Letters from William Dappa Pepple, King of Bonny: 14 Sep 1857, from Middlesex 5 Nov 1861

Scope and Content

Letters from William Dappa Pepple, King of Bonny: 14 Sep 1857, from Middlesex 5 Nov 1861

Administrative / Biographical History

William Dapple Pepple succeeded Opobo the Great as king of Bonny in 1836 after a long struggle between two "canoe houses", the Anna Pepple House and his own Manilla Pepple House. It is generally agreed that his reign was unsuccessful for he managed to alienate both the people of Bonny and the European trading community. The latter, led by the British Consul, Beecroft, accused him, probably unfairly, of trading in slaves. In 1854 they combined to depose and then exile him. Initially he was taken to Fernando Po in Jan 1854 where William Balfour Baikie met him. Baikie wrote of him "a tall, intelligent looking person, but with a rather cunning eye. He speaks English very fairly...His remarks were extremely shrewd...he proceeded..to sketch a resemblence betwen his own detention at Fernando Po, and that of the French Emperor at St. Helena". Baikie's account (in his Narrative of an exploring voyage) alludes to his crippled right arm which Baikie ascribed to "undue indulgence in strong drinks and the pleasures of the Bonny table, and too great devotion to his numerous wives and concubines" but which was almost certainly the result of a stroke in 1852. In Dec 1854 he was moved to the Ascension Islands but reached London in 1856. With the help of local members of the Society of Friends, he received a considerable sum of compensation from the British Government. As one of the letters makes clear, he lived at 13 Philip Terrace in Tottenham and the house, now in Philip Lane still stands. Pepple, his family and entourage are listed in the enumeration of the 1861 census. Later he moved to a house in Green Place in Tottenham. In 1861, in an attempt to restore order, he was recalled to Bonny which had been riven by conflict since his exile. He left London on 14 Jun arriving on 25 October. He returned with a large retinue which contributed to his relative poverty, which in turn undermined his local authority. His poor health worsened, and he died in 1866. He was succeeded by his son George Pepple, who shared the exile in Tottenham, had undergone 8 years education there and had become a committed Christian. Professor Richard Rathbone

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Acquisition Information

This material was found in a book by Professor Richard Rathbone and presented in 1997.