George William STAINFIELD [1841-1920]

Submitted by Jennifer A Bell on Wed, 01/24/2018 - 20:39
George William
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I don't know when George and wife Sarah arrived in Hong Kong, but Emma was born there in 1868, so it was before then.  George was a soldier when they married in Portsmouth in 1864, but I don't know what took them to Hong Kong.  He may have been a hotel keeper and an undertaker in Hong Kong.  George left Hong Kong some time between 1885 and 1890; he married again in Australia in 1890.  Sarah remained in Hong Kong and died there in 1889.

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He's listed on page 68 of the Blue Book for 1873, working as Overseer of Water Works. It says he was first appointed on 8th March 1873, and received an annual salary of 187 pounds sterling.

Government Notification No. 64 in the Government Gazette for 10th March 1880 announces the appointment of Mr Edward Rose as the new Overseer of Water Works, replacing Mr Stainfield who had resigned.

It looks as though he left Hong Kong in 1884, and a likely reason is given in the document: Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into Certain Charges Publicly Made against the officers of the Public Works Department Public Works Department.

To summarise, the local newspaper The Hongkong Telegraph had claimed that there were several problems in the Public Works Department, including:

c. Corruption amongst the Overseers of the works, in the form of taking bribes or presents offered as inducements to them for passing bad work, inferior material, or excessive measurements, and generally for conniving at irregularities on the part of the Contractors.

In the summary of findings, the Commission wrioe:

e. No evidence has been forthcoming of a single case of a bribe having been accepted by an Officer of the Public Works Department during the administration of the Honourable Mr. Price, or, in his absence, during that of the Acting Surveyor General, Mr. Bowdler.

The Report records the interviews that the Commission conducted. George Stainfield (who had previously worked as an Overseer) was mentioned, but not interviewed.

In the interview with Mr Rose on pages 54-55, Rose said that Stainfield was the Armourer Sergeant before joining the Public Works Department (PWD). The commission told Rose that Stainfield paid $4,500 to go in to the undertaking business after leaving the PWD, and the suggestion appears to be that Stainfield could not have raised that much money on his PWD salary.

A part of the interview with Mr Bains (page 58) doesn't mention Stainfield by name but is clearly about him:

Q.—Well, there is a case I have been asking about. Here is one man in the department who seems after six years to have had $1,500 to go into hotel-keeping with, and another who seems after six or eight years to have had between $4,000 and $5,000 to go into an undertaking business with.
A.—Well, he was in the artillery and made a good deal of money there.
A.—He had the repairing of the Police rifles and made $40 or $50 a month by that; also the Chinese gunboats.
Q.—'So you think he made money as Armourer Sergeant?
A.—I don’t know, he had a good deal of money.
Q.—Well, but if he made so much money as Armourer Sergeant is it likely he would come to the Public Works Department on $80 a month ?
A.—I don’t know. The Police work was taken away from him before he joined.

It's likely that this attention would have made it uncomfortable for Stainfield to stay in Hong Kong. It may also have affected his business. 

born 1841 in Lincolnshire, England - died 9/11/1920 in Melbourne, Australia.

Thank you for this.  I am thrilled to be getting this information, even if it's not all that flattering to my great great grandfather.

i only have access to an iPad for the moment, so I haven't looked in detail at the reports.  You say that he may have left Hong Kong in 1884 - is there a record for that, do you know?  I'll look into shipping records, but you may have something else.  His youngest child was born in HK sometime in 1885 but of course he doesn't need to have been there at the time.

by the way, was an armourer sergeant a British Army position, or a local HK role?  Would he have come to HK with the army, or independently? 


The idea that he wasn't in Hong Kong comes from Page 896 of the Government Gazette dated 22nd Nov 1884. It shows that two Writ of Foreign Attachment were issued against him in November 1884. Looking at the description of them in Google, they are used against a person who has left the country.

From the answer quoted in the report:

A.—Well, he was in the artillery and made a good deal of money there.

I guess that the Amourer Sergeant was his rank in the army (Royal Artillery), and that he'd have come to Hong Kong with the army.

The information I've found comes from the sources listed at:

How to research people who lived in Hong Kong

It's worth having a look through them to see what else you can discover. Please let us know what you find so we can add to it.

Regards, David

Thank you for these references, which I have just come back to after being distracted by the goings on of the other side of my family!

A couple more questions if I may - 

- there is no reference, as far as I can see, to George Stainfield having been asked to appear before the commission although other former public servants did so.  Some people were requested to appear and declined to do so, but there is no mention of George being called.  He may have already left Hong Kong, although I didn't think that was likely; are there shipping records listing departures from HK in the 1880s?  I cannot find him on the incoming Australian records unfortunately

- I haven't been able to find out why those writs were issued (presumably he owed money to those men) or what the outcome of them was.  Any suggestions as to where to look to follow this up? 

- George Baynes may have been the man who replaced him as Overseer of Public Works, but I haven't been able to find out any information about the other man (Cheung Shun Kai).  Any information welcome.

Among other things, I am trying to tie down George (and his daughter Emma) arriving in Australia, but I am also trying to get a picture of the kind of man he was.  

many thanks, Jenny