Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff

Last updated

Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff (5 December 1825 – 8 May 1882) was an English mountaineer, traveller, and author, from 1875 to 1877 the seventh President of the Alpine Club.

The Alpine Club was founded in London in 1857 and is the world's first mountaineering club. It is the only UK-based mountaineering club catering for those who climb in the Alps and the Greater Ranges of the world's mountains.


After qualifying as a barrister, Hinchliff abandoned the law and took to a life of travelling and writing. His books include Summer Months among the Alps (1857), South American Sketches (1863), and Over the Sea and Far Away (1876).

Barrister lawyer specialized in court representation in Wales, England and some other jurisdictions

A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions. Often, barristers are also recognised as legal scholars.

Early life

Born at Southwark, Hinchliffe was the son of Chamberlain Hinchliff (1780–1856), of Croom's Hill, Greenwich, and Lee, both then in Kent, by his marriage in 1824 to Sarah Parish, a daughter of Woodbine Parish of Bawburgh in Norfolk, [1] the sister of Sir Woodbine Parish (1796–1882), a traveller and diplomat. Hinchliff was educated at the West Ham Grammar School, the Blackheath Proprietary School, and Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1849, when he became a member of Lincoln's Inn. Three years later he proceeded MA at Cambridge and was called to the bar, but did not pursue a career as a barrister. [2]

Southwark District of Central London, England

Southwark is a district of Central London and is the north-west of the London Borough of Southwark. Centred 1 12 miles (2.4 km) east of Charing Cross, it fronts the River Thames and the City of London to the north. It was at the lowest bridging point of the Thames in Roman Britain, providing a crossing from Londinium, and for centuries had the only Thames bridge in the area, until a bridge was built upstream more than 10 miles (16 km) to the west. It was a 1295-enfranchised Borough in the county of Surrey, apparently created a burh in 886, containing various parishes by the high medieval period, lightly succombing to City attempts to constain its free trade and entertainment. Its entertainment district, in its heyday at the time of Shakespare's Globe Theatre has revived in the form of the Southbank which overspills imperceptibly into the ancient boundaries of Lambeth and commences at the post-1997 reinvention of the original theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, incorporating other smaller theatre spaces, an exhibition about Shakespeare's life and work and which neighbours Vinopolis and the London Dungeon. After the 18th century decline of Southwark's small wharves, the borough rapidly grew in population and saw the growth of great docks, printing/paper, railways, goods yards, small artesan and other often low-wage industries and Southwark was among many such inner districts to see slum clearance and replacement largely with social housing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is now at an advanced stage of regeneration and has the City Hall offices of the Greater London Authority. At its heart is the area known as Borough, which has an eclectic covered and semi-covered market and numerous food and drink venues as well as the skyscraper The Shard. Another landmark is Southwark Cathedral, a priory then parish church created a cathedral in 1905, noted for its Merbecke Choir.

Greenwich town in south-east London, England

Greenwich is an area of south east London, England, located 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east-southeast of Charing Cross. It is located within the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to which it lends its name.

Lee, London suburban district of south east London

Lee, also known as Lee Green, is a district of south east London, within the London Boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich. It is located west of Eltham and east of Lewisham town centre. The district is in the historic county of Kent.

In 1856, his father died. [1]


Hinchliff was a minor figure of the golden age of alpinism, between Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Whymper's conquest of the Matterhorn in 1865. In 1857 he was a founding member of the Alpine Club, [3] the club meeting in his Lincoln's Inn chambers before it leased rooms of its own at 8 St Martin's Place, Trafalgar Square in 1859. [4] John Ball was elected the club's first President, with E. S. Kennedy as Vice-President and Hinchliff as Secretary. [5] In 1857 Hinchliffe published Summer Months Among the Alps: With the Ascent of Monte Rosa, a work which some twenty years later Mark Twain referred to as "Hinchliffe's book". [6] In his A Tramp Abroad (1880), Twain's narrator advises his friend Harris to read this book to learn about mountain climbing, and a description in it of a fall influences the course of Twain's story. [7]

Golden age of alpinism

The golden age of alpinism was the decade in mountaineering between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, during which many major peaks in the Alps saw their first ascents.

Alfred Wills British judge

Sir Alfred Wills was a judge of the High Court of England and Wales and a well-known mountaineer. He was the third President of the Alpine Club from 1863 to 1865.

Wetterhorn mountain

The Wetterhorn is a peak in the Swiss Alps towering above the village of Grindelwald. Formerly known as Hasle Jungfrau, it is one of three summits on a mountain named the "Wetterhörner", the highest of which is the Mittelhorn and the lowest and most distant the Rosenhorn. The latter peaks are mostly hidden from view from Grindelwald.

With Leslie Stephen and the guide Melchior Anderegg Hinchliff made an early ascent of the Wildstrubel on 11 September 1858 and the first ascent of the Alphubel on 9 August 1860. [3]

Leslie Stephen British author, literary critic, and first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography

Sir Leslie Stephen, was an English author, critic, historian, biographer, and mountaineer, and father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.

Melchior Anderegg Swiss mountain climber

Melchior Anderegg, from Zaun, Meiringen, was a Swiss mountain guide and the first ascensionist of many prominent mountains in the western Alps during the golden and silver ages of alpinism. His clients were mostly British, the most famous of whom was Leslie Stephen, the writer, critic and mountaineer; Anderegg also climbed extensively with members of the Walker family, including Horace Walker and Lucy Walker, and with Florence Crauford Grove. His cousin Jakob Anderegg was also a well-known guide.

Wildstrubel mountain of the Bernese Alps

The Wildstrubel is a mountain of the Alps, straddling the border between the Swiss cantons of Bern and Valais. It forms a large glaciated massif, about 15 km wide, extending between the Rawil Pass and the Gemmi Pass. Along with the Muverans, the Diablerets and the Wildhorn, the Wildstrubel is one the four distinct mountain massifs of the Bernese Alps that lie west of the Gemmi Pass. The massif of the Wildstrubel is at the centre between the valleys of Simmental (BE), Engstligental (BE) and the Rhone (VS), the exact location of the tripoint being the summit of the Schneehorn. It comprises several distinct summits, including the Wetzsteinhorn, the Rohrbachstein, the Weisshorn, the Pointe de la Plaine Morte, Mont Bonvin, the Trubelstock and the Schneehorn. The main crest with the almost equally high summits of the Mittelgipfel and the Grossstrubel forms an amphitheatre oriented eastward which ends at the Steghorn and the Daubenhorn. This area encloses the Wildstrubel Glacier. To the southwest, the Wildstrubel overlooks the high plateau of the Plaine Morte Glacier, which also includes an unnamed lake below the Schneehorn.

In 1861, Hinchliff visited South America, staying with his cousin Frank Parish, the British Consul in Buenos Aires. [8] He spent some months on extensive travels in Brazil and Argentina, with expeditions into the Serra dos Órgãos, Teresópolis, Petrópolis, and Juiz de Fora, and these were recounted in his South American Sketches of 1863. In 1873 he set off to travel around the world with a friend named William Henry Rawson, and in two years they crossed some 35,000 miles of ocean, while spending a further six months on land. Shortly after his return to England in 1875, Hinchliff was elected President of the Alpine Club, and in 1876 he published Over the Sea and Far Away, an account of his journey around the world. [3] Describing his sad thoughts on the view of Tupungato and Aconcagua from Santiago, Hinchliff reflected that

Buenos Aires Place in Argentina

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the South American continent's southeastern coast. "Buenos Aires" can be translated as "fair winds" or "good airs", but the former was the meaning intended by the founders in the 16th century, by the use of the original name "Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre". The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas, with a population of around 14 million.

Brazil Federal republic in South America

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Brazil borders every South American country except Chile and Ecuador. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.

Argentina federal republic in South America

Argentina, officially named the Argentine Republic, is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi), Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the fourth largest in the Americas, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The sovereign state is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

... endless successions of men must in all probability be forever debarred from their lofty crests... those who, like Major Godwin Austen, have had all the advantages of experience and acclimatization to aid them in attacks upon the higher Himalayas, agree that 21,000 ft is near the limit at which man ceases to be capable of the slightest further exertion. [9]

Hinchliff died suddenly at Aix-les-Bains, France, on 8 May 1882. A monument to him stands on the north-west side of the Riffelalp resort in Switzerland. [10] [11] His obituary in the Alpine Journal said he had had "a kind of genius for friendship", [12] while the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society noted that "the Society loses a member who, if not an explorer, was an indefatigable traveller". [13] In 1910 a climbing anthology called him "one of the first to penetrate the higher solitudes of the world of ice and snow". [14]



  1. 1 2 Joseph Jackson Howard, Frederick Arthur Crisp, Visitation of England and Wales (Vol. 18, College of Arms, 1914), p. 148
  2. Wikisource-logo.svg  Bonney, Thomas George (1901). "Hinchliff, Thomas Woodbine". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. 1 2 3 T. G. Bonney, 'Hinchliff, Thomas Woodbine (1825–1882)', revised by Peter H. Hansen, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004), online page (subscription required), accessed 20 June 2013
  4. Band, George (2006). Summit: 150 Years of the Alpine Club. London: Collins. p. 237. ISBN   9780007203642.
  5. Claire Engel, Mountaineering in the Alps, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1971, p. 112.
  6. Frederick Anderson, ed., Mark Twain's Notebooks & Journals: 1877–1883 (Vol. 1, 1975), p. 194
  7. R. Kent Rasmussen, Critical Companion to Mark Twain: A Literary Reference to His Life (2007), p. 534
  8. Esteban Echeverria , The Slaughteryard (2010), p. 123
  9. John Burnard West, Robert B. Schoene, M.D., James S. Milledge, M.D., High Altitude Medicine and Physiology (2012), pp. 186–187
  10. John Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900 (Cambridge University Press, 2011 reprint), p. 379
  11. Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff Archived 24 June 2013 at at, accessed 20 June 2013
  12. 'Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff' (obituary), Alpine Journal vol. 11 (1883), pp. 39–42
  13. 'Thomas Woodbine Hinchliff' (obituary), Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society vol. 4 (1882), p. 424
  14. George Edward Wherry, Narratives Selected from Peaks, Passes, and Glaciers (1910), p. 7

Further reading

Related Research Articles

The higher region of the Alps were long left to the exclusive attention of the inhabitants of the adjoining valleys, even when Alpine travellers began to visit these valleys. It is reckoned that about 20 glacier passes were certainly known before 1600, about 25 more before 1700, and yet another 20 before 1800; but though the attempt of P.A. Arnod in 1689 to "re-open" the Col du Ceant may be counted as made by a non-native, historical records do not show any further such activities until the last quarter of the 18th century. Nor did it fare much better with the high peaks, though the two earliest recorded ascents were due to non-natives, that of the Rocciamelone in 1358 having been undertaken in fulfilment of a vow, and that of the Mont Aiguille in 1492 by order of Charles VIII of France, in order to destroy its immense reputation for inaccessibility – in 1555 Conrad Gesner did not climb Pilatus proper, but only the grassy mound of the Gnepfstein, the lowest and the most westerly of the seven summits.

Charles Hudson (climber) Anglican chaplain, British mountain climber

Charles Hudson was an Anglican chaplain and mountain climber from Skillington, Lincolnshire, England.

William Mathews (1828–1901) was an English mountaineer, botanist, land agent and surveyor, who first proposed the formation of the Alpine Club of London in 1857.

Clinton Thomas Dent British mountain climber

Clinton Thomas Dent FRCS was an English surgeon, author and mountaineer.

Edward Shirley Kennedy (1817–1898) was an English mountaineer and author, and a founding member of the Alpine Club.

Florence Crauford Grove was an English mountaineer and author, sometimes known as F. Crauford Grove. He led the first expedition to ascend the higher summit of Mount Elbrus and was at one time president of the Alpine Club.

Gottlieb Samuel Studer Swiss mountain climber

Gottlieb Samuel Studer was a Swiss mountaineer, notary public and draughtsman.

John Percy Farrar British mountain climber

Captain John Percy Farrar DSO, also known as Percy Farrar and as J. P. Farrar, was an English soldier and mountaineer. He was President of the Alpine Club from 1917 to 1919 and a member of the Mount Everest Committee.

Francis Fox Tuckett English mountain climber

Francis Fox Tuckett FRGS was an English mountaineer. He was vice-president of the Alpine Club from 1866 to 1868, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

William Penhall was an English mountaineer.

Thomas Graham Brown Scottish mountaineer and physiologist

Thomas Graham Brown FRS was a Scottish mountaineer and physiologist.

<i>Picturesque Europe</i> work

Picturesque Europe was a lavishly illustrated set of books published by D. Appleton & Co. in the mid-1870s based on their phenomenally successful Picturesque America. An edited form was reprinted in Europe by Cassell & Co. The books depicted nature and tourist haunts in Europe, with text descriptions and numerous steel and wood engravings. J.W. Whymper was among the engravers and directed the other artists on the project.

James Eccles FGS was an English mountaineer and geologist who is noted for making a number of first ascents in the Alps during the silver age of alpinism.

Thomas Middlemore English mountaineer and businessman

Thomas Middlemore was an English mountaineer who made multiple first ascents during the silver age of alpinism. His audacity earned him a reputation as the enfant terrible within the Alpine Club. He was also the head of the Middlemores Saddles leather goods company in Birmingham, England, after the retirement of his father, William Middlemore, in 1881. Thomas Middlemore had taken over the management of the company in 1868 and established a bicycle saddle factory in Coventry.

Henri Cordier (mountaineer) French mountaineer

Henri Cordier or Henry Cordier was a French mountaineer. In his short two-year career, he became the first Frenchman to reach the level of the English members of the Alpine Club, in the silver age of alpinism in the second half of the 19th century, which was dominated by the development of mountaineering in the Alps. With some of the Alpine Club's mountain guides and mountaineers, he led significant first ascents in the Mont Blanc massif and in the Dauphiné Alps.

Sir John Oakley Maund was an English banker, stockbroker, entrepreneur, hunter and mountaineer during the silver age of alpinism.