Henry Barkly

Sir Henry Barkly GCMG KCB FRS FRGS (24 February 1815 20 October 1898) was a British politician, colonial governor and patron of the sciences.

Sir Henry Barkly
4th Governor of British Guiana
In office
24 February 1849  11 May 1853
Preceded byHenry Light
Succeeded byPhilip Wodehouse
Governor of Jamaica
In office
Preceded byCharles Edward Grey
Succeeded byCharles Henry Darling
2nd Governor of Victoria
In office
26 December 1856  10 September 1863
Preceded bySir Charles Hotham
Succeeded bySir Charles Darling
10th Governor of Mauritius
In office
21 August 1863  3 June 1870
Preceded bySir William Stevenson
Succeeded bySir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
14th Governor of Cape Colony
In office
31 December 1870  31 March 1877
Preceded bySir Philip Wodehouse
Succeeded bySir Henry Frere
Personal details
Born(1815-02-24)24 February 1815
Highbury, Middlesex, England, UK
Died20 October 1898(1898-10-20) (aged 83)
South Kensington, London, England, UK
Resting placeBrompton Cemetery
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Helen Timins (18401857)
Anne Maria Pratt (18601898)

Early life and education

Born on 24 February 1815 at Highbury, Middlesex (now London), he was the eldest son of Susannah Louisa (born ffrith) and Æneas Barkly, a Scottish born West India merchant.[1] He was educated at Bruce Castle School in Tottenham, where the school's particular curriculum endowed him with a lifetime interest in science and statistics.[2]

Upon completing his schooling and studies in commerce, Barkly worked for his father. The Barkly family had several connections with the West Indies: Barkly's mother, Susannah Louisa, whose maiden name was ffrith, was the daughter of a Jamaica planter; his father's company was concerned with trade in the West Indies; and the family owned an estate in British Guiana.[2]

According to the Legacies of British Slave-ownership database Barkly's father was compensated £132,000 from the Imperial Parliament for the emancipation of some 4,440 slaves in 1834.[3] Barkly inherited his father's estate in 1836 at the age of 20. He was awarded two of the compensation claims following his father's death.[4] He remained involved in the partnership until 1843.[5]

Political career

Barkly was elected to the House of Commons at a by-election on 26 April 1845 as one of the two Members of Parliament (MPs) for the borough Leominster.[6] He was returned unopposed,[7] and The Times observed that his election address did not render voters "much wiser" about his political views.[8]

As a Peelite, one of the supporters of Prime Minister Robert Peel, Barkly found himself adrift with few political prospects when Peel was overthrown, and he gratefully accepted the governorship of British Guiana when the post was offered by his Liberal opponents in 1848.[2]


Governor of British Guiana

Barkly was sworn in as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of British Guiana on 12 February 1849. His family connections with British Guiana and the West Indies in general served him well as governor of the colony, and prompted Lord Grey, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, to refer to his "remarkable skill and ability" in addressing the colony's economic issues by widening the franchise of the College of Kiezers and introducing indentured servants from Asia.[2]

Governor of Jamaica

In 1853, he was transferred to Jamaica and served three years as its governor and captain-general.[9]

Governor of Victoria

In November 1856, Barkly was appointed Governor of Victoria, Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 24 December 1856. He achieved one of his main goals of stable government with the appointment of the James McCulloch ministry. He was noted for his support of philanthropic and intellectual movements. He was a founder and president of the Royal Society of Victoria, 1860–63, and helped to found the National Gallery of Victoria, the Acclimatization Society and the National Observatory.[10]

Governor of Mauritius and the Cape Colony

He was appointed 10th Governor of Mauritius from 26 November 1863 to 4 June 1870.[11]

In August 1870 he was sent to the Cape of Good Hope as Governor of Cape Colony and as British High Commissioner for Southern Africa. He helped to implement responsible government in the Cape and worked closely with John Molteno, its first elected Prime Minister. He served in South Africa until 1877, and played an important role in assisting the early growth of the Cape Liberal tradition. He was also influential in supporting the local resistance against Lord Carnarvon's attempt to unite the region's states into a federation (inspired by the success of the Canadian Confederation). Crucially, he shared with the Cape government the belief that the Cape's non-racial constitution was still fragile and that it was "impossible that the Cape's native laws would survive a session of bargaining with the Boer republics. Federation in 1875 would have produced the same results as Union did in 1910... Barkly was undoubtedly right to foster the nucleus of a Liberal party which was forming around Molteno. Liberal democracy was a tender plant in the climate of South Africa, but it had taken root in the Cape, and it was only the insensitive handling of Downing Street which prevented it growing, as Barkly hoped, into a force which would have been strong enough to control the other tendencies in South African politics."[12]

He was involved with the Royal Commission on Colonial Defence in 1879.

He died in Brompton, Kensington, London on 20 October 1898 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.


In 1840, he married Elizabeth Helen, the second daughter of J. F. Timins.[9] Elizabeth was an artist and botanical collector who collected with her husband and undertook illustrations for him.[13] She died in 1857 leaving him with their daughter Emily.[13] Emily was also a botanical artist, drawing illustrations for her father and collecting botanical specimens.[14][15] Barkly was remarried to the botanist Anne Maria Pratt, the daughter of Thomas Simson Pratt, three years after the death of his first wife.[16][17] His oldest son Arthur Cecil Stuart Barkly (1843–1890) was his father's private secretary in Mauritius and the Cape, and went on to become the last British governor of Heligoland.[2]


Henry Barkly was awarded a Knight of the Order of the Bath on 18 July 1853, just prior to his appointment as Governor of Jamaica. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1864, and of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS) in 1870. He was made a GCMG on 9 March 1874.


The Navarre diggings, a small Victorian gold field was named Barkly on 1 November 1861 in his honour.[18]

The South African towns of Barkly East and Barkly West, and the Barkly Pass are named after him.[19]

Several notable streets were named after him including a main civic street in Ballarat East named Barkly Street for him in 1858[20] along with the main street of Ararat, Victoria also named Barkly Street.[21] Barkly Street in Mentone, Victoria was named for him though later renamed Rogers Street.[22] The Barkly River, located in the alpine region of Victoria, within the Alpine National Park, is named in honour of Barkly. The bell atop the tower of the Ballarat Fire Brigade, on the corner of Barkly & East streets, Ballarat East was christened the "Lady Barkly" by the brigades Captain in August 1863.


  • MacMillan, Mona (1969). "Sir Henry Barkly, mediator and moderator, 1815-1898". Balkema: Cape Town.
  • Barkly, Sir Henry,KCB,GCMG, The Earlier House of Berkeley, published in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Vol. 8, 1883-84, pp. 193–223
  • Barkly, Henry (1888). John, Maclean (ed.). "Testa de Nevill Returns for the County of Gloucester". Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. 12: 235–290. Retrieved 5 March 2015.


  1. Benyon, John (2004). "Barkly, Sir Henry (1815–1898), colonial governor". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1424. Retrieved 13 April 2021. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Benyon, John. "Barkly, Sir Henry (1815–1898)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1424. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. "Aeneas Barkly Profile & Legacies Summary". Legacies of British Slave-ownership. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  4. "Henry Barkly Profile & Legacies Summary". Legacies of British Slave-ownership. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  5. Coventry, C.J. (2019). "Links in the Chain: British slavery, Victoria and South Australia". Before/Now. 1 (1): 31. doi:10.17613/d8ht-p058.
  6. "No. 20466". The London Gazette. 29 April 1845. p. 1293.
  7. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 181. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  8. "Representation of Leominster". The Times. London. 26 April 1845. pp. 6, col E. Retrieved 18 December 2010. (subscription required)
  9. Dod, Robert P. (1860). The Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Whitaker and Co. pp. 104–105.
  10. B. A. Knox, 'Barkly, Sir Henry (1815–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, MUP, 1969, pp 95-96.
  11. ben cahoon. "Mauritius". Worldstatesmen.org. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  12. MacMillan, Mona (1969). Sir Henry Barkly, mediator and moderator, 1815-1898. Balkema: Cape Town. p. 254.
  13. "Barkly, Elizabeth Helen (-1857)". plants.jstor.org. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "Barkly, Emily Blanche (1850-1915)". plants.jstor.org. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. "Barkly, Emily Blanche". kiki.huh.harvard.edu. Retrieved 29 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. "Lady Barkly, 1863". National Portrait Gallery collection. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  17. "Barkly, Anne Maria (1838-1932)". plants.jstor.org. 19 April 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. Driscoll, Eulalie (November 1996). "James Law, discoverer of gold at Barkly". Avoca and District Historical Society Newsletter No 143. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  19. Raper, P. E. (1989). Dictionary of Southern African Place Names. Jonathan Ball Publishers. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-947464-04-2 via Internet Archive.
  20. "Victorian Heritage Database". Vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  21. Victorian Government Gazette. 1ST JANUARY TO 30TH JUNE, 1 6o.
  22. City of Kingston Historical Website (7 May 2012). "Did You Know?: More Mentone's Street Names". Localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original on 30 April 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
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