Gateway to the King’s Yard, Freetown
In his voluminous History of Sierra Leone, Christopher Fyfe recorded thus:
“Just east of it (the new gate built in 1816) above King Jimmy Brook, a stone wall with two gateways (one still stands) enclosed the King’s Yard, where newly-landed recaptives were herded” (p.134)
The one gate which still stands to this day was declared a National Monument in 1949. This was a metal gate that has survived and on it was inscribed “Royal Asylum and Hospital for the Africans Rescued from Slavery by British Valour and Philanthropy”. The King’s Yard had initially enclosed a building intended to be used as a hospital but was never used as such. There is no indication that that building was also used as a Royal Asylum. But the metal gate has survived and is a reminder of the role of the King’s Yard it led into.
It was easy to use the King’s Yard as the landing of first resort, being close to the King Jimmy wharf where the slaves were probably initially landed after being brought to the shores apparently by boats from the British naval vessels. In the King’s Yard they were ”processed” before being allocated as apprentices or taken as a group, probably of the same ethnicity, to new found villages like Goderich or Regent. Thus, virtually all of the Africans recaptured from being taken as slaves across the Atlantic passed through these two gates, the one no longer exists, into a new life in the colony of Sierra Leone.
Throughout the nineteenth century, these Liberated Africans or Recaptives, as the British referred to them, interacted also by marriage with the indigenous population they met there, mostly Bullom and some Thaimne, the latter continuously migrating to the new Colony. This mixture, to which was added the much smaller “Settlers”, the Nova Scotians and Maroons, gave rise to the emergence of a new ethnicity that came to be called Krio, blending African values from the sources identified with British colonial education, Christianity and thinking.
The King’s Yard Gate still leads into the enclosure with the former name, the site having metamorphosed into a Colonial Hospital burnt down in 1920, and eventually into a segment of the Connaught Hospital and Medical Stores in Freetown.
Mohamed Faray Kargbo
Education and Outreach Officer
Monuments and Relics Commission
23 Pultney Street
+232 22 220110