Old Wharf Steps and Guard House, Freetown


The Old Wharf Steps leading to the shore of the Rokel Estuary, were declared as a monument in 1953. They are part of the rapid infrastructural improvement to the early Colony that were executed by Governor Charles Macarthy (tenure, 1814-1824).

When Macarthy took over as Governor, there were very few stone buildings in Freetown, public or private. . He started erecting public buildings constructed with stone. For example, a magnificent commissariat building was put up at the Government Wharf. He had the whole wharf rebuilt with stone breakwaters. He also ordered that a flight of stone steps be constructed, the monument in question. This was completed in 1818.

These are the steps between the lower Commissariat (where the offices of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) are now located, and the “French Company” building, the huge refurbished structure that until recently housed the offices of the Auditing Company the KPMG. The steps lead from where this latter building stands at Wallace Johnson Street (formerly Water Street) to the landing stage at the wharf.

These steps are often referred to in Freetown as the “Portuguese Steps” as the public attempted to guess its age related to the earliest history of the Colony which included Portuguese trading activities on the shoreline. The Guard House at the top of the steps was built in 1819. So much did Governor Macarthy cherish this work that he was out there from his nearby residence to literally superintend the work.