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Sibree Family Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 CWM/LMS Madagascar Personal Boxes 2, 5-13
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Sibree Family Papers
Date(s): 1820-1953
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 9.5 boxes
Name of creator(s): Sibree | James | 1836-1929 | architect, missionary and naturalist
Sibree | family | missionaries


Administrative/Biographical history:

James Sibree: born in Hull, England, 1836; son of the Rev James Sibree, Congregational minister, and Martha Goode Aston; educated at Hull Collegiate School; articled to a civil engineer; Assistant Surveyor, Local Board of Health, Hull, 1859-1863; appointed London Missionary Society (LMS) architect of four large stone churches in Madagascar, each a memorial to a martyr of persection, and was sent to Antananarivo, 1863-1867; worked on the churches at Ambatonakanga, Ambohipotsy, Andohalo and Manjakaray, and other mission buildings; trained for the Congregational ministry at Spring Hill College, Moseley, Birmingham, 1868-1870; also carried out deputation work for the LMS; ordained in Hull, 1870; married Deborah Hannah (d 1920), daughter of the Rev J Wilberforce Richardson, Congregational minister, in London, 1870; two sons and three daughters; LMS missionary in Madagascar, 1870-1877; led the extension of mission work outside the capital, founding the first country station, at Ambohimanga, and settling there, 1870; chosen one of the LMS delegates to revise the Malagasy Bible and began work on it, 1873; accompanied the LMS deputation to Antsihanaka province, 1874; took an explorative and evangelistic journey to south-eastern Madagascar, 1876; moved to Antananarivo to work at the theological college, 1876; difficulties with the government in Madagascar forced him to withdraw, 1877-1883; undertook LMS deputation work in England, 1877-1879; appointed missionary to South India, superintending the LMS high school as Vizagapatam, 1879; returned to England owing to his wife's ill health, 1880; LMS deputation work in England, 1880-1883; returned to Madagascar as principal of the LMS theological college and with his wife engaged in other missionary activities, 1883-1915; architect of almost 100 mission buildings, including c50 churches; in the years leading up to the French invasion (1895) an outspoken supporter of Malagasy independence; chief English authority on Madagascar; received Sir G Back's Grant for his work on the geography and bibliography of Madagascar, 1892; Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; Fellow of the International Society of Philology; Membre de l'Académie Malgache from 1902; honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, University of St Andrews, 1913; returned to England owing to his wife's ill health, 1915; resigned as a missionary, 1916; continued deputation work for the LMS and Bible Society, 1920s; died following an accident, 1929. Publications include: Madagascar and its People (1870); South-east Madagascar (1876); The Great African Island (1880); A Madagascar Bibliography (1885); Madagascar before the Conquest (1896); The Madagascar Mission (1907); Our English Cathedrals (2 volumes, 1911); A Naturalist in Madagascar (1915); Things Seen in Madagascar (1921); edited Register of Missionaries and Deputations of the LMS (1923); Fifty Years in Madagascar (1923), his autobiography; works in the Malagasy language; articles on Madagascar for several editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Chambers's Encyclopaedia.

James Sibree's children included several other missionaries:

James Wilberforce Sibree: born at Ambohimanga, Madagascar, 1871; studied at Cheshunt College; ordained, 1896; appointed LMS missionary to Samoa and married Gertrude Helps (d 1900), 1897; sailed to Samoa, 1898; married Lucy Phoebe Johnson (d 1937) at Apia, 1905; resigned as missionary owing to his wife's ill health, 1921; subsequently pastor at Epping, near Sydney, Australia; died there, 1927.

Mary Amelia Sibree: born at Ambohimanga, Madagascar, 1874; assistant teacher at the Girls' Central School, Antananarivo, from 1892; appointed LMS missionary and became head mistress of the school, 1898; returned to England, 1899; married the Rev Percy Milledge (1874-1907), who was appointed to the Madagascar mission, 1901; took charge of the mission following her husband's death, 1907-1908; re-appointed missionary to Madagascar, 1909; undertook deputation work in England for the LMS, 1915-1919; resigned, 1919; appointed to new work in Madagascar, 1922; at the theological college, Antananarivo, 1925-1926; returned to England for health reasons and died, 1926.

Alice Deborah Sibree: born at Antananrivo, Madagascar, 1876; studied at the London School of Medicine for Women; appointed to the Maternity Hospital, Hong Kong; dedicated and sailed, 1903; returned to England and resigned from the LMS, 1909; subsequently returned to Hong Kong and undertook voluntary medical mission work; married C C Hickling; awarded MBE for services during World War One; decorated as Sister of the Order of St John of Jerusalem; died at Hong Kong, 1928.

Elsie Isabel Sibree: born in Catford Bridge, Kent, England, 1881; educated at Walthamstow Hall; French Government Teachers' Diploma (brevet); accompanied her parents to Madagascar, 1901; became assistant French teacher at the Girls' Central School, 1902; Girls' High School, Ambatonakanga, 1904-1907; head mistress of the Girls' Central School, Antananarivo, 1907; lived in England, 1921-1930; returned to Madagascar and was appointed warden of the theological college, Ambohipotsy, also superintending the district of Ambohiptsy from 1938; engaged in other missionary work alongside her educational work; retired, 1954; died in Sevenoaks, 1969.

James Sibree's niece, Dorothy Sibree, was born in Hull, England, 1882; trained at Cheltenham Women's Training College; appointed to Mirzapur, India, and sailed, 1915; transferred to the Benares mission, 1921; married the Rev W G Murphy of the Gopijang mission, 1923; transferred with her husband to Travancore, 1927; died at Neyyoor, 1927.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1820-1953, of the Sibree family, comprising miscellaneous correspondence and manuscripts, press cuttings and printed papers, 1867-1929, of James Sibree, the subjects including missionary, literary and architectural work and the history, customs and language of Madagascar, including a manuscript of his `Missionary Heroes and Heroism in Madagascar', 1925; eight scrapbooks of James Sibree's papers, 1820-1927, containing printed materials and cuttings, correspondence and notes, maps and sketches relating to Madagascar and to the Sibree family; two volumes presented to James Sibree on the 50th anniversary of his missionary service in Madagascar, 1913; other papers of James Sibree relating to Madagascar, 1874-c1916 and undated, including its natural history; photographs, comprising portraits of missionaries and others connected with the Madagascar mission, 19th century, Sibree family photograph album, 1902-1913, including volcanic eruptions in Samoa, and photographs of Madagascar, including buildings, landscapes, and individuals; scrapbook of Elsie Sibree, c1913-1953, including press cuttings, photographs, and notes.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and Malagasy

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers form part of the special series of personal papers of individual London Missionary Society missionaries and officers.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from the Council for World Mission Library when it was catalogued in 1999-2000.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including letters from individual missionaries, among them members of the Sibree family (Ref: CWM/LMS Incoming Correspondence series); candidate's papers of James Sibree, Mary Amelia Sibree and James Wilberforce Sibree (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidates' Papers Box 15 Nos 12-14), of Alice Deborah Sibree, Dorothy Sibree and Elsie Isabel Sibree (Ref: CMS/LMS Candidates' Papers 2nd series 1900-1950 Box 35), and papers relating to the unaccepted candidacy of James Sibree's uncle, P Sibree (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidate's Papers Box 24 No 40); photographs and an engraving of James Sibree, some of them including his wife Deborah, and a photograph of James Wilberforce Sibree with his wife Lucy and their children (Ref: CWM/LMS General Portraits Box 5); reports from Madagascar by James and Elsie Sibree, 1871-1938 (Ref: CWM/LMS Madagascar Reports passim) and from Samoa by James Wilberforce Sibree, 1898-1918 (Ref: CWM/LMS South Seas Reports passim); typescript notes on the Madagascar Mission by James Sibree (Ref: CWM/LMS Madagascar Miscellaneous Box 1); photographs of James Sibree and family in Madagascar (Ref: CWM/LMS Madagascar Miscellaneous Box 4, CWM/LMS Madagascar Photographs passim) and of James Wilberforce Sibree and his family in Samoa (Ref: CWM/LMS South Seas Photographs passim). SOAS also holds notebooks containing Sibree's memoirs, including a pamphlet by Peter Sibree, 1832 (Ref: MS 380616); papers of James Sibree Milledge on the Sibree family (Ref: MS 380680); and the papers of James Trenchard Hardyman, which include material relating the Sibree family, including manuscripts and printed articles by James Sibree (Ref: PP MS 63).

The Natural History Museum holds `Madagascar Mammals' and other Natural History notes, 1892-1928, by James Sibree (Ref: L MSS SIB).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Who's Who; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); LMS Register of Missionaries, ed James Sibree; National Register of Archives.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2002

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