Documents relating to Sierra Leone

Scope and Content

Papers of George Rickards, relating to his career in Sierra Leone including the office of Sheriff, 1808- 1811. Draft letter from George Rickards to Zachary Macaulay (1819) setting out Rickard's testimony as to Zachary Macaulay's activities and reputation in Sierra Leone during the period 1802-1810.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Sierra Leone river, with a natural harbour at its mouth where Freetown now stands, was a regular port for many of the European slaving ships. It was here that the British abolitionist, Granville Sharp, sought to create a model society for thousands of the freed slaves that were living in London in the late 1780s.

Sharp reached an agreement with King Tom, a local chief of the Temne tribe, to secure an area of hilly coast and Sharp named it 'The Province of Freedom'. May 1787 saw the arrival of a naval vessel carrying 331 freed slaves, 41 of them women, and 60 white London prostitutes. A basic settlement, called Granville Town, was built but half of the settlers died within a year and the settlement was burnt down by a local chief in 1789.

A new settlement, in a new location and with a new name - Freetown - was strengthened with the arrival in 1792 of more than 1000 freed slaves from Novia Scotia. This group was recruited by Thomas Peters, a former American slave who had supported the British in return for his freedom. In 1794 Zachary Macaulay was appointed Governor and started to make improvements. The settlement was secured in 1808 when the British government decided to use Sierra Leone as a base for its anti-slavery campaign. An estimated 50,000 re-captives, freed by the British Navy, were brought to Freetown over a fifty year period.

Over the course of the 19th century the British and Creoles in the Freetown area increased their control over the surrounding territory by engaging in trade, treaty making, and military expeditions. In their treaties with the native chiefs the British were largely concerned with securing local peace so that commerce would not be interrupted. In the decades following Britain's prohibition of the slave trade in 1807, the treaties sometimes also required chiefs to desist from slave trading.


U DP211/1 Papers regarding George Rickards' career in Sierra Leone

U DP211/2 Papers mainly relating to George Rickard's term of office as Sheriff

U DP211/3 Miscellaneous

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

The material was purchased at auction 1 Nov 2007, with half of the purchase price funded by a grant from Friends of the National Libraries and the remainder of the cost split between the University Archives and WISE. Previous provenance unknown.

Related Material

Rickard's correspondence (8 letters) Bodleian Library, Oxford [Mss. Afr.s.2446, fols. 1-2]