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Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet

Sir John Barrow
Born John Barrow
(1764-06-19)June 19, 1764
Dragley Beck, parish of Ulverston
Died November 23, 1848(1848-11-23) (aged 84)
Nationality English
Known for statesman, writer
Spouse(s) Anna Maria Truter

Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet, FRS, FRGS (19 June 1764 – 23 November 1848) was an English statesman and writer.


  • Career 1
  • Private life 2
  • Bibliography 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Barrow was born the son of Roger Barrow in the village of Dragley Beck, in the parish of Ulverston, then in Lancashire, now in Cumbria. He started in life as superintending clerk of an iron foundry at Liverpool and afterwards, in his twenties, taught mathematics at a private school in Greenwich.[1]

Through the interest of Sir literature and science connected with China.[1]

Although Barrow ceased to be officially connected with Chinese affairs after the return of the embassy in 1794, he always took much interest in them, and on critical occasions was frequently consulted by the British government.[1]

Sir John Barrow, 1st Bt, by John Jackson
The Castle at Cape Town in about 1800, painted by John Barrow

In 1797 he accompanied Lord Macartney, as private secretary, in his important and delicate mission to settle the government of the newly acquired colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Barrow was entrusted with the task of reconciling the Boer settlers and the native Black population and of reporting on the country in the interior. On his return from his journey, in the course of which he visited all parts of the colony, he was appointed auditor-general of public accounts. He now decided to settle in South Africa, married, and in 1800 bought a house in Cape Town. However the surrender of the colony at the peace of Amiens (1802) upset this plan. Barrow returned to England in 1804 and was appointed Second Secretary to the Admiralty by Viscount Melville, a post which he held for forty years,[1] (apart from a short period in 1806-07 when there was a Whig government in power).[2]

When Lord Grey took office as Prime Minister in 1830 Barrow was especially requested to remain in his post, starting the principle that senior civil servants stay in office on change of government and serve in a non-partisan manner. Indeed, it was during his occupancy of the post that it was renamed Permanent Secretary.

Barrow enjoyed the esteem and confidence of all the eleven chief lords who successively presided at the Admiralty board during that period, and more especially of King William IV while lord high admiral, who honoured him with tokens of his personal regard.[1]

During his travels through South Africa, Barrow compiled copious notes and sketches of the countryside he was traversing. The outcome of his journeys was a map which, despite its numerous errors, was the first published modern map of the southern parts of the Cape Colony.[3] William John Burchell (1781–1863) was particularly scathing "As to the miserable thing called a map, which has been prefixed to Mr. Barrow’s quarto, I perfectly agree with Professor Lichtenstein, that it is so defective that it can seldom be found of any use."

In his position at the Admiralty, Barrow was a great promoter of Arctic voyages of discovery, including those of John Ross, William Edward Parry, James Clark Ross, and John Franklin. The Barrow Strait in the Canadian Arctic as well as Point Barrow and the city of Barrow in Alaska are named after him. He is reputed to have been the initial proposer of St Helena as the new place of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Barrow was a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1821 received the degree of LL.D from the University of Edinburgh. A baronetcy was conferred on him by Sir Robert Peel in 1835.[4] He was also a member of the Raleigh Club, a forerunner of the Royal Geographical Society.[1]

Barrow retired from public life in 1845 and devoted himself to writing a history of the modern Arctic voyages of discovery (1846), as well as his autobiography, published in 1847.[1] He died suddenly on 23 November 1848.[1] The Sir John Barrow monument on Hoad Hill overlooking his home town of Ulverston was built in his honour (though it is more commonly called Hoad Monument). Mount Barrow and Barrow Island in Australia are believed to have been named for him.[5]

Private life

Barrow married Anna Maria Truter (1777–1857) in South Africa on 26 August 1799.[6] A botanical artist from the Cape, she bore him four sons and two daughters, one of whom, Johanna, married Robert Batty.[7]


  • Barrow's Boys - Fergus Fleming (1998) "For 30 years beginning 1816, the British Admiralty's John Barrow and his elite team charted large areas of the Arctic, discovered the North Magnetic Pole, were the first to see volcanoes in the Antarctic, crossed the Sahara to find Timbuktu and the mouth of the Niger - John Ross, John Franklin, William Edward Parry and others." [8]

Besides the numerous articles in the Quarterly Review already mentioned, Barrow published among other works:[1]

  • Travels into the Interior of South Africa (1806); online
  • Life of Lord Macartney (1807),
  • Life of Lord Anson (1839),
  • Life of Lord Howe (1838).

He was also the author of several valuable contributions to the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Other works included:

  • Travels in China (1804)
  • The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: (1831) Its Cause and Consequences, report about the mutiny on the Bounty
  • An Auto-Biographical Memoir of Sir John Barrow, Bart, Late of the Admiralty. Including Reflections, Observations, and Reminiscences at Home and Abroad, from Early Life to Advanced Age; Murray, 1847 (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00470-1)
  • A Description of Pocket and Magazine Cases of Mathematical Drawing Instruments, in which is explained the Use of each Instrument, and particularly, of the Sector and plain Scale, in the Solutions of a variety of Problems; likewise the Description, Construction, and Use of Gunter's Scale. Illustrated with copperplates – London: J. and W. Watkins, [1792?]
  • — (1804). Travels In China, Containing Descriptions, Observations, And Comparison, Made And Collected In The Course Of A Short Residence At The Imperial Palace Of Yuen-Min-Yuen. London: T. Cadell And W. Davies. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
    • John Barrow (1805), Travels in China, Philadelphia: W.F. M'Laughlin 
  • — (1806). Travels Into The Interior Of Southern Africa, Volume I. London: T. Cadell And W. Davies. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1806). Travels Into The Interior Of Southern Africa, Volume II. London: T. Cadell And W. Davies. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1807). Some Account Of The Public Life, And A Selection From The Unpublished Writings, of The Earl Of McCartney, Volume I. London: T. Cadell And W. Davies. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1807). Some Account Of The Public Life, And A Selection From The Unpublished Writings, of The Earl Of McCartney, Volume II. London: T. Cadell And W. Davies. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1818). A Chronological History Of Voyages Into The Arctic Regions. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty: Its Cause and Consequences – London, 1831 online
  • — (1840). The Life Of Peter The Great (1908 ed.). London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1838). The Life Of Richard Earl Howe, K.G., Admiral Of The Fleet, And General of Marines. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1839). The Life Of George Lord Anson, Admiral of The Fleet; Vice-Admiral of Great Britain; And First Lord Commissioner Of The Admiralty, Previous To, And During, The Seven-Years' War. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1845). A Description of Pitcairn's Island And Its Inhabitants (Harper's Stereotype Edition, 1845). New York: Harper & Brothers. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1846). Voyages Of Discovery And Research Within The Arctic Regions, From The Year 1818 To The Present Time. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • — (1847). An Auto-Biographical Memoir Of Sir John Barrow, Bart., Late Of The Admiralty; Including Reflections, Observations, And Reminiscences At Home And Abroad From Early Life To Advanced Age. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • Life & Correspondence of Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith G.C.B. – London: Richard Bentley, 1848
  • — (1848). Sketches Of The Royal Society And Royal Society Club. London: John Murray. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Anonymous 1911.
  2. ^ Fergus Fleming. Barrow's Boys (Kindle Edition). Kindle Location 242-252
  3. ^ Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa vol 2 (1970)
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 19241. p. 284. 17 February 1835.
  5. ^ Prettyman, Ernest. "Index to Tasmanian Place Names". Tasmanian Archives Online. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "Rootsweb: South-Africa-L Re: Truter". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  7. ^ South African Botanical Art - Marion Arnold (Fernwood Press 2001)
  8. ^ Bibliopolis
  9. ^ "'"Author Query for 'Barrow.  

Further reading

  • Fleming, F. (1998). Barrow's Boys. London: Granta.  
  • William Jardine Proudfoot (1861), 'Barrow's Travels in China': An investigation into the origin and authenticity of the "facts and observations" related in a work entitled "Travels in China, by John Barrow, F.R.S." (afterwards Sir J. Barrow Bart.) Preceded by a preliminary inquiry into the nature of the "powerful motive" of the same author, and its influence on his duties at the Chinese capital, as comptroller to the British Embassy, in 1793, London: G. Philip,  

External links

  • Works by John Barrow at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about John Barrow at Internet Archive
  • Works by Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Website about the monument in Ulverston, recently renovated with Lottery funding
  • School in Ulverston named after John Barrow
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
(of Ulverstone)
Succeeded by
Sir George Barrow, 2nd Baronet
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