Graves > Cambridge Lives


Elsie Hart 1854 - 1913Elsie1
In Loving Remembrance of Elsie the beloved wife and devoted colleague of S. Lavington Hart who entered into rest February 4th 1913.
After 20 Years of strenuous work in China her enduring monument is in the changed lives of Chinese students whom she loved and for whom she spent herself.
His servants shall serve him and they shall see his face.

   Location A21.480

Elsie (Elizabeth) Peake was from the large family of Henry Peake a saddle manufacturer from Winchester. On 27th December 1888 she married Samuel Lavington Hart at Christ Church, Clifton before returning to Cambridge where Samuel was established as a Fellow and Lecturer in Physics at St John’s College.

They settled at 137 Chesterton Road but rather than pursuing an academic career Samuel’s ‘staunch non-conformity and evangelistic fervour’ inherited from his Minister father, was to take them in a different direction. Samuel was a member of Victoria Road Congregational Church (demolished 1989 now the site of Peter Maitland Court) and a strong supporter of the work of the Church. He also supported the London Missionary Society and in 1892, caught up in an ‘unprecedented wave of missionary enthusiasm’, he volunteered as a missionary to China.

On a ‘dismal day’ in October 1892 Elsie and Samuel set sail for Shanghai. After short spells in Hankow and Wuchang on the Yangtze they moved, in 1894, to Tientsin (now  Tianjin) to help run a small theological school.

Fortunately they were in England on leave in 1900 when many Chinese Christians and missionaries perished in the Boxer Rising. It was at this time that Samuel had the radical idea of running a School rather than an institution solely for religious training, He overcame the objections of traditionalists and on 5th February 1902 the Tientsin Anglo Chinese College ‘Hall of New Learning’ opened with Samuel as Principal. He managed to adapt the English Public School system to take account of Chinese life and customs in buildings he modelled on St John’s College. The school immediately became popular and successful.

   The college in the 1920s

They were fortunate in having loyal and talented team including the Rev. J D Liddell whose son Eric [ his story was told in the film Chariots of Fire - 1981] was born in Tientsin and would later return to teach at the College.

Elsie supported her husband in his work establishing and running the College but eventually the rigours of living in China were to take their toll and after a period of ill health she returned to Cambridge where she passed away on 4th February 1913.

Samuel remarried, returned to China and continued his work at the College until he retired to Worthing in 1929.

With thanks to Fiona Colbert, Biographical Librarian, St John’s College.  A Patrick : Lavington Hart of Tientsin. pub. Cullen 1947. 

back to top

< Previous | | Next >

Return to Cambridge Lives Menu