The story of SIR ROBERT HART
by Stanley Bell

Northern Ireland

Lisburn Historical Press

His Ancestors

The Hart family portrait in 1866 Robert Hart is third from the top leftIn the late 17th Century Captain Van Hardt came from Holland with King William III of Orange to North Ireland. It is said that on their way to the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690 they rested in the vicinity of where Ravarnette House now stands on the Carnbane Road a few miles from the town of Lisburn. Several long established families on the Carnbane Road such as the McCanns recall this fact from traditional story.

It is said that the Captain was given Kilmoriarty, an estate near Portadown in payment for services rendered, although documentary evidence cannot be found to substantiate this claim. The story continues that the Captain turned out to become a hard drinker and ended up having to sell it to pay off the debtors. He was buried in Dublin where many years later his grave was found quite accidentally by one of the Hart family.

It was Robert Hart who in 1869-1879 purchased as much of the Kilmoriarity estate as was possible. It was then resold by him subsequently in 1904. There is another account which can be given by historians to suggest that the Hart family always lived in Lisburn and moved to Portadown. Lisburn Cathedral records confirm that between 1662 and 1721 there were several. Hart families in the Lisburn area having similar Christian names of those who later were domiciled in Kilmoriarty.

Documentary evidence shows that Abraham Hart came from Lisburn and founded in 1796 the first Orange Lodge in Kilmoriarty, which still flourishes under the name of the Kilmoriarty Bible and Crown Defenders. Incidentally Abraham Hart was quite a character. He was fond of the Old Testament and named all his sons after its heroes, Hiram, Joshua and Jacob.

Hart has been a fairly common surname in Ireland and historians trace his name to the Irish family Ua Airt which became anglicised to O'Hart. These became princes of the Tara held lands in Meath. Some of these O'Harts dropped the patronymic "0". At one stage Robert Hart in his letter of the 25th May 1893 to Campbell his London agent, wondered if the Kilmoriarty Harts in Co. Armagh belonged to the same family as the Kilderry Harts in Co. Donegal. Extensive research was inconclusive.

Alexander Brodie, son of Sir Robert Hart's daughter Mabel Milburne, tells us that a lot of Jews in London took the name Hart in the time of Oliver Cromwell, after a Lord Mayo who befriended them when they came to England.' Alexander also tells us that he once met a Dutchman in the train, who, when asked about Van Hart replied that he had never heard such a name, but the nearest that he had heard was the surname "Hart" and that Dutch Hart's were Jews. An interesting fact also is that the last Chief Rabbi of the British Empire was Sir Israel Brodie, although his born name was Borrowski.

Sir Frederick Maze also claimed that there was Jewish blood in the Hart family and that the original Hart may well have been a Dutch Jew who had settled in Ulster a few years prior to 1689 and became a contractor to the Orange Army or he may well have joined one of the brigades of King William's army.

Documentary evidence of the origin of Sir Robert Hart's surname still remains a mystery and leaves plenty of room .for extensive research.

So taking either of the above accounts the Hart family were of Orange tradition.

His Parents

Henry Hart (1806-1875) the father of Sir Robert Hart married Ann Edgar in 1834 who was the daughter of a farmer, John Edgar in Ballybreagh in County Armagh. She became the Proprietor of the Mandeville Arms, the main hotel in Portadown. The Edgars were of Scotch origin and had come to Ireland with Edward Bruce, "The Ruthless Pillager," between 1315 and 1318. John Edgar's father Thomas Edgar had married Mary Bruce, a descendant of the Scotch Robert Bruce. Mary Bruce's dowry consisted of the lands of Miltown, Bavin, Sheeptown, and Derrylacky in County Down.

Henry Hart's ancestors can be traced back to a John Hart of Kilmoriarty who married Margaret Milburne who had a son Robert Hart who in turn married Mary Wright who had a son also named Robert Hart who in turn married Sarah Grant who had a son James Hart who married Margaret Weir whose son presumably was Henry Hart. Henry Hart became a Wesleyan through the preaching of John Wesley and so did the Edgar family. It may well have been through this common church connection that they first met. Henry Hart eventually became a lay preacher.

The Hart family lived in 42, Woodhouse St., Portadown. We received a letter from Peter J.V. Sheil to tell us that it was also the birthplace of his grandfather who became Judge Peter Joseph Sheil, and who owned the house and grocery shop until his death in 1942.

Unfortunately the house was recently demolished in 1968 to make way for a large supermarket. Then, it was a street given over to markets and eating houses. It was here that the family had their first child on the 20th February 1835. Little did they know or anyone else then, that he was destined to have a distinguished career in China and become a household name amongst the kings and rulers of the-- countries of the civilised world. He was baptised Robert Hart in St. Marks Church in Portadown.

On the day our school pupils visited that church, the minister, the Rev. Twadell was able to show us the original plaque erected at the house where Robert Hart was born. That plaque remains in the church.

The Hart family were devout Methodists. Good Christian upbringing of their children was the hallmark of the parents Henry and Annie Hart. They believed this was one of the best things that they could do for their children. They were active members of Priesthill Methodist Church, off the Agnatrisk Road about 2 miles from Ravarnette. The original church has been extended since, and next year they will be commemorating their church anniversary. It will be interesting to note the many famous Ulstermen who were members of that church and who made their mark on world affairs. For some time the family also worshipped in the Old Methodist Church, Market Street, Lisburn.

A retired minister of: Priesthill Methodist Church, the Reverend Fee also was once in China as a missionary and recalls the timewhen he was in Shanghai. He taught English there and recalls tying his bicycle to the railings surrounding Sir Robert Hart's statue on the-Bund, Shanghai. I am sure the thought must have gone through his mind, "Well, isn't it a small world. Here we are, two Lisburn men in a strange place and in a very strange land but our paths have crossed even tho' one of us is now a statue and the other living flesh."

The Hart Family Business

Henry Hart was in partnership with John Gall who ran a small distillery which was subsequently destroyed by fire in the north end of Portadown, near Bann Foot.

In 1839 Henry Hart was an employee in another distillery owned by William and David Hutcheson: The firm went bankrupt in 1843 and looking around for another job he found one near Ravarnette at Culcavey. Here he became the general manager in 1842. This distillery was built in 1826 by Hercules Bradshaw.

When too much whiskey was produced they let the excess flow into the nearby river according to a local resident. It is not known what effect it had on the fish, but you can guess. This distillery employed forty men. Nowadays, the building still stands but the premises are used by a timber merchant. The factory manager showed us the location of the General Manager's House (once belonging to Henry Hart) during our school visit to the premises. Only a few overgrown garden shrubs amongst a jungle of long uncut grass remain to mark where once there was a garden, the pride and joy of the family.

Henry Hart, a "born again" Christian, under teaching of Wesleyanism became more convinced that it was not the will of God that he should carry on, "this degrading business." So an opportunity cane for him to purchase Ravarnette House from the Hendersons together with fifty-seven acres of land. He also took over a flour-mill and installed in an adjacent room a set of looms for linen weaving. Thus the business of linen weaving came to Ravarnette.

Here, he Hart family lived from 1st January 1855 until 1st November 1873, when the place was subseqently taken over by Mr. John Sinton. The Harts lived 18 years in Ravarnette.

The two parents then went to retire at Springville, on the Belmont Road in Belfast, Their retirement only lasted a matter of months. Anne Hart, his wife died in June 1874 and Henry seven months later. They were buried in the family, grave in Old Blaris Cemetery, Lisburn.


Many interesting stories are told about his early years. In fact he was scarcely ten days old when he lay in his Aunt's lap as she braided a watch chain from her Titan-red hair. The family doctor, Dr. Bredon asked her curiously for whom did she make the chain? Whereupon this aunt remarked, "I'm making a wedding present for this new nephew of mine when he marries your daughter." What a joke. But what a prophecy.

The doctor did not have a daughter nor a wife yet. But yes. It came true. The little baby had 31 years to grow and mature into a fine young man before it came to pass. And the doctor found a wife and had a daughter who was 18 years old when that prophecy was fulfilled.

Had this Aunt some strange power that somehow she exerted or influenced for future events? Or was it just a coincidence? Or was it the hand of God at work?

When young Robert Hart was only two years old his parents had moved to Culcavey near Ravarnette and Hillsborough. Another strange prophecy was to be made. A couple of brothers, the Arnolds came from nearby, trying to cajole parents to send them children for a school they had just started. They were phrenologists. They claimed that they could assess a child's potential and brain power by feeling the skull for bumps.

Having felt all the bumps on young Robert's head they pronounced that the boy would do well academically, and that they had a great system of education which would be just the thing for him. So they must have built the parent's expectations up for their little boy. Again what a prophecy.

He was to excel at Queen's College, Belfast years later.

When young Robert Hart was only six years old the aunt told him all about his ancestor, Captain Van Hardt and how he fought in the Battle of the Boyne and how he was given Kilmoriarty as a reward, but lost it through drinking and debts. The young boy whose imagination on was fired replied that when he became a man he would buy back Kilmoriarty for the family, get a title to his name like the famous Captain and do a great thing like fight in the Battle of the Boyne. Well that all came to pass. He did buy back Kilmoriarty. He did get a Knighthood and he did a great work in China restoring order to chaos.

Over to England

His father must have taken the prophecy of the Arnold brothers very seriously because he went to quite some expense in sending his son to the Wesleyan School in Taunton, Somerset.

Whilst at this school he had as friend a young boy called Stocker Aglen who became later Archdeacon Aglen and whose son was destined to succeed Robert Hart as Inspector-General of the Chinese Customs.

The present Headmaster's Secretary was able to send us a copy of the school register which showed that he was enrolled at the school in 1845. General observations recorded state that he studied Latin for 2 years and also Arithmetic, Interest and Fractions. Little did he realise that he would come back over 50 years later to open the new Swimming Baths and be a special guest at Speech Day in October 1908. It was then that he countersigned the enrolment book and opposite his name he wrote some Chinese Characters.

It was only recently that the Chinese Characters written were discovered to be his name written in Chinese. Pronounced phonetically as "Her Der" they are the equivalent of the name Hart and mean literally "Shining Virtue." This claim was substantiated by some Chinese boys at present attending the school. The swimming pool is still in continuous use by the school.

He crossed over the Irish Sea on the "Shamrock," a ship which he was destined to meet again in China and under different circumstances.

When the summer holidays came he was to be accompanied home by a Belfast tutor. But something prevented the Tutor from going home and the young lad was sent home unaccompanied. He travelled to Liverpool by steam train, then chose a hotel to spend the night and ordered refreshments. The proprietor brought him tea, cold chicken and buns which he tucked into with great glee. The proprietor and servants were so impressed with his business-like attitude that the next day they took him down to' the docks and put him safely on board the right ship for Belfast. The young lad finally made it home on his own all right but when father met his son in Belfast he was raging that the lad was unaccompanied and he immediately withdrew him from Taunton and sent him instead to the Wesley Connexional School in Dublin. At least that would not be so far and would avoid the long tedious journey by ship across the Irish Sea, he thought:

The Headmaster of the Wesley Connexional School was the Rev. Dr. Robert Crook who was a strict disciplinarian. The boys were drilled in Latin and Greek as well as English, French and mathematics. The Rev. John Oliver, (whose son, Charles Henry ultimately became a Commissioner in Chinese Customs) let him have free use of his home.

It is said that young Robert Hart excelled during an examination of Scripture History. He knew all the Kings of Israel by memory. This was his first big success at school. The tutor encouraged him to keep it up. It became a big challenge for him and he used to even take time during his lunch hour to learn Hebrew. Consequently the other boys nicknamed him, "Stewpot" and the "Cosequential Butt".

He attended that school from 1848 to 1850. One of the records that the school kept of Robert Hart was his account for the quarter, 1st July to the 30th September 1849:

Board and Tuition 7. 17. 6

10. 6

Pew Rent 1. 6
Drawing 10. 6
French 10. 6
Medical Attention per annum 10. 6
Medicine --
Tailor's Bill  --
Shoemaker's Bill  --
Cash 11
Books, Stationery 4. 6
Sundries  --
  10. 6. 5

Wesley College, Dublin at its former locationOf the original Wesley Connexional School there is no trace to be found as it was demolished. The building which replaced it now forms part of the Department of Foreign Affairs. A new Wesley College was built in 1879, beside the Methodist Centenary Church and this building was demolished when the College moved to a fifty acre site near Dundrum, Co. Dublin in 1869.

His best friend at the school was Thomas Shillington from Portadown who was later to become the Right Honourable Shillington, P.C.

Well the result of all this was a conclusion. A new College had just been opened in Belfast and father decided to send him to this new Queen's College.

Queen's College

It was to Queen's College he was sent at the age of 15 years. His four years at Wesley College had given him a good academic foundation. He passed the matriculation examination without any trouble and gained a scholarship at the beginning of each year. He made a remarkable success in achieving this because in each succeeding year there were a diminishing number of scholarships available.

He tried his hand at writing poetry and on one occasion sent a poem to a; Belfast newspaper under the pen-name "C'est Moi." It was published and his father gave him 10 as an encouragement. This success in creative writing was short lived because the next time the editor not only refused to write it but indicated to him that his last poem was worthless and was only put in to fill up an empty part of the newspaper.

One year he felt a bit despondent and down in the dumps after the examination. One of his fellow students rushed up and told him he was first in the examination. Robert thought it was a joke and when he was brought along to the notice, lo, his name stood first above all others. He could not believe it and did not write home until the next day for fear it was a mistake.

During his first year he studied Greek, Latin, Logic, Metaphysics, Chemistry, Natural History, English Law and Juraprudence. It was a well balanced course and very comprehensive. The Curriculum at Queens was based on the Scottish University course. There was also a great deal of individual teaching. It gave him a very well trained memory. "Wax to receive and marble to retain".

At Queen's College he received a gold medal and 15 for Literature under Professor George Lillie Craik, and another gold medal and 15 for Logic and Metaphysics. At this stage he seriously thought about becoming a doctor but gave the idea up in horror when he thought of the possibilities of contracting terrible diseases from some of the victims he would have to treat.

Whilst at Queen's College he lodged in Adelaide Place with a family that had a little girl, two boys and three grown up daughters who were mad keen for marriage. The grown up daughters consisted of Miss. Hardy age 23, Miss Jane age 20 and Cordelia about 17. His friend, Hugh Stewart courted Miss. Hardy while Robert's favourite was Cordelia. It is said that he always looked forward to enjoying her company very much to church each Sunday. Many years `later he writes in his diary recalling the fond memories of the "ould sod" with great vividness and detail.

Robert Hart and the Methodist Church

Robert Hart had the privilege of having good Christian parents who took him regularly to Church and brought him up in a Christian atmosphere. In fact it was often a topic of conversation at the family meal in Ravarnette House. Father would ask "What have you done for God to-day?"

Whilst at Ravarnette the family attended Priesthill Methodist Church and his loud for that church can be ascertained by the letter he wrote to them during their Jubilee:

"I am glad you thought of writing to me in connection with the Jubilee, for as long as it is since I left that part of the world I still have an affectionate recollection of the place and the people.

Of course, like many a child I hated to be forced to attend the service there when not in humour; but now, time has mellowed me and the memory is simply a sheer delight.

As I write here some faces and sounds come up. I can see someone going round to snuff the candles after the sermon....... I can follow the steady, solemn voice of Deacon James Carlisle as he delivers an affectionate watch-night address. I can see down the hill and over the bridge, and along the broad straight road with high trees on either side, having on one hand Carlisle House, and on the other the lane that leads to Sam Jone's, and which after passing the Phoenix's and Bradbury's touches the Maze and turns off by Knox's. Indeed as I write, it is interesting, here, forty years come back again. I suppose it is the same with all who go far from home and work in foreign lands: we never forget, and a sound, or a smell, or a sight brings up cradle days and all the surroundings of Home Sweet Home.

I've had to stop here for a minute: the tears fill my eyes. Fancy weeping in '89 in Peking over recollections at Priesthill in '49; but so it is, and it is good to have one's memory aroused, and one's heart touched and wakened from the wintryness and worldliness of age.

Although no longer one of your neighbours, I am glad to have the opportunity of once more showing the old friends that I have not forgotten the old place, and so I enclose a cheque for one hundred pounds.

You can give 60 or 70 to the Chapel Fund, and the rest you can divide among the poorer members of the congregation; a pound here and a pound there may be of some service, especially coming when not looked for."

The family also attended the Methodist Church in Lisburn, at a later date.

Whilst at Queen's College he attended Donegall Square Methodist Church and boarded with Dr. John Aicken, a well known Wesleyan Physician and friend of the family. He was a regular attender and took an active interest in missionary work especially in China.

At the age of 17 he nearly decided to become a missionary to the heathen. The story is told at Bisham in Buckinghamshire, England that one day he was visiting a bereaved family near Ravarnette. He was performing the duties of a lay preacher and comforting the family. Whilst he was saying a solemn prayer a young and attractive lady appeared at the door. He found it difficult to concentrate on his duties to the family and his prayer. So, from that day on he had the stong conviction that God did not call him to be a full time preacher. Although on many occasions later in life he felt nearly convinced that he should become a missionary himself.

Belfast had become a dominant centre of Calvinism in the mid 19th Century with its major proponent of dogma and theology, Dr. Henry Cooke. That form of Christianity held no attraction for Robert Hart: His theology was founded on the great truths of the Wesley tradition and he never questioned them.

Robert Hart and Sport

When he was at Taunton he was known for having the fleetest pair of heels in the school although he did not play the usual school games such as cricket, bowls, football and rounders.

It is said that after he left Taunton he ran no more races. He was so caught up in reading books, studying and the challenge of passing examinations. His only other forms of exercise were walking and riding.

He had a real Irishman's love for a horse. During his boyhood at Ravarnette he rode his pony all over the tiny lanes of Carnbane, Sprucefield, Blaris, Culcavey, and most of the surrounding countryside of Lisburn. It was at Timothy O'Laughlin's in Lisburn that his first pony saddle was made in the early 1840's.
Later in Peking he kept up his interest by having a small racing stable. His colours were orange, from his Ancestry, and green to remind him of the green grass at home:
As for walking, he always enjoyed a good country walk. Many times he walked from Ravarnette into Lisburn and back. Indeed he writes an account in his diary on the 12th July 1866 when he walked from Ravarnette House into Lisburn with his sisters Margaret and Charlotte and 'Doty' Hughes to see the Orangemen on parade and to the weekly market. Two days previously on the 10th July 1866 he had a leisurely walk along the Ravarnette River and Corry's Glen.

Robert Hart's Contemporaries at Queen's College, Belfast

Many of his fellow students also became famous and made great names for themselves.

Edwin Lawrence Godkin founded and edited 'The Nation' the best weekly newspaper not only in America but in the world.
John O'Beirne became Professor of Celtic at Queen's College, Galway.
William MacCormac became surgeon to the Prince of Wales (King Edward III).
Andrew Marshall Porter became Member of Parliament for County Londonderry.
James Cumming became the ablest physician in Northern Ireland and held the Chair of Medicine at Queen's for 34 years
John Coates became the Principal and Professor of Medicine at the Medical College in Calcutta.
David Ross became the Recorder of Belfast and County Court Judge of Antrim.
David Graham Barkley became Judge in the Supreme Court of the Punjab in India.

During the Spring of 1854, just at a critical point in his life the British Foreign Office gave out to the three Irish Queen's Colleges, in Belfast, Cork and Galway one. nomination each. Thirty seven applicants were to sit an examination at Queens in Belfast for their one nomination. When the College authorities heard that Robert Hart had applied they decided to give it to him without any examination.

Good-Bye Ulster

The time quickly passed for his journey to China. He called to bid many of his friends and relations goodbye. There was one family he was very much attracted to and that was Sam Hart's family. He was rather in love with the eldest girl, Agues. The news of his imminent departure came as a shock and a terrible blow to Agues. Many years later whilst sitting in Peking he recalls the incident. Poor Agnes looked up petrified and it was impossible for him to describe the look on her face.

Another family he called on was the Russells. Young Miss. Janet Russell and he had had many dates previously but that was all over and she was now engaged and to be married to another. Again in Peking many years later he recalls that day very well.

"It was in the drawing room that I Left them, but Janet came running down to the door after me, and looked very much as if she wished for a kiss: I was so foolish as merely to raise my hat, instead of bruising her bonnet."

Had Robert remained in Belfast no doubt he would have married a lot earlier from all accounts.

He set out for China in May 1854 at the age of nineteen and one can just imagine his mother's reaction. The thought of him leaving home must have terrified the family. "How will he get there? Are the natives friendly? When will he come back? or... Will he come back at all?" These are some of the questions that must have surely gone through the minds of the Hart family at Ravarnette House.

But none of them discouraged him from going. In fact the family was behind his venture all the way. His father's parting gift was a roll of fifty sovereigns. That was a fair bit of money in those days when you reckon that the Hart family income would have only been a few hundred pounds a year.

The Journey to China

Documentary evidence shows that he travelled on the 4th June 1854 on the "Candia," an Italian steamship, from Southampton to Alexandria in Egypt. The Candia after a long and useful lifetime was sunk by a submarine in the Mediterranean on the 11th April 1917. The fare for a gentleman was 153 London to Hong Kong.

The Suez Canal had not yet been completed and so he travelled to Cairo via the Mahmoudieh Canal. From Alexandria to Atfeh on the Nile. he travelled in a large track boat hauled by horses along the 48 miles of the Mahmoudieh Canal. At Atfeh he transferred to the river steamer for the 120 mile overnight journey up the Nile to Boulac, the port for Cairo. The final stage from Cairo to Suez, a distance of some 70 miles across the open desert, was covered in horse-drawn carriages or "vans". The last part across the desert took 10 hours, but the whole journey from Alexandria to Suez took just under 80 hours.

At Suez he boarded a steamer to Galle, the main port in Ceylon, (now Sri Lanka). From here he took another steamer to Bombay. Another change of ship was made and he sailed on, "The Pottinger" (1846-1862) to Hong Kong.

On arrival at Hong Kong he met Sir John Bowring, the Governor of the Colony and'for a few months he was 'serving in the Superintendency of trade. Plenty of sound advice was given to him and of a practical nature. Sir John Bowring told him, "Study everything around you. Go out and walk in the street and read the shop signs. Bend over the bookstall and read the titles. Listen to the talk of the people. If you acquire these habits, you will not only learn something new every time you leave your door, but you will always carry with you an antidote for boredom."

In September 1854 he was appointed to the British Consulate in West End,' Ningpo. He travelled on the 150 ton opium schooner the "Iona" from Hong Kong to Shanghai a journey of three weeks. Its only passenger was Robert Hart. His diet on board was water-buffalo and peanuts. The monsoon had made weather conditions very bad for the schooner.

Further hair raising adventures awaited him on the journey to Ningpo. The ship was chased by a pirate junk and only narrowly escaped capture. Every piece of sail was put out and the entire crew worked the big oar on the stern.


In 1855 Ningpo was a very quiet place. Roads were non-existant and only a few houses separated each other by a haphazard collection of paddy fields. The British Consulate was at the West End of the settlement and hence was known by that name. There were a few merchants.

China" is one of the world's oldest countries and has a history and culture of long standing. Chinese calligraphy and painting date back to ancient times and Chinese cuisine is acknowledged to be second to none in the world but the country was very much a sleepy land, where under the same wheel, the same old rut would deepen year by year. The Great Wall, the Imperial Palace of Peking and the Qin dynasty tomb figures of a legion of warriors and horses amongst many other cultural relics symbolised China's ancient architecture, sculpture and painting.

Chance came for young Hart when the British Consul at Ningpo was suspended from duty over a dispute with the Portuguese Consul. Robert Hart was placed in control for a few months and his calm judgement gained him a favourable commendation by General Van Straubenzee who predicted a great career for Robert. His official job at Ningpo was as a supernumary interpreter.

Expecting to be asked out to sing, should he be invited out anywhere in Ningpo he thought he would write a song for Christmas 1854. He wrote the following lines to the tune of Auld Lang Syne:

Friends, here we are who destined were in foreign lands to roam,
In the Celestial Empire for a time we've fixed our home;
And as you ask., why - I comply, and sing my friends for you,
Who sit around this festive board at Ningpo.

At Ningpofoo, my friends
At Ningpofoo -
We taste the brimming winecup joys at Ningpofoo.

Though few the words which now are heard that we can understand,
Though few friends who kindly nod or clasp the proferred hand,
Though not a pretty girl is seen with whom to bill and coo
Yet still we have some pleasure here at Ningpofoo.

No evening walks with ladies fair, no squeezings of the waist
The nectar of rich rosy lips tho' now we never taste
Tho' moonlight meetings there are none - no tender billet doux
Yet still we've some enjoyment here at Ningpofoo.

Then as we're far from English joys - girls - concerts - balls - and plays
The best of Chinese customs blend with good old English ways -
Love native lassies - smoke cigars - drink wine - good toddy now
The fault's our own if we don't enjoy some life at Ningpofoo.

At Ningpofoo, my friends, at Ningpofoo,
There's what makes life charming, even here at Ningpofoo.

-Robert Hart 18/12/54

The Portuguese had abused their position and trust with the Chinese to the extent of banditry, looting, murder and rape. They terrorised the entire coast, burning villages whose inhabitants would not pay tribute.

Eventually the Chinese backlash came. The Portuguese were attacked en masse. They were hunted down and butchered. Some were tied to their own boats which were set on fire and sent down the river to roast to death. The Portuguese sought refuge in the British Consulate but were denied access lest the Chinese extend their vengeance to include the British.

This was not to prove Hart's last experience of a, "Chinese Fracas." He was to experience many more during his career in China.

He was next sent to the city of Canton in March 1858 as Secretary to the Allied Commission which was the governing body.