Papers of Reverend Henry Townsend

Scope and Content

This collection of personal papers relates to Henry Towsend's service as a CMS missionary with the West Africa and Yoruba Missions. It includes copies of his journal extracts, 1836-1837 and 1843-1847, together with a few miscellaneous letters, an account of a journey he undertook from Abeokuta in 1852 and his official instructions on proceeding to Sierra Leone in 1840 and for his investigative mission to Badagry in 1842. There are also some manuscript notebooks giving an account of the Abeokuta mission, written for children and a manuscript of a part of his autobiography.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

Henry Townsend (1815-1886) was accepted as a Church Missionary Society missionary in 1836 and served the Society for nearly 40 years. He initially went to Sierra Leone but in 1843 he was transferred to the Yoruba mission which he was responsible for founding and from 1846 he was stationed at Abeokuta until 1867 when the missionaries were expelled. He retired in 1876. He wrote several hymns in Yoruba, compiled and printed the first hymn book in Yoruba, compiled the Yoruba primer and edited and printed the Iwe Irohin in English and Yoruba, a fortnightly publication.

Reference: Register of missionaries (clerical, lay & female) and native clergy from 1804 to 1904 ( Church Missionary Society, 1905 ).


This collection forms part of the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers. It is arranged into one series: Family Papers.

Access Information

Access Conditions

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was presented to the CMS in 1955, and transferred on permanent loan to the Special Collections Department by the CMS in the 1980s.

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

The Special Collections Department holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 150 CMS), which includes papers relating to Townsend's service as a CMS missionary


Publication Note

Townsend's brother, George, published a memoir compiled from his journals and other papers under the title: Memoir of the Rev. Henry Townsend, late C.M.S. Missionary, Abeokuta, West Africa with a preface by Eugene Stock , (1887) A photocopy of this publication is available in the University's Main Library, BV 3625.S5T6.