Remembering Sir Stamford Raffles, founder and first President of ZSL.

by Ann Sylph on

Remembering Sir Stamford Raffles, founder and first President of ZSL. July is the anniversary month of both the birth and death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, he was born July 1781 and died July 1826.

This painting hangs in the Council Room in ZSL's Main Offices in Regent's Park. The subject is Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Born in 1781, Raffles had an adventurous life: he was Lieutenant-Governor of Java, founded Singapore, and had the enormous, foul smelling, rarely flowering plant Rafflesia arnoldi named after him. On his return to England, Raffles set up the Zoological Society of London in 1826, becoming its first President. Sadly he died unexpectedly the same year.

Oil painting of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, by James Lonsdale, 1817.
Oil painting of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, by James Lonsdale, 1817.

The portrait was painted in 1817 by James Lonsdale (1777-1839) and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818. It was presented to ZSL in 1946 by Mr A Spencer Moore.

The book shown in the painting is the History of Java written by Raffles.

Raffles was a remarkable collector and scholar, enthusiastically researching all aspects of natural and cultural history, civilization and languages in the countries which are now Indonesia and Malaysia. His History of Java is the still the starting point for studies of this area. It was first published in 1817.

ZSL Library holds a second edition of History of Java published in 1830 and a separate volume of maps and plates. Chapter 1 does contain an account of the animal kingdom in Java but Raffles' natural history role whilst in Java seemed to be as a patron, collector of specimens and commissioner of illustrations. His patronage of the work of Thomas Horsfield was of major importance. As a result of this patronage, Horsfield’s discoveries and specimens went to Britain. He published Zoological researches in Java, and the neighbouring islands.

Following the death of Raffles in 1826 his wife, Lady Sophia Raffles wrote a biography, Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, F.R.S. &c. particularly in the government of Java, 1811-1816, and of Bencoolen and its dependencies, 1817-1824, with details of the commerce and resources of the Eastern Archipelago, and selections from his correspondence / by his widow. Published in London, 1830.

Sophia Hull was born in Millman Street, London, on the 5th May 1786. She met Raffles in Cheltenham in August 1816 and they were married in February 1817.

Sophia accompanied Raffles on his voyage to Sumatra. Her first child was actually born on board the ship during the journey; curiously, Raffles himself had been born at sea. Sophia spent seven years in the East with Raffles, intrepidly travelling with him on many dangerous treks.

In the ‘Memoir’ Sophia uses his letters and her recollections to illustrate her husband’s achievements in the East, including founding Singapore. She also records the many tragedies that hit the couple: the death of four of her five young children, the illnesses and deaths of their friends and colleagues, and the terrible loss of all their possessions and Sir Stamford’s papers and specimen collection in a fire on board ship, just as they were about to depart for England.

The couple had a few happy years at home in England, but after only nine years of marriage Raffles died, shortly after founding the Zoological Society in 1826.

Lady Raffles wrote this book in memory of her husband and his achievements and had it printed at her own expense. She also paid a substantial amount of money for the life-sized statue of Raffles in Westminster Abbey. She also edited and published a second edition of the History of Java by Raffles, and brought out a second revised edition of the 'Memoir' in 1835. She was the first woman to become a Fellow of ZSL as women were admitted as `Lady Fellows’ from 1827 onwards. Lady Raffles died on 12 December 1858.

Marble memorial plaque for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
Memorial plaque for Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

This marble memorial plaque was situated below the bust of Sir Stamford Raffles, in the recess above the clock, over the central doorway in the Old Lion House at ZSL London Zoo. The plaque is now located in ZSL Library whilst a reproduction of the bust can be seen in the entrance lobby to ZSL's Offices at Regent's Park.he Lion House was replaced by the Lion Terraces which opened in 1976, this in turn is being replaced by the exciting new development Land of the Lions which will open next year.

 

Books mentioned above  -

these can all be viewed in ZSL Library and will be displayed in the Reading Room during July 2015 as well as the memorial plaque. At other times please make an appointment to see them as they form part of our `special collections’ :

History of Java / by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, 2nd ed - London, Murray, 1830
The history of Java. Antiquarian, architectural, and landscape illustrations of the history of Java / by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles - London, Bohn, 1844
Zoological researches in Java, and the neighbouring islands / by Thomas Horsfield - London : Kingsbury, Parbury, & Allen, 1824

Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, F.R.S. &c. particularly in the government of Java, 1811-1816, and of Bencoolen and its dependencies, 1817-1824, with details of the commerce and resources of the Eastern Archipelago, and selections from his correspondence / by his widow. Published in London, 1830

 

Discover more about the collections in  ZSL Library with our online catalogue  http://library.zsl.org

The Michael Marks Trust provided funding for the cataloguing of the artworks in ZSL's collections. An online catalogue to the artworks can be searched from the above link, use the `Search artworks’ button on the sidebar once you have entered the catalogue. Please note that some artworks are catalogued as collections, not individually.

Similarly the catalogue of ZSL Archives can be searched using the 'Search Archives' button on the sidebar.

 

Other artefact blogs remembering Raffles :

Raffles letter to Sir Everard Home
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles - Minutes of the First meeting of Council

N.B. Some of the items in the current blog have previously been featured as `artefacts’

 

 

Select a blog

ZSL London Zoo

A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!

Conservation

We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.

Science

From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.

Education

A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.

Working for Wildlife

Ever wondered what a typical day as a zookeeper looks like, or what it's like to be a videographer at ZSL? Now you can find out!

Artefact of the month

Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.

Wild About Magazine

Read extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.

ZSL Shop

Get updates on our latest ranges, be the first to hear about special offers, and find the perfect gift for animal lovers!

Chagos Expedition

The Chagos archipelago is a rare haven for marine biodiversity. Hear from the team about our projects to protect the environments in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

Nelson's Island Expedition

ZSL Institute of Zoology researchers are embarking on an exciting fieldwork expedition to Nelson’s Island in the Chagos Archipelago. Throughout the month, the team will share their research and experiences on an uninhabited tropical island!

Asia Conservation Programme

ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.

Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation

An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.