Richard ROTHWELL [1821-1895] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Richard ROTHWELL [1821-1895]

Birthplace (town, state): 
Carlisle, Cumbria
Birthplace (country): 
Cause of death: 
old age

I am a distant cousin of Richard Rothwell. He lived in Canton China from 1845 until 1857, making two short visits to England in 1851 and 1856. He was a clerk working for Jamieson, Howe, & Co. in the tea trade. His brother Thomas Rothwell was a tea merchant in Shanghai from 1855 until 1883. From 1862 until the brancruptcy in 1876 he traded under the name Rothwell, Love & Co. together with his partner Joseph Love jun. Thomas married a Tanka woman, Yau Tsang and had three children with her,  a daughter LO Lucy Shui Choi, born 1861, who married Ho Fook, and two sons LO Cheung-Ip, born 1865 who married HO Kwan-fong, and LO Cheung-Shiu, born 1869, who married Sheng Hing Zimmern. Unlike Richard, Thomas stayed in China all his life. He died 22nd. July 1883 in Hankow, where he was buried, whilst on a mission as an arbitrator in the Tea Dispute between the Hankow Tea Guild and the Shanghai British Chamber of Commerce. 

On his return to England Richard married Sarah Booth Taylor in 1860 in Manchester, before moving to London where he was a tea broker, trading under the name Rothwell, Marshall & Co. With Sarah he had three children Jessie, Alice and Richard Hornsby. In Richard's family history there is no evidence or legends that Richard had a family whilst in China. However I find it hard to believe that Richard lived in Canton for 12 years and did not have a protected woman  with whom he had children. I am therefore searching for anyone of Eurasian origin who believes he may be able to trace his or her ancestry back to Richard Rothwell of Canton. Or any one who knows someone who may have this ancestry. If anyone does please contact me. I would be most interested in exchanging further information with you.


this family in Peter Hall's Book In the Web. See

Ruchard’ obit in this book. 

You may want to try DNA testing with

I know of an Australian family that found Chinese-American relatives. 

The two books suggested above are well worth checking, and also see the resources listed at (especially the Carl Smith cards).

AW.E.Rothwell  b 1913  enlisted HKP as A 165 on 4.8.1937.,see Watson.

Also  William G Rothwell and V(ivian) Rothwell in RHKP in 1970's 

I agree fully that DNA is an excellent method for finding relatives.The Rothwell genealogical group I work together with has DNA results on Ancestry, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA. It was through one of these DNA studies that we succeeded in finding the Chinese descendants of Thomas Rothwell in Hong Kong and the English descendants of Richard Rothwell in the UK. Unfortunately in the case of Richard Rothwell I have no firm evidence yet that he actually had a Chinese family and Chinese descendants. It is only an assumption on my part that if he lived in Canton as a tea trader and clerk for 12 years from 1845 to 1857 it is more than likely that he had a Chinese family with Chinese descendants. Unfortunately his English descendants knew nothing about his activities in China until I informed them about it, so they know nothing about Chinese descendants. I am therefore hoping to be able to make contact with Chinese of Eurasian descent who have a Richard Rothwell in their family tree and are trying to find out who he is. Is there a specific Chinese / Eurasian DNA Database that I could feed with DNA results in an attempt to find a match?

Many thanks for the suggestions. Both Philip Hall's book and Eric Peter Ho's book, "Tracing My Children's Lineage" I have already checked out. Although Philip's book has a huge number of Eurasian families in it with their genealogical origins none of them lead back to a Richard Rothwell. Eric's book gives a lot of detail of the Rothwell family, but only concentrates on Thomas Rothwell and his Eurasian descendants. He does mention Richard Rothwell and the fact that he was in Canton, but he gives no details, information or even the suggestion that Richard Rothwell possibly also had Eurasian descendants. Since Eric's book has been published a lot of additional information is now available on the Rothwell family and their Eurasian descendants, but it is all focused on Thomas Rothwell and his descendants. In the Rev. Carl Smith archives there are cards with information on Richard Rothwell, but nothing about a Chinese Eurasian family. They only give details of his arrival in Canton and where he worked.

Many thanks for the info. Unfortunately the Rothwell's you named are not related to the family line I am searching for. The descendants of Thomas Rothwell (who had the Chinese name Lo Fu Wah) had the family name LO. Most members of the LO family I have researched to date trace their origins back to Thomas Rothwell, but none have yet traced their origins back to a Richard Rothwell. But I do consider it highly likely that there is a LO family in Hong Kong who could trace their origins back to Richard Rothwell. I say this for the following reasons.

1. Richard Rothwell arrived in Canton 1845 then went back to England 1851 for an 8 month health recovery stay. He then stayed until late 1855 or early 1856 when he went back to England. There he took over with a partner the family Cotton Spinning Mill in Carlisle, following the death of his father James Rothwell in !853. He was the second son, his eldest brother Edward was killed in a boiler explosion accident 1845 in Bolton in another Rothwell mill belonging to his cousin there.During this stay it appears that Richard was engaged to his future wife Sarah Booth Taylor, the granddaughter of Thomas Walmsley of wealths and influential Lancashire Cotton merchant. In December 1856 he left England again for Hong Kong saying he had important business to settle in Canton. Shortly after he left there was a major fire at his cotton mill in Carlisle, the mill being completely destroyed. Fortunately the mill was well insured, so that Richard suffered no financial losses. Richard was in Hong Kong until April 1857. Whilst there he met his brother Thomas Rothwell in Hong Kong, who had been living in Shanghai since at least 1855. After meeting Thomas in Hong Kong, Richard returned to England April 1857 and Thomas Rothwell returned to Shanghai arriving there onboard the "Lady Mary Wood" 11th April 1857 it would seem together with 2 Chinese women. Why should Richard go all the way to Hong Kong (overage journey time ca. 60 days with P+O Overland steamship via Egypt) for what would seem to have been just a couple of weeks on what was claimed to be urgent business? And who were the 2 women apparently accompanying Thomas Rothwell to Shanghai? Was one Tsang Yau Thomas's protected woman, with whom he had three children and the other possibly Richard's former protected woman?

2. Thomas's first child a daughter LO Shui-Choi (also known as Lucy Rothwell) was born 4th November 1861 in Shanghai. But in spring 1862 Thomas Rothwell returned to England where he stayed until the autumn of 1863 when he returned to Shanghai. Where were Lucy and Tsang Yau during this period? In Hong Kong? Possibly staying with Richard's assumed protected woman? Thomas's two sons LO Cheung-Ip (born 1865) and LO Cheung-Shiu (born 1867) were apparently born in Hong Kong. Eric Peter HO in his book assumes that Thomas's family lived in Hong Kong and that Thomas lived in Hong Kong during the 9 month tea off-season, only going to Shanghai for the tea season. However recent research does not confirm this. Thomas played an active role in the Shanghai social life throughout the whole year and I have only found evidence of one short visit to Hong Kong during this period. However Lucy went to school in Hong Kong, she was it is claimed the first girl pupil of the Diocesan Home and Orphanage in 1868 (although she is not on Featherstone's list). Thomas's two sons attended the Queens College, LO Cheung-Shiu starting in 1880 at the age of 13. So who were the children staying with in Hong Kong. Tsang Yau, his protected wife? Seems unlikely if Thomas was in Shanghai the whole time. Or Richard's Chinese assumed descendants, who were living in Hong Kong?

I would much appreciate it if anyone can add additional information to help solve this puzzle. Where can I find information on who was living in Hong Kong during this period? 

You can take a look through the earlier jury lists. See the Jury List project to see how to access them 

I checked out the Jury List from 1855 when Thomas Rothwell arrived in China through to 1883 when he died in Hankow. In none of the lists was Thomas Rothwell named. In later lists I did find Ho and Lo relatives but it is Thomas Rothwell I am focusing on. I understand this to mean that during this period Thomas Rothwell was not registered as an inhabitant of Hong Kong. If we follow Eric Peter Ho's theory that he was only in Hong Kong during the tea off-season from September until March, but during the tea season from April to end of August he would be in Shanghai, if this theory is corrected would he still have had to register for jury service during the nine months in Hong Kong, or would he be exempted. Are there any other lists of residents? In all the Directories of foreign residents in China from 1855 until 1883 Thomas Rothwell is always only listed as a resident of Shanghai. Which still leaves for me the question unanswered, how could his children go to school in Hong Kong whilst he was living in Shanghai?

What have you found in the North China Herald?

I have studied online most of the editions of North China Herald and North China Daily News from 1855 until 1883. Unfortunately all the news published related to the activities of Thomas Rothwell in Shanghai, none relating to activities in Hong Kong. There were a few editions not available online which I shall be studying during my visit to Hong Kong 21st April until 5th May 2019. May be these will fill in missing information. China Mail only reported on Thomas Rothwell's court case in 1879 / 80 / 81 when he sued Olyphant for outstanding salary payments, but this was also in Shanghai. I have not yet been able to study Friends of China, not be available on line. There must be some reports in there of interest. In Rev Carl Smith's card collection there are some references to Richard Rothwell and his activities in Canton which he took from Friends of China. I also checked out online Hong Kong Daily Press and Hong Kong Telegraph but could find no references to Thomas Rothwell. I have accessed the Shanghai Municipal archives, where I found all the details of Thomas Rothwell's company's (Rothwell, Love & Co.) tax avoidance activities from 1873 until 1876 ( importing / exporting tea for Chinese Merchants using the Chinese Merchants Steam Navigation Company for shipment from Hankow to Shanghai and reshipment to England) which was one of the causes of the bankcruptcy of the company in 1876. I have only found one reference in The North China Herald - Volume 1871 - Issue 203 (1871-03-22) that he went to Hong Kong per "Malacca" returning per "Bombay" The North China Herald - Volume 1871 - Issue 208 (1871-04-29).  I have not been able to find details of any other trips of Thomas Rothwell to Hong Kong. This can only mean that if his wife and children were in Hong Kong (see details in previous posts) they were there on their own whilst Thomas Rothwell was in Shanghai. 

Ill be in town from the 30 Apr on if you would like to meet up. Not sure I can help, but I’m intrigued 

It would be great to exchange information with you. Tuesday 30th April or Wednesday 1st May are OK with me. I am staying in Happy Valley. Just let me know when and where it would be convenient to meet.

It would be great to exchange infomation with you. Tuesday, 30th April or Wednesday 1st May is fine for me. I am staying in Happy Valley. Just say when and where it would be convenient to meet. I am possibly sending this unneccesarily a second time but just to be sure you get the reply. The first time i sent it generally.

1 May, the public holiday, is good for me. Perhaps the “Central” Library - in Causeway Bay at 11am. 

Wednesday 1st May at 11.00 am in HKCL is fine by me. I will wait at the main entrance. 

I've just read briefly through some of your posts and I find a marked similarity to my own family. Annelise can tell you and I've posted on Gwulo as well as every on-line message board I can find, Facebook, Wegene, My Heritage, Ancestry etc. My GGF was from Manchester, went to Foochow as a tea inspecttor with WR Adamson in 1865. He had 4 children in China, left in mid 1880s and returned to England where he married and had two more. He died in 1894. It seems now that the children ended up knowing each other. 

His 3 sons and a daughter grew up in Hong Kong. My GF was at DBS and later married and moved to Kowloon, then to Shanghai. I know nothing of his mother's origins, but she died as Anna Hunter, a British widow, alias Kot Choi, or Goot Choy, at 11 Shelley Street. She owned several properties in HK...and was at least 1/2 Chinese.

I've done DNA tests and have a small percentage of Asian ( 6-7% ). I also have a cousin who is a direct line female descendant and she's done the mitochondrial test, so we are sure where it entered.

The address on Shelley Street was in the family from 1899 to 1944...then the war muddied the waters. Most of my family was interned in Shanghai. MY GGM died in 1937 in HK but one of her granddaughters was there until 1944. When she died, this granddaughter's probate notice was listed by her English name, Ellen Hunter but had a Chinese alias, Fok Shuk Wah as well.

 Another property on Moreton Terrace in HK was part of my GGM's estate ( she didn't have a will ) and was sold in 1937. I believe my GGM was a protected woman. Nobody talked about her. 

Maybe we could exchange some info. Never know...we may turn up something knew.

Brian Beesley



If you are in contact with Annelise ask her to forward my email address to you. We can then contact directly and exchange the information we have per email. I think this would be the best way of doing.