Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery
Newsletter No. 67
Posted here with their kind permission,
but split & re-arranged.
Sir George Smyth Baden-Powell
24 December 1847 – 20 November 1898
The second son of the Rev. Baden Powell’s marriage to Henrietta Grace Smyth, George was an enthusiastic traveller, an able colonial administrator, a capable Member of Parliament and, like his brothers, a keen yachtsman.
A century before gap-year backpackers, George Powell spent three years travelling through Europe, India, Australasia and South Africa — and published his first book, Observations on the Antipodes — before entering Oxford in his mid-twenties. He dabbled in the law but soon returned to travel, working in Australia as private secretary to the Governor of Victoria, Sir George Fergusson Bowen GCMG (who also now lies in Kensal Green Cemetery), and he published a treatise on “The merits of Free Trade” by the time he was thirty.
He soon progressed to the West Indies, as a commissioner investigating the sugar trade, which inspired a polemic against protectionism. His next appointment resulted in a five-volume analysis of the administration, revenue, and expenditure of Britain’s West Indian colonies, published in 1884, for which he was created a KCMG in 1888.
In the meantime, he worked briefly in South Africa, visiting Bechuanaland, Basutoland and Zululand, before his election to Parliament in 1885 as Conservative member for Kirkdale, Liverpool. He proved a popular and effective MP, and held the seat until his death.
Nonetheless, he found time to visit Canada more than once, to promote a rapid steamer service between Vancouver and Yokohama, and then to represent Anglo-Canadian interests in a long-running dispute with the USA over Bering Sea fisheries; perhaps in token of this sojourn, he named his private steam yacht Ontario.
He also contributed to a new constitution for Malta, and continued to write articles and essays, largely on political and colonial themes, throughout his life. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Colonial Institute. In April 1893, at the age of 45, George married Frances Annie Wilson (1862-1913), then 31, an only child whose father had made a considerable fortune in Australia. They enjoyed only five years together, and had two young children when George died of kidney disease at the family home, 114 Eaton Square, London, on 20 November 1898, a month short of his 51st birthday. He left an estate of £4636 (easily equivalent to £2m today). Two days later his widow Frances bought grave number 37255 in Square 160 on the Mound, near the southern boundary of the cemetery, for £37 16. In October 1913 Frances died of scarlet fever aged 51, and was buried with her husband.