Dear Member,


Please find below our latest newsletter. I hope you will enjoy reading it.



For our first main article, we go back in history further than any previous article published by the Society, to 1190 to be precise. We welcome Lucas Villegas-Aristizábal, a lecturer in Medieval History at Queen's University (Canada), who is based at Bader College at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. He contributes a fascinating article on the impact of the Third Crusade on Portugal.



Our second article is by our Council member, Andrew Shepherd, who continues our series of articles on Protestant cemeteries with Portuguese connections, with one on the Old Protestant Cemetery of Macau.



Please make a note in your diaries about our Annual Lunch, which will be on Saturday 13 January and will be held at the Riviera Hotel in Carcavelos. We will welcome Gonçalo and José Byrne, who will give a talk and show a video about English-owned mines in Portugal. Members will be sent a notice nearer the date by email.



I’d also like to remind you about our event next weekend at 3.00 pm on Sunday 10 December, when we will have a guided tour of the Portuguese Crown Jewels at the  ‘Museu de Tesouro Real’, at the Ajuda Palace, Lisbon. Numbers are limited and members living in the Lisbon area should have received a circular with booking and joining instructions. It is essential to book in advance through



Our next newsletter will be issued just before the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 2024. If any members would like to contribute to this edition, please contact us on the library email. We are also planning a talk to remember the event. For more information, please see Forthcoming Events.



I take the opportunity to wish all our members and readers an enjoyable Christmas and a successful, history-filled, New Year.



Edward Godfrey





NEWS see more News here

MAY 7, 2024

Forthcoming events

Planned events of the Society in the coming months

EVENTS see more Events here

DECEMBER 2, 2023

Report of talk by Jorge Martins Ribeiro on The Role played by the British Community in Trade, Politics and Social Life from the Late-18th to the mid-19th Century

Meeting of the Porto group on 30 November 2023


OCTOBER 14, 2023

Report on visit to Porto, September 2023

Visit by Lisbon members, 21-24 September

ARTICLES see more Articles here

Military Incursions of the Third Crusade’s Fleets on the Coasts of Portugal

Author: Lucas Villegas-Aristizábal



Year: 2023

Subject Matter: Portuguese History


The Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau

Author: Andrew Shepherd



Year: 2023

Subject Matter: NA


The British in Portugal

William Elsden was a British architect and engineer, who worked in Portugal from around 1756, when he was 36, until his death in October 1778. He has been practically ignored by historians until recently and it is only because of the detailed research of Matilde Sousa Franco, who contributed to our last Annual Report on a different topic, that details of his life in Portugal are now becoming widely known.


Elsden came from a family of prosperous landowners from Banningham (between Norwich and Cromer). Although he called himself an architect he does not appear on lists of British architects of the time and the exact nature of his skills remains uncertain. There are some indications that he was a carpenter. Following the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, Britain was keen to help Portugal recover and Elsden was one of those recruited to go to Portugal to collaborate in the reconstruction of the capital.


This reconstruction work, inspired by the Marquis of Pombal, was led by three leading military architects and engineers: Manuel da Maia, Eugénio dos Santos and Carlos Mardel. Elsden worked initially with Santos and then with Mardel, who was Hungarian. Elsden joined the Portuguese army as a military engineer in 1760. Continuing Mardel’s work after his death in 1763, by 1767 Elsden had reached the position of Lieutenant Colonel. He was also Quartermaster-General to the Forces and a Mathematics teacher at the Military Academy. Giving people positions in the armed forces even though they had non-military functions seems to have been quite common in Portugal of the time: BHSP’s Newsletter 20 noted that John Norton was made both Inspector-General of Machinery and a Captain in the Navy.


In Lisbon Elsden, his wife Teresa, who seems to have been Portuguese, their son William and their daughter Francisca, who was born in Lisbon, lived at first on 1 Rua de Buenos Aires (which still exists) in Lapa, apparently a popular street with the British, before moving to a farm at Campo de Ourique. They would later return to Rua de Buenos Aires. He worked not only in Lisbon but also in Alcobaça, Aveiro, where he tried to address siltation problems, and Leiria, among others. His greatest achievement was the Pombaline restoration of the University of Coimbra, which he directed between 1772 and 1778. However, he had a turbulent personal life while in Portugal. His wife became the “muse” of the poet, Pedro Correia Garção, and was unintentionally implicated in the poet’s arrest.


D. Pedro (later King Pedro III) was godfather to his son who was baptised as a Catholic in 1778 at the age of 24. Elsden’s friendship with D. Pedro probably arose out of his work for the Casa do Infantado, created in 1654 to look after the lands and buildings of the second sons of the monarchs. Pedro, who was nicknamed “the builder”, was the younger brother of King José I.


Elsden carried out numerous engineering tasks, and prepared many maps and building plans, including the first urban plan for Alcobaça. He is said to have worked on the Santa Clara Convent at Vila do Conde and on the Ajuda Palace library. However, buildings known to have been designed by him are limited mainly to those in Coimbra. Most of his designs were in the neoclassical style and he is credited with introducing that style in Portugal. Neoclassical buildings had already been introduced in Britain, often influenced by the Palladian style, named after the Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio. The style aimed to renounce the decorative excesses of the Baroque era and return to a purer classical architecture that was adapted to the needs of the time.


Elsden was also responsible for the neo-Gothic Royal Pantheon in the Alcobaça Monastery, which was still under construction at the time of his death. He also contributed to the remodelling of that monastery’s apse.

The British in Portugal (cont.)

Pombal made radical reforms to Coimbra university, especially regarding the teaching of sciences. In 1770 José I, on the advice of Pombal, appointed a commission in charge of reorganizing the university. This advised the creation of two new faculties, Mathematics and Natural philosophy, which would require new buildings. Elsden went to Coimbra in 1772, accompanied by his son, who had joined the army at the age of 14 and also became an architect, although one who was inferior to his father. It seems unlikely that Elsden would have been given the responsibility of redesigning the university without having proved himself on several other buildings, so perhaps buildings he designed elsewhere have yet to be identified.


In Coimbra, in an environment of some hostility to the reforms, he was responsible for buildings for Mathematics, Philosophy and Medicine. This included redesigning the former colleges of the Society of Jesus, taken over by the Government with the expulsion of Jesuits in 1759, including a hospital, anatomical theatre, and a dispensary. Other building on which he worked included a chemical laboratory (now the Science Museum), experimental physics and natural history buildings, and a printing press for the university. In addition to faculty buildings, Elsden was responsible for laying out the Botanical Gardens. He also designed an observatory, but this was not completed. The works are detailed in a two-volume handbound manuscript titled Drawings of the Works of the University of Coimbra, which sets out the work undertaken in Volume 1 and the expenditures incurred in Volume 2. The 30 drawings in Volume 1 are all signed by Elsden.


Elsden then became involved with a scandal related to the apparent affair of the poet Pedro Correia Garção with Elsden’s wife, Teresa. Garção was a linguist and interacted with many foreigners. He lived in Campo de Ourique, to where the Elsdens moved as his tenant. Campo de Ourique, like their first residence in Lapa, was popular with the British. It seems that Garção was in love with an “English lady” and would write passionate verses about her using pseudonyms for both himself and Teresa, referring to her as Belisa. His poem Cantata de Dido, apparently inspired by Teresa, is considered one of the most beautiful works of Portuguese lyricism. At the same time, one Francisco António Lobo de Ávila had been declaring his love for the Elsden’s daughter and encouraging her to elope, although some historians believed that Lobo de Ávila also loved Teresa.


It appears that Elsden returned home unexpectedly from his travels in 1771, found incriminating correspondence, and took it to Pombal. As a result, Garçao, his servant and Lobo de Ávila were arrested on Pombal’s orders. Perhaps the discovery by Elsden was more an excuse for Pombal to detain Garçao than an arrestable offence, as he was one of the many people Pombal held a grudge against. Whether the relationship went beyond poetry and letters is unclear, but Teresa Elsden was for a time held at the King’s pleasure in the Recolhimento de São Cristovão in Lisbon, a place where people were sent for religious meditation. Garçao was eventually given his freedom by the king, but died on the day this was signed. Elsden was perhaps lucky not to suffer a similar fate, as documents found in Brazil suggest that Pombal did not look on him kindly as he was friendly with priests and others the Marquis disliked.


Elsden died in 1778 but exactly where is not clear. Although his health was not good, he was still travelling extensively. He does not appear to have been buried in the British Cemetery in Lisbon. Queen D. Maria I awarded a pension to his wife and daughter, but Sousa Franco states that Elsden had also invested in several properties.


Main source: Matilde Sousa Franco, Elsden: Revela-Se Notável Arquitecto Inglês que Veio Ajudar a Reedificação de Lisboa.  See also: Maria de Lurdes Craveiro, Guilherme Elsden e a introdução do neoclassicismo em Portugal




This can be found at the Museu Militar de Lisboa. What was it used for?

You can find the answer to the question at the end of the Members' News section.

Book Review

K.J. Hartley, End of Innocence. The Conrad Press, 2016. isbn 978-1911546047


Just as the French buy “Un Roman de Gare” in station kiosks before setting off on any journey, it would be a good idea to put a courtesy copy of this novel in every cabin of the mammoth cruise ships that dock in Lisbon, for tourists to read before their arrival. For End of Innocence is both a crime-thriller and a non-pedantic guide to a certain Portuguese way of life. The story is set just before and during the first months of WWII but the information it contains remains relevant to this day.


Eagle-spread on a table – something one should never do to any book – the cover of End of  Innocence depicts a motley array of photos of Lisbon, of O Convento dos Inglesinhos in black and white, of a No.12 tram in colour, looking smarter than most trams in Lisbon actually do, of blocks of rather ugly Salazar-era flats, of the Praça do Comercio, of the Castelo S. Jorge being spruced up by Salazar with, on the back cover, the corner of a brown envelope, English stamped, dated 10 May 1940, and addressed to one Rev. M. Harrington in Lisbon. So, we think, this is what Lisbon was all about at the outbreak of WWII. Or was it?


Harrington must be the Roman Catholic priest in the photograph on the front cover, black-haired, olive-skinned, in his black cassock with his white dog-collar. In front of him is a younger woman, dark-haired, olive-skinned, in a fancy black and white dress, with her hand resting on her right shoulder, seemingly wanting to bring the clergyman closer to herself. They seem to make quite a well-assorted pair – or do they?


It seems that the title, coupled with the unfolding plot in Lisbon and in the world, raises more questions than answered in the book. The end of Hartley's story is only the beginning of something even more questioning for nothing is ever quite as it seems and the implication seems to be that something has been lost. But will it ever be found again? Can lost innocence ever be retrieved? Hence the book’s loaded last sentence – for all of them, the end of any kind of innocence.


The Convento dos Inglesinhos at the time of Hartley's story has a few students and their teachers rattle around despondently in the large Seminary. It was designed by the Holy See in Rome to better propagate the Catholic Faith in the British Isles. Some historical reasons are touched upon briefly by the author to explain the incongruity of the place and the role it played to mitigate the effect of the religious wars being waged in England at the time. The monastery in Hartley's story becomes a refuge for well-known Catholics, and for the Duke of Windsor, minus Wallis Simpson, who invites himself to a well-lubricated meal to pick the brains of the hero-clergyman of Hartley's book.


In many of the spy stories set in Lisbon at the outbreak of WWII, much is made of the strange atmosphere brought on by the multicultural refugees found massed everywhere along the coast trying to escape to safer lands. Here the ambiance is somewhat different. The secondary characters, such as the 12- or 13-year-olds in Lisbon deposited in a religious all-boys' institution so far from home; the cruel, uncouth local tradesmen beating heavily laden donkeys struggling up or down the slippery calcadas of the Bairro Alto; the homeless, penniless, and destitute, remind one of Monopoly houses waiting to be knocked off the game-board? When, why and by whom?


Games in this story are a constant. Early in the book, Dona Elisabete, the woman on the cover, and the Rev. Harrington, her Confessor-cum-Lover, sit down to a game of chess and it is then that our hero realises that he is a lost man the day that he accepts to step into her flat in Lapa. Who in the games being played is playing to win and who is playing not to lose? Without wanting to give away the twists and turns of the main espionage intrigue being undertaken in neutral Portugal at the time, one might be tempted to ask how much of himself did the author put into the novel? Not too much we hope, as the hero might be perceived as being a wimp, a weakling, or a wuss.


Not the first novel set in Portugal that explores relationships between men of the cloth and attractive women (The Crime of Father Amaro by Eça de Queiroz, for example), End of Innocence raises many questions. Holding the reader’s attention in this way, it is a page turner indeed.



Members' News

British people in Lisbon. In our last Newsletter we highlighted the work done by our librarian, Dani Monteiro, to compile a spreadsheet of British people living in Lisbon, going back to the middle of the 18th Century. Thanks to our member, Mark Davies, this information is now available as a Google Sheet, which members may find more user-friendly, particularly when looking at the information on your phones. 


British Cemetery, Lisbon: Inscriptions. Several members of the Society attended a cheese and wine party at the British Cemetery, Lisbon in October, which included a presentation of the new Inscriptions Survey carried out by our member John Pead, who is the Hon. Cemetery Archivist. For a full report by our Chairman, Edward Godfrey, please see here.


Annual Report 2022. The articles in this report are now available online. They can be accessed through this link. Members are reminded that articles from all of our Annual Reports are available on the website. They provide an enormous wealth of information about Anglo-Portuguese history and can be accessed by using the Search function or by going to the Articles section.


Queen Elizabeth II. The Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (FCSH-UNL) of the NOVA University of Lisbon is organising a conference called “Queen Elizabeth II: Life, Times, Legacies” from the 17th to 19th of April, 2024. If you are interested in attending, in person or online, please see here. The deadline for registration is 31 December.


Our Annual Lunch will be held at Carcavelos on 13 January. Please see here for more details. Members will receive an invitation by email.


Members may be interested to learn that as of December 1st we had exactly 250 members, of whom 213 live in Portugal. Most of the members living outside Portugal are in the UK. 


Answer to Quiz. Known as “A Zorra”, this enormous cart was used to transport both the columns of the Estrela Basilica and stone for the Rua Augusta Arch in Praça do Comércio.


We would be delighted to hear about items of news from members, however insignificant they may appear. Of special interest is news about new books or articles, or visits members have made to historical sites or exhibitions of interest.



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Carcavelos, September, 2018


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