In previous articles, I have given an overview of the Adkins letters available at the Warwickshire County Record Office. However, it is also worth noting Adkins’s career after he retired from the Consular Service in 1879. The final 33 years of his life were a long coda; he retired to England, and purchased Long Hyde House in South Littleton. Here he lived as a country gentlemen and pillar of local society, serving as a Commissioner of the Peace for Warwickshire and Worcestershire, a church warden in Littleton, and as Chairman of the Littleton Polling District Committee of the South Warwickshire Conservative Association.
A keen, if paternalistic interest in the community’s welfare
He took a keen, if somewhat paternalistic, interest in the welfare of the community; he provided a recreation ground at Littleton and, as his obituary in the Evesham and Four Shires Advertiser puts it, was ‘extremely kind to…poorer neighbours…we heard a Littleton man remark on the day of his funeral ‘No one ever wanted for a bit of coal in Littleton if Mr and Mrs Adkins knew of it’’.
By the time of Adkins’s death in 1912 Britain’s imperial adventures in China in the middle of the previous century were but a dim memory, yet it had all once been so very different. As his obituary remarked ‘it is perhaps fair to suppose that the members of the consular service hoped that they might be pioneers in China of a new British Empire similar to that which Clive and his fellow Englishmen had carved out in India in the eighteenth century’. Adkins’ letters are a remarkable testament to the ambition, sense of adventure, and the hubris, which characterised that age.
Anyone interested in discovering more about Adkins should visit the page devoted to him on Tim Boddington’s excellent website about the Adkins family, which includes a transcript of a highly informative obituary from the Evesham and Four Shires Advertiser.