The Papers of Sir John Glover

Sir John Glover (top right) and his Asante War lieutenants, from the ‘Life of Sir John Glover’ (1897); RCS.A.43c99g.1

The Royal Commonwealth Society Library at Cambridge University Library has recently published an on-line catalogue of the papers of Sir John Hawley Glover.  A Royal Navy officer distinguished for surveying, Glover charted the waters of the Niger during Dr William Balfour Baikie’s second exploration of the river in 1857. After the expedition’s steamer ‘Dayspring’ was wrecked near Jebba in October, Glover trekked overland to Lagos three times to ensure the safe return of the party. Britain annexed Lagos in 1861 and Glover left active naval service to join its new colonial administration, becoming Secretary in 1864 and then Administrator from 1866 to 1872.

The Chief of Boussa [Bussa] wearing a medal dating from Mungo Park’s visit; ‘Voyage of the Dayspring’ (1926); RCS.C.43c.80


Glover’s papers vividly document the significant challenges confronting the fledgling colony. Alluding to the healthiness of the coast, the explorer Richard Burton had described Government House as ‘an iron coffin with generally a dead consul inside.’ Lagos’s survival depended upon commerce with the interior and Glover promoted trade in palm oil, cotton and other commodities. He strove to enlarge the colony’s territory and increase Britain’s regional influence. A committed Christian evangelist, Glover also battled the slave trade and encouraged the work of missionaries. Glover earned a reputation for sympathy and fairness as an arbiter of grievances within and beyond Lagos. He travelled widely in the region, often being the first European that many local people had seen. On one memorable occasion, an African princess, solicitous for his health, urged that he be taken under shelter, lest he melt in the sun.




Niger Delta House; ‘Voyage of the Dayspring’ (1926); RCS.C.43.c.80

 The naval surgeon Dr Eales described the development of Lagos under Glover, ‘Now commenced in earnest the improvements of the town. A splendid esplanade was laid out the entire length of the settlement… parallel with the lagoon, and planted the whole way with trees. Long, broad streets were made through the native portions of the town. A fine court-house was built, a jetty thrown out into the lagoon. A colonial hospital, one Church of England and two large Nonconformist churches erected. By this example public enterprise was awakened’ (‘Life of Sir John Hawley Glover’, 1897, p. 103).

Map showing the route from the Gold Coast to Asante; RCMS 131_8_2

A major section of the papers describes the salient role Glover played during the Second Anglo-Asante War of 1873-74. With a handful of British officers and a cadre of Hausa police, Glover mobilised an army of African auxiliaries. He mounted a successful diversion supporting the main army commanded by Sir Garnet Wolseley, which defeated the Asante and captured Kumasi on 4 February 1874. The journalist Henry Morton Stanley, who covered the expedition, emphasised Glover’s dynamic energy during the campaign, ‘… he was here, there, everywhere – alert, active, prompt, industrious. He was general-in-chief, quartermaster-general, commissariat officer, military secretary, pilot, captain, engineer, general supervisor of all things, overseer of all men, conductor of great and small things; and in short, the impellent force of his army’ (‘Life of Glover’, p. 178). Glover later served as Governor of Newfoundland and Governor of the Leeward Islands.

To view the on-line catalogue, please follow this link:


  • Do you have any information about a Capt. Maxwell who led a party sent by John Glover to Ibadan to rescue the missionaries David and Anna Hinderer who were there in 1865 when the Ijebu King would not allow white people to pass through his territory. The missionaries were both ill and needed to leave Ibadan in order to receive medical attention.

  • Many thanks.
    Ann Meakin

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