yates & Alexander, 21 Castle Street, Holborn. E. Marlborough & Co. 51, Old Bailey MDCCCLXXXI
Life in Dereham 1798 – 1819 by James Mursell Phillippo, Original Manuscript - Regents Park College Oxford.