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Dr Lewis Paton album of missionary work in China

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y30377H

Scope and Contents

Album of photographs recording Paton's missionary work in China. The photographs are captioned and have been numbered in pencil, but as there are several sequences, and these are not complete, fresh numbers have been given.

Plates 68 to 78 show scenes taken in late August 1896 on Kulangsoo, the island south of Amoy (also known as Xiamen). The institutional work of the Amoy mission was centred here as it was found to be healthier than Amoy itself.

There are three missing photographs in the album. These are labelled as: 'Bridge at Tang-Kaan-kiô over Oiû-river. Jan 31.91, 9.15am, raining and mist on hills, F.32, 5 secs' (between plates 23 and 24); 'Phó-chêng 'thô-laû', Feb. 5.92, 7.45am, sunny, F.32, 3 secs' (between plates 30 and 31); 'By Dr Cross, Spring 1895' (between plates 54 and 55).

Also included with the collection is a photocopy of a twelve-page account of the mission's progress to 1906.


  • Creation: 1889 - 1897


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

The Paton family is traditionally descended from Captain John Paton, a well-known soldier and Covenanter, who lived at Meadowhead, Fenwick, Ayrshire, who fought at Marston Moor and other battles, but was finally executed as a 'rebel' in 1684. John (or Robert) Paton of Pentland, Ayrshire, was a railway engineer in Bangalore and later lived at Highbury Quadrant, London. His descendant, Robert Paton (6th October 1831 - 26 September 1893), buried at Abney Park Cemetery, married Jane Grace Rice (13th October 1838 - 2nd January 1889) on 20th January 1859. They had a family of five sons and three daughters, one of whom, Edith, married the Rev. H.W. Oldham, a missionary in China. The second son was Benjamin Lewis Paton, born 22nd December 1860 in Bangalore. In 1902 he married Janet Cavan Scott McFie (29 May 1869 - 25th August 1949), daughter of J.W. McFie, of Rowton Hall, Chester, and brother of Dr J.W.S. McFie. Robert Lewis Paton (b. 1905) was their eldest son.

Benjamin Lewis Paton took the degrees of MB, B.A. at Edinburgh in 1888 (his M.D. and D.P.H, qualifications date from 1906). Like his colleague of later years, Dr. Howie, he served at the Mildmay Bethnal Green Hospital under Dr. William Gauld, who had been part of the English Presbyterian Mission in China's first medical mission at Swatow, from 1863 to 1881. Paton paid a visit to the USA in 1881. In 1889 he himself joined the English Presbyterian Mission to assist at Chuan-Chow, where Dr Grant's health was giving cause for concern.

Paton went on leave in 1898 returning the following year with his sister Edith; she married the Rev. H.W. Oldham in 1907 but died in 1908. Paton left China in 1913 owing to the illness of his eldest child, leaving the hospital in the hands of Yap Sin-hun, whom he had trained (Band 1948, pp. 301-2 and 402).

Dr Paton's final journey to China was via the Siberian railway, in September 1912. After his return to England the following year he stayed for a time in Parkgate, Cheshire, then bought a practice in Rugeley, Staffordshire, where he worked as a G.P. until his death on 29 April 1936. In 1918 he was awarded the O.B.E. for his medical work at the military camp at Cannock Chase during the First World War.


.01 cubic metre(s) (1 boxed album containing 100 images)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

the album is missing its cover and the photographs are somewhat faded.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The album, together with J.W.S. MacFie Ethiopian material (Y304296A), was passed to the Library in 1985 by Mr. J.E. Eyers, Assistant Librarian of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, from a collection given by Mr. R.L. Paton, son of the photographer. Further information was given by Mr Paton in a letter of 30 December 1985; he also gave some additional photographs (plates 99-100).


For information on the English Presbyterian Mission see: Band, Edward (1948), Working his purpose out: The history of the English Presbyterian Mission, 1847-1947, London : Presbyterian Church of England Publishing Office. For information on the history of the Paton family see pp 479-494 of: Howie, John (1870), The Scots worthies, Edinburgh : Johnstone, Hunter.


This item level description was entered by KS using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Date information

DateText: The last images are from September 1897..


Paton, Benjamin, Lewis, 1860-1936, doctor and missionary

Includes index.
2003-11-26 17:16:47+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom