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British Embassies in China, 1861-1945

There has been a British diplomatic mission in Beijing since 1861, when Sir Frederick Bruce took up his post as the first Minister Resident and Plenipotentiary to the Imperial Chinese Court. From then until 1959, the British Legation, later Embassy, occupied the Lianggongfu, or Palace of the Duke of Liang at the heart of what became the Legation Quarter. The legation was next door to the famous Hanlin Academy, the Mongol market and the Imperial Carriage Park.

In addition to the original Chinese-style buildings, the British added many European buildings, to meet the needs of increased staff. During the siege of the legations by Boxers in the summer of 1900, the British Legation became the main refuge for women, children and non-combatants. It was badly damaged, and a number of the staff killed. A "Summer Legation", newly built in the Fragrant Hills, was destroyed by the Boxers. After the end of the siege, the legation was much expanded, taking in the Hanlin Academy grounds - the buildings burnt down in the siege - and much of the Carriage Park.

The British Legation became an Embassy in 1935. By then, the capital had moved to Nanjing, but for some years the main British diplomatic post remained in Beijing. By the time the Embassy moved to Nanjing, China was on the verge of war with Japan, and before long, the British Ambassador and his staff were on the move, first to Shanghai and then to Chongqing, where they spent most of the war years.

- British Embassies in China: 1945-2000


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