Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington

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The Lord Conway of Allington
William Martin Conway.jpg
Conway in 1895
Member of Parliament for Combined English Universities
with H. A. L. Fisher (1918-1926)
and Eleanor Rathbone (1926-1931)
In office
28 December 1918 – 7 October 1931
Preceded byConstituency Established
Succeeded bySir Reginald Craddock
and Eleanor Rathbone
Personal details
Born(1856-04-12)12 April 1856
Rochester, Kent, England
Died19 April 1937(1937-04-19) (aged 81)
London, England
ChildrenAgnes Conway
OccupationArt critic, politician, mountaineer

William Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington (12 April 1856 – 19 April 1937), known between 1895 and 1931 as Sir Martin Conway, was an English art critic, politician, cartographer and mountaineer, who made expeditions in Europe as well as in South America and Asia.

Conway was occupied on several university positions and from 1918 to 1931 was a representative of the combined English universities as a conservative member in the House of Commons.

In 1872 he took up mountain climbing and went on expeditions to Spitsbergen from 1896 to 1897 and the Bolivian Andes in 1898. He is an author of books on art and exploration, which include Mountain Memories (1920), ′'Art Treasures of Soviet Russia (1925), and Giorgione as a Landscape Painter (1929).[1]

Background and education[edit]

Conway was born at Rochester, England, on 12 April 1856, the son of Reverend William Conway, who later became rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster.[2][3] He was the youngest of three children having two older sisters, Elizabeth Ann (1852-1916) and Martha (1854-1938).[2] He was educated at Repton and Trinity College, Cambridge,[4] where he studied mathematics and became a close friend of Karl Pearson. He became interested in woodcuts, engraving and early printed books; his History of the Woodcutters of the Netherlands in the Fifteenth Century was published in 1884.


Conway was a member of the Alpine Club, of which he was president from 1902 to 1904.[5]

In 1892, in the course of an exploring and mountaineering expedition undertaken under the auspices of the Royal Society, the Royal Geographical Society and the British Association, he made an ascent of a subsidiary summit of Baltoro Kangri, claiming a world altitude record with a height of 23,000 ft (7,010 m). However, subsequent measurements have revised his height to 22,322 ft (6,804 m).[6] In 1896–97 he explored the interior of Spitsbergen, and the following year he explored and surveyed the Bolivian Andes, climbing "Sorata" (known today as Ancohuma, 21,086 ft / 6,427 m) and Illimani (21,122 ft / 6,438 m). He also attempted Aconcagua (22,831 ft / 6,959 m) stopping short of the summit by 50-ft and explored Tierra del Fuego making an attempt on Sarmiento.[7] At the Paris exhibition of 1900 he received the gold medal for mountain surveys, and the Founder's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1905.

He served as President of the Alpine Club for 1902–04 and became the first president of The Alpine Ski Club at its inaugural meeting in 1908.

In 1924, Conway evaluated evidence from the 1924 British Mountaineering Expedition and believed George Mallory and Andrew Irvine had climbed Mt. Everest.[8]

Academic career[edit]

Conway's Karakoram map showing the environs of the Hispar Glacier, based on his 1892 survey

From 1884 to 1887 Conway was Professor of Art at University College, Liverpool; and from 1901 to 1904 he was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University. He was knighted in 1895 for his efforts in mapping 5,180 square km of the Karakoram Range in the Himalayas three years earlier.

In 1889 he published a book concerning his research on Albrecht Dürer. He was assisted in this by the polymath Lina Eckenstein who was the sister of a fellow mountaineer.[9]

Conway was the first Director-General of the Imperial War Museum and a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery from 1922 to 1937.[10] His photograph collection formed the basis of the Conway Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.[11] He was also responsible for the restoration of Allington Castle.

Political career[edit]

Conway had been involved in politics for some time, consorting with both major parties allegedly in pursuit of a knighthood and a barony; he received both. He was mentioned as a possible Liberal candidate for Wolverhampton South in early 1900, but withdrew his candidature 'owing to domestic circumstances'.[12] He was elected Unionist Member of Parliament for the Combined English Universities in 1918, serving until 1931, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Conway of Allington, of Allington in the County of Kent, in the Dissolution Honours.[13][14]

He died in London on 19 April 1937.[15] The title became extinct on his death.


Scholarly works[edit]

  • History of the Woodcutters of the Netherlands in the Fifteenth Century, 1884
  • Early Flemish Artists, 1887
  • The Literary Remains of Albrecht Dürer, 1889
  • The Dawn of Art in the Ancient World, 1891, dealing with Chaldean, Assyrian and Egyptian art
  • Early Tuscan Art, 1902
  • The Crowd in Peace and War, 1915
  • Art Treasures of Soviet Russia, 1925
  • Giorgione as a Landscape Painter, 1929

Mountaineering and travel works[edit]

  • Climbing and Exploration in the Karakoram-Himalayas, 1894[16]
  • The Alps from End to End, 1895
  • The First Crossing of Spitsbergen, 1897
  • The Bolivian Andes, 1901[17]
  • Aconcagua and Tierra Del Fuego: A Book of Climbing, Travel and Exploration, 1902[18]
  • Early Dutch and English Voyages to Spitsbergen in the Seventeenth Century, 1904[19]
  • No Man's Land, a History of Spitsbergen from its discovery in 1596 to the beginning of the Scientific Exploration of the Country, 1906
  • Mountain Memories, 1920
  • "Palestine and Morocco", 1923


  • Episodes in a Varied Life, 1932
  • The Sport of Collecting, 1914


  1. ^ "Dictionary definition of Conway of Allington, William Martin Conway, 1st Baron".
  2. ^ a b "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32536. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "CONWAY, Sir (William) Martin". Who's Who. 59: 373. 1907.
  4. ^ "Conway, William Martin (CNWY875WM)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Conway, Sir William Martin" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Curran, Jim (1995). K2: The Story of the Savage Mountain. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-340-66007-2.
  7. ^ Unsworth, Walt (1993). Hold the Heights. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 197. ISBN 0-340-33913-6.
  8. ^ "Mount Everest Expedition". Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser & Leamington Gazette. 29 July 1924.
  9. ^ Jane Chance (2005). Women Medievalists and the Academy. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-299-20750-2.
  10. ^ "(William) Martin Conway, 1st Baron Conway of Allington - National Portrait Gallery".
  11. ^ Higgon, Katharine (2005). "Persistence of Antiquity" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Election intelligence". The Times. No. 36061. London. 9 February 1900. p. 10.
  13. ^ "No. 33772". The London Gazette. 17 November 1931. p. 7409.
  14. ^ "No. 33778". The London Gazette. 8 December 1931. p. 7905.
  15. ^ The Complete Peerage, Volume XIII - Peerage Creations 1901-1938. St Catherine's Press. 1949. p. 500.
  16. ^ "Review of Climbing and Exploration in the Karakoram-Himalayas by W. M. Conway". The Athenaeum (3506): 20. 5 January 1895.
  17. ^ "Review of The Bolivian Andes: a Record of Climbing and Exploration in the Years 1898 and 1899 by Sir Martin Conway". The Athenaeum (3849): 159–160. 3 August 1901.
  18. ^ "Review of Aconcagua and Tierra del Fuego by Sir Martin Conway". The Athenaeum (3911): 477–478. 11 October 1902.
  19. ^ "Review of Early Dutch and English Voyages to Spitsbergen in the Seventeenth Century by Sir W. Martin Conway". The Athenaeum (4044): 522–523. 29 April 1905.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Combined English Universities
With: H. A. L. Fisher 1918–1926
Eleanor Rathbone 1926–1931
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Conway of Allington