Thomas Backhouse Sandwith (Biographical details)

Thomas Backhouse Sandwith (politician/statesman; English; Male; 1831 - 1900)

Also known as

Sandwith, Thomas Backhouse


British career diplomat, first serving in the Middle East and then as Vice-Consul in Cyprus between 1865 and 1870; he was then posted as full Consul to Khania in Crete, with later positions in Tunis and Odessa.

During his time on Cyprus he assembled a large collection of antiquities, through his colleagues in the consular corps - especially Robert Hamilton Lang (q.v.), Luigi Palma di Cesnola (q.v.), Demetrios Pierides (q.v.), and others - who were excavating on a large scale at this time. He may have conducted his own excavations as well, but this is not certain. He observed at first hand the emergence of archaeology as a discipline on the island; this interest resulted in the first attempt at classifiying the pottery styles of ancient Cyprus in an important paper delivered to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1871 (published in the journal Archaeologia in 1880 (vol. 45)).

In 1869, the British Museum purchased a group of 52 objects from his collection of Cypriot items while additional items were later donated. Parts of his collection were exhibition at the Yorkshire Exhibition of 1875 and later sold to the Leeds Literary and Philosophical Society, the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art (now the National Museum of Scotland), as well as a number of other museums (see Reeve 2012-present). Items from his Cypriot collection were also acquired by Augustus Franks and came to the BM through the latter's bequest in 1917.

Sandwith also took an interest in the archaeology of Crete while living there and collected antiquities from the island, some of were sold to the BM. Through him the BM acquired the large Late Minoan pithos (storage jar) from the site of the Palace of Knossos which had been excavated by Minos Kalokairinos (q.v.) in 1878.


Goring E. 1988, A mischievous pastime. Digging in Cyprus in the Nineteenth Century (Edinburgh), 13-15;

Merrillees R. 2001, 'T. B. Sandwith and the beginnings of Cypriote archaeology', in ed. V. Tatton-Brown, Cyprus in the 19th century A.D. Fact, fancy and fiction (Oxford), 222-238 [with full bibliography].

Reeve A. 2012-present, [various articles on Sandwith and his collection], in Ancient Cypriot art in Leeds. Exploring the origins and history of ancient Cypriot art collections in Leeds. [].

Williams D. 1996, 'T.B. Sandwith's Cretan collection', in eds D. Evely, I. Lemos and E. Sherratt, Minotaur and Centaur. Studies in the archaeology of Crete and Euboea presented to Mervyn Popham (Oxford), 100-104.

Obituary in The Times of London, Saturday 28 April 1900.