Papers of Cecil Polhill (1860-1938) and Arthur Polhill (1863-1935)
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of a copy of a draft manuscript Two Etonians in China 1885-1925 by Cecil and Arthur Polhill. The manuscript includes sections written by both brothers and a short, abridged section of Evangelisation of the World by Benjamin Broomhall. The manuscript covers the brothers' early life, conversion, and work in China and refers to the Cambridge Seven and others working in China at the time such as Bishop Cassels; the development of various mission stations until 1926; and national events such as the Boxer rebellion. The manuscript was assembled in 1926 but includes some sections written at an earlier date. Spaces have been left for photographs which are not included.
- Creation: 1903-1926
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
This item is a copy of the original and may be consulted in the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Research Collections Wolfson Reading Room but no copies can be taken or provided to users. Copies may only be obtained from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), where the original item is held.
Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for details.
Biographical / Historical
Cecil Henry Polhill, China Inland Mission missionary in China and promoter of Pentecostal missions, was born into the wealthy Polhill-Turner family in 1860. His father was a former Member of Parliament and the family lived at Howbury Hall, near Bedford. Like Arthur, his younger brother, Polhill attended Eton and then Cambridge University, Arthur studying at Trinity and Cecil at Jesus. It was while he was at Cambridge in 1882 that Arthur Polhill heard D. L. Moody speak and decided to devote his life to God. Cecil Polhill, who had become an army officer, was influenced by his brother and was converted in 1884. In 1885, after several discussion with Hudson Taylor, they decided to become missionaries and in September of that year arrived in China with five other Cambridge graduates as part of the 'Cambridge Seven'. The Polhills went to Hanchung in Shensi where they studied the language then in 1887 moved into Szechwan.
Arthur Polhill was at first based at Paoning then moved in 1888, the same year that he was ordained, to Pachei where he remained until 1898. From 1899 he and his wife (Miss Drake, a CIM missionary in China since 1884) were based at Suiting. Polhill's wife died in 1906 and he married A. A. Hart in 1908 and continued his evangelical work at Suiting until he retired in 1928.
Cecil Polhill was first based at Chengtu and Chungking in Szechwan but his main interest was work amongst the Tibetan people. He paid an early visit to Kansu, returning in 1888 to Paoning to marry E. A. Marston (a CIM missionary in China since 1884). The couple spent three years in Sining in Kansu then spent some time travelling along the Tibetan border before in 1892 settling, with their two sons, in Sungpan in north-west Szechwan. Their arrival coincided with a period of severe drought for which they were blamed by the townspeople who attacked the Polhills and forced them to leave. In 1895, after a period of rest in England, Polhill went to Kalimpong in India to help with work on the Tibetan border and a year later his wife and family joined him in Darjeeling. They soon returned to China and settled in Tatsienlu, Szechwan where they stayed until they were evacuated during the Boxer rebellion. Poor health meant that Polhill was sent home in 1900. He remained in England for the rest of his life having inherited the family estate in 1903, but his interest in China continued and he returned on short missionary tours seven times. On the way back from one of these trips in 1908 he became involved with the Pentecostal movement in Los Angeles. His experience led him, with Alexander Boddy, to promote Pentecostalism in Britain. Polhill was particularly interested in evangelism in the missionary context and, with Boddy, founded the Pentecostal Missionary Union in 1909, structured along the lines of the CIM. The PMU sent its first missionaries to China in 1910 and later others went to India and to Tibet. Its activities were promoted through the journal Confidence and Polhill's own Fragments of Flame (later Flames of Fire). Polhill was president and director of the PMU until 1925 when it was integrated into the Assemblies of God after which he retired. He died in 1938 three years after his brother Arthur.
The material is arranged in rough chronological order but deals with Arthur Polhill's activities before his brother's.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The manuscript was donated by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (was China Inland Mission)in 1985.
Existence and Location of Copies
A similar copy of the manuscript, also missing photographs, is held in the archives of the Assemblies of God in America (Flower Pentecostal Heritage Centre).
The original manuscript is held by the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (was China Inland Mission).
The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) the collection itself, (2) Anderson, Gerald (ed.). Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1998. (3) the Wholesome Words missions web site
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script