Wilkinson Papers

Official and private correspondence etc of Sir Hiram Shaw Wilkinson (1840-1936), leading judge and diplomat. Born in 1840, son of John Wilkinson of Belfast and Annabella Shaw of Waringstown, Co. Down, Wilkinson led a distinguished legal and diplomatic career in the Far East during the late 19th and early 20th centuries holding various positions in Japan, China and Korea including that of Vice-Consul in Japan, 1877, Acting Assistant Judge at Shanghai in 1879 and Crown Advocate in 1881. He was also British Commissioner for the settlement of claims after the Canton riots in 1883, Judge of HM Court for Japan, 1897-1900, and Chief Justice of HM Supreme Court for China and Korea, 1900-1905.

Of the non-official papers to be found in the collection, there are a number of interesting letters sent to him from his brother-in-law, Samuel Gaffikin, in Belfast, 1867-1870, referring to lectures at the Methodist College in Belfast, the visit of Prince Arthur to the North of Ireland and rioting in Londonderry, the education of destitute Roman Catholic children in industrial schools and the linen trade. Other papers and correspondence pertain to the Irish Convention in 1918, a threatening letter etc. from the Irish Republican Army in March 1922, a detailed personal account book of Wilkinson's father, John, whilst working in Belfast, 1827-1841, and some Irish Land Commission papers relating to the Wilkinson property at Moneyshanere, Co. Londonderry, c.1900-c.1930. There are also commissions of appointment, graduation certificates, references and draft wills of Hiram Wilkinson, c.1860-1908.

A significant portion of the archive comprises papers relating to Wilkinson's successful legal career in the Far East, 1877-1905. Topics covered include: papers, 1887-1893, concerning opium smuggling; correspondence between Wilkinson and the British Foreign Office on matters such as the administration of justice in the province of Yunam, Nov.-Dec. 1902; his appointment to the post of Crown Advocate at Shanghai, 1880-1881; the enforcement by British Courts in China of the Judgments and Orders of the Courts of other Nationalities, 1902; papers relating to various legal cases; detailed and important correspondence, 1876-1885, between Wilkinson and Sir Harry Parkes, a leading British diplomat, who was identified with every forward movement of Japan towards unification and assimilation to western civilization at this time. He was British Minister to China from 1883 until his death in 1885 and minister-plenipotentiary to the King of Korea, 1884-5.


The collection is a useful research tool for the study of the administration of the British legal system in the Far East at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.

Physical characteristics

c. 1,000 items, 1864-c.1905 comprising a range of documents, volumes, photographs and printed material occupying 7 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference D/1292 for catalogue of the papers.The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


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Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 25 August 2018