S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Hahn, Reverend Charles Theophilus (botanical illustration)

Born: 1 March 1870, London, England.
Died: 16 September 1930, London, England.

Charles Theophilus Hahn, Anglican missionary, was the only son of Theophilus Sigmund Hahn and his wife Helen Marfield Hahn, born Walters. He grew up in the village of Headley, Hampshire, and was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he graduated as Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1892 and Master of Arts (MA) in 1895. Deciding to enter the ministry he went to the Leeds Clergy School in 1892 and was ordained as a deacon in 1893 and as a priest in 1894. After holding various church appointments in England he came to South Africa in or before 1906 to undertake missionary work for the (Anglican) Church of the Province of South Africa. By 1908 he was curate of Etalaneni, Zululand, but during 1909-1913 also served at Empangeni, Inhlwati, and Nongoma, all in the Diocese of Zululand. During 1909-1910, while stationed at Nongoma, he applied to purchase two plots in the township and for a license to conduct Christian marriages of Africans. In 1913 he was appointed Archdeacon of Eshowe and Canon of St Peters, Vryheid, until returning to England in 1917. During that period he applied for a church site in the Hlabisa district in 1916.

During the period 1908-1916 Hahn produced 235 life-size water colour illustrations of the plants of KwaZulu-Natal. His paintings are accurate and have considerable charm, though they appear to have been made for his personal satisfaction rather than for scientific purposes. Most of the plants are accurately identified, perhaps by J.M. Wood*. The collection of paintings came to light only in 1988, when it was brought to the Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch for identification. In addition to his flower paintings Hahn painted landscapes in South Africa, Namibia, East Africa, South America, India, Spain, and Italy.

Back in England Hahn changed his surname to Headley, the name of the town where he grew up, probably as a result of anti-German sentiments prevailing in Britain during World War I (1914-1918). He returned to South Africa with his new name, serving as sub-dean of St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, from 1919 to 1922; as priest-in-charge at Keetmanshoop, Namibia, from 1922 to 1924; and as Archdeacon of Damaraland from 1924 to 1927. Upon his return to England he settled in the Diocese of Chelmsford, Essex.

List of sources:
General directory of South Africa, 1909, 1910, 1911: Ecclassiastical directory.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Hahn, Charles T/Hahn, C.T.

Rourke, J.P. & Manning, J.C. The Ven. Charles Theophilus Hahn, a hitherto unknown Edwardian botanical illustrator in Natal, 1908-1916. Bothalia, 1992, Vol. 22, pp. 145-153.

Compiled by: C. Plug