Exploring Crowther’s Lagos

January 31, 2022
Festivals & Culture

Earlier this month, we went filming in and around the Cathedral Church of Christ (b.1929), Marina. Bishop Crowther attended Christmas service here, although in a previous building; it was the last time he would set foot in a church.

He died six days later– on 31 December 1891

And going by a document we have read, he died in a house on Odunlami Street.

The CMS Mission House, Badagry

Knowing what has happened to many historical buildings in the state over the years, we are hoping that this one is still standing.

One of our plans for this project is to identify and document as many landmarks as we can find linked to Bishop Crowther.

The most well known of those landmarks is the old Mission House (b.1845) at Badagry, where he and other missionaries were stationed for 18 months.

While there are a couple of well known ones, there are many others less well known to the public — a good example being the St Stephens Cathedral in Bonny Island, where Crowther first visited in November 1864, just months after he was consecrated Bishop in England.

In the cathedral premises, visitors will see his mission boat, excellently preserved. Inside the cathedral itself, up a flight of stairs, is a chapel in his memory, complete with the altar he preached on while in the riverine town.

I consider it prime pilgrimage location.

We have since established that Bishop Crowther was a tireless traveller. And as a missionary, he was always prepared to travel at the shortest of notices — even when his body and soul weren’t willing.

If anything, he would rather be on the road — or on the turbulent waters, as the case might be — than sit idle anywhere. At the last count, we have a long list of 196 communities that he travelled in. 

The Crowther Project team filming at the Christ Church Cathedral Marina Lagos. By Adedeji Olalekan

From Ebute Ero to Ebute Metta

Here’s what his typical year was like, as recorded by renowned historian Prof. J.F Ade Ajayi:

Crowther spends the dry season (November or December to February or March) at Lagos visiting Otta, writing his reports and dispatches. In March, he would go to Bonny, visit Brass and Kalabari, move to Akassa in June, use the Naval or Mercantile vessel to Onitsha, Lokoja, Egga or Bida. By October he retired to Bonny by November/December”.

But for the now, our focus will be Crowther’s Lagos of the 19th century. Our waka will begin with visits to some of the earliest churches — then called mission houses — of the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S) built in state — from Ebure Ero to Ebute Metta.

Like the Christ Church in Marina, they have all gone through multiple modifications over the centuries. One of them sits on the site that used to be a bunch of slave cells, and where Crowther himself was held, in chains, before being loaded onto the Portuguese ship en route South America, in 1892.

February promises to be an adventure. We can’t wait.

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