Old Fourah Bay College Building


This building, known in Sierra Leone as the Old Fourah Bay College Building, was declared as a national monument in 1948. It is located on the Wharf Road leading to the entrance to the Deep-Water Quay.

This building was constructed starting in 1845 by the Rev. James Beale, a missionary builder for more than two thousand pounds, the original estimate. It had a very similar architectural design as the Christ Church at Pademba Road and the Mabang Academy that was to later house Fourah Bay College, and the Kortright House, the current official residence of the Principal of Fourah Bay College.

It was a massive four storied building by the standards of the time, built of dressed stone blocks of laterite. The current remains of this once majestic building now only retain a large section of the four walls, having been finally burnt down in 1999 soon after the rebel invasion of Freetown on January 6.

The Old Fourah Bay College Building has a thread leading from the mountain village of Leicester since 1814 when a Christian Institution was started by the colonial government to train Recaptives above the normal school level to become teachers and preachers. The Christian Institution languished by the 1820s and was then revived by Governor Charles Macarthy in 1824 at another Mountain village called Regent.

The Christian Institution needed reviving before the end of that decade and so the Church Missionary Society (CMS) that ruled the villages with the support of the colonial government, sent out one of their officials, a German named Rev. Charles Hansel to revive it. For the purpose, it was decided to bring the Christian Institution down the mountains and land including a house at the present location called Fourah Bay, was bought out of the estate of the former governor of the colony, Charles Turner. There was restarted the Christian Institution, henceforth regarded as the Fourah Bay Institution.

The Fourah Bay Institution did not fare very well throughout the 1830s. The CMS re—doubled their efforts to revive it. It was thus that in 1848 the foundation for a new building that became the Fourah Bay College Building was laid by the then Governor of the Colony, William Fergusson, who was an Afro-West Indian. The roof of the new building was built with timber from condemned slave ships and the former building had at some point been used as a slave factory.

The building was completed in 1848 and henceforth became known as Fourah Bay College Building. A new Principal of African descent was appointed, named Rev. Edward Jones He was the first graduate of Amherst College in the United States. The building housed a boarding institution and the principal also lived in the building. From then on, Fourah Bay Africa College gained an enviable reputation throughout West Africa for training some of the best brains in religion and the sciences who served throughout the region.

Names like Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Bishop worked relentlessly to enhance teaching in African languages which was in the curriculum; redoubtable linguistic experts like Sigismund Koelle, who researched and wrote the Polyglotta Africana, in 1854, a masterpiece of languages used in the Colony, Africanus Beale Horton and Broughton Davies, the first Sierra Leoneans to qualify as medical doctors, “Holy” Johnson who became the second African Bishop of the Niger, all went through the Fourah Bay College . This earned Fourah Bay College the nickname, the “Athens of West Africa”.

During the Second World War, the Fourah Bay College Building was commandeered by the colonial government for the war effort. The College was then transferred to the Mabang Academy in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. After the war, Fourah Bay was relocated to Mount Aureol, its present home.

The Old Fourah Bay College Building was since used as headquarters of the Sierra Leone Government Railway, and also as a Post Office. During the Rebel War, the building was used as an asylum for internally displaced persons before it was burnt down in 1999. Efforts are underway by the Monuments and Relics Commission to rehabilitate the building.