Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen (1834-1923) was a soldier, mountaineer, explorer, surveyor, geology collector and naturalist. He explored the Himalayan Mountains and the second highest peak in the Karakoram Range, K2, was originally given the name Mount Godwin-Austen after Haversham. There is still an access glacier called Godwin-Austen.

He attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford, and then the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, entering the army in 1851. He served in the second Anglo-Burmese war as aide-de-camp to his grandfather, General Henry Godwin. In 1856 he joined the trigonometrical survey in India. He was a collector of birds, molluscs and an ornithologist, writing books on the subjects.

He married his third wife, Jessie Robinson (1861-1913), in Guernsey in 1881, she was 20, and he was 47. She was the daughter of John Harding Robinson, who lived c.1866-1880 at The Square in Godalming High Street when he was listed in 1871 as an Examiner for Standing Orders in the House of Lords.

Haversham inherited the family’s estate in Shalford when his father, the geologist Robert Alfred Cloyne Godwin-Austen, died in 1884. Henry moved to Nore in Hascombe c.1890. Godalming Museum Local Studies Library has a letter sent on the 22nd December 1903 from Nore by Lt Col H H Godwin-Austen to J C Melville. In an extract Henry wrote, “I have to thank you for a copy of your joint paper with Ponsonby, on South African L & F W shells. I have a brother-in-law now at Rustenberg, who is anxious to collect, he is in the Education Department & a clever young fellow. I have sent him some instructions, as to collecting & hope for results, which I shall hand over to you to work out, for I have more than I can well get through with Indian things.

In 1909 Haversham was awarded the Founders Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for geographical discoveries and surveys along the North-eastern frontier of India, especially his pioneer exploring in the Karakoram.

Gertrude Jekyll gave special acknowledgement in her Old West Surrey (1904) to Colonel and Mrs Godwin-Austen of Shalford House for their help. A Memoir of Mrs Godwin-Austen (Jessie) was published privately in 1913 by Gertrude Jekyll and M S W (Mary Seton Watts). The Memoir recalls a postcard sent by the Scott expedition to the Antarctic from Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1910 to Jessie. Jessie died in 1913 aged 52, her funeral was attended by Gertrude Jekyll and M S W sent a floral tribute.

Haversham died at Nore, Hascombe in 1923. A memorial to him was placed by family and friends in St Mary’s Church, Shalford. A brass memorial to his second wife, Pauline Georgiana Plowden (1845-69), whom he married in 1861 in India and who died there, was placed by her son, Major Robert Arthur Godwin-Austen.

In 2015 a Burmese style Buddhist shrine has been found at Nore, the first ever structure for Buddhist devotion in Britain. He had converted to the Buddhist faith in the late 1850s and in 1858 first ‘married’ an Indian named, Kudikji, daughter of a Muslim landowner.

Catherine Moorehead’s Spirit of Adventure (2011) contains an essay on Haversham’s discovery of K2 and other Karakoram mountains. In 2013 her book on The K2 Man (and his Molluscs) was published.

Godalming Museum © 2015

 

 

Return