Born 20 December 1856 at 21, Chester Square, London, son of John George Phillimore (died 1865) of Shiplake House, near Henley-on-Thames, queen's councillor, an authority on canon law, like other members of his family, and Member of Parliament for Leominster (1852-7), and his wife, Rosalind Margaret, daughter of lord justice Knight-Bruce. He was educated at Windersham House, Amesbury, Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1879 and M.A. in 1883. In 1877 he was admitted to the Middle Temple.
He was twice married: (1), 1880, to Susan Elizabeth (died 1893), eldest daughter of Richard Barner Roscoe of Accrington, who bore him one son and three daughters; (2), 1897, to Marion Catherine (died 1904), daughter of Richard Owen, of Anglesey and Liverpool. On his father's side he claimed connection with the Salusbury and Bagot family of Bachymbyd, while on his mother's side he was related to the Bruce and Knight families of Glamorgan and Devon.
During and after his term at Oxford his interest in Welsh studies was awakened through the influence and friendship of John Rhys, J. Loth, Whitley Stokes, and other scholars. He began to learn Welsh in 1880 and mastered the language thoroughly. Early in his career he resided at Shiplake House, living a gentleman's life until money worries forced him to sell his home to his cousin, lord Phillimore. Financial and other worries troubled him a great deal, especially after his second marriage. He had an intimate knowledge of Wales, her language and history, and had stayed in different parts of the country before finally settling down in Corris, Merioneth, about 1903, and there, for the rest of his life, he lived alone with his books and his cats.
He had a good library and a collection of Welsh manuscripts which are now in the National Library of Wales. He devoted his life to Celtic studies and published learned articles and notes on Welsh history, topography, place-names, personal names, and mythology. The fruits of his fine scholarship are mainly preserved in periodicals and the works of others - in Owen's Pembrokeshire, Gossiping Guide to Wales, Bye-Gones, Y Cymmrodor, and Archaeologia Cambrensis. The only work to appear under his own name, Welsh Ædoeology - a collection of Welsh pornographic literature - was published in Germany - see Studia Celtica, 6 (1971), 99-102.
He was editor of the Cymmrodor in 1889-91. His literary output was disappointingly small, and a store of learning was lost when this rather eccentric scholar died at Corris on 5 June 1937.
Published date: 1959
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