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Ruyton XI Towns    

Zanzibar, May Allen and the
East African Slave Trade

This is a book of several interconnected parts.   It is a history of one of the most fascinating and romantic places in the world which was once the centre of the East African slave trade.  
It is also a history of the cruel trade in human beings from the East Coast of Africa to the Arabian Gulf and, in the 19th century, south to French colonies in the Indian Ocean, the Dutch in South Africa and even across the Atlantic to the Americas.  This has been hardly chronicled at all compared with the Atlantic Triangle trade from West Africa.
It is the story of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, founded as a result of Livingstone`s reports of the Arab and Portuguese slave trade, and of the mission`s work with rescued slaves on the beautiful island of Zanzibar.
Running through this account and linking it with Shropshire, is the life of May Allen, daughter of Archdeacon John Allen of Prees who was not only related to Darwin and the Wedgwood families but also friend of many other influential and literary men and women of the time. May was the first mission nurse in Zanzibar and through her letters home we learn something about life in this outpost of Empire.   She knew Sir John Kirk who negotiated with her friend, Sultan Barghash until he agreed to close the island`s slave market in 1873.


Yoland Brown spent many years of her childhood in Zanzibar where her father was the Port Officer but it was when she was researching for her book on the history of the village of Ruyton XI Towns and finding a `cache` of letters from May Allen printed in the local Shropshire newspaper, Eddowes Journal, that set her on the trail of this 19th Century missionary.

Yoland has lived in Ruyton XI Towns since 1969.


"The sea was so rough (the monsoon having just begun), when we reached the shore, the boys who manned her jumped out and pushed the boat as far as they could up the beach.   Then our overlooker (a strong negro) plunged into the water from the shore where he had been standing to watch our arrival and carried us each in his arms safe to land."

"The Wedgewood produced a seal showing a kneeling slave in chains with his hands together in prayer and inscribed round the outside 'Am I not a man and a brother'. The Wedgewoods, Allens and Darwin families were all related."

“The swelling line of the Zanzibar coast.  Earth, sea and sky, all seemed wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose.   The Island itself seemed over-indolent, and unwilling to rise; it showed no trace of mountain or crag but all was voluptuous with gentle swellings, with the rounded contours of the girl-negress, and the brown-red tintage of its warm skin showed through its gauzy attire of green.    A heavy spicy perfume, as if passing before the shop of an Egyptian `attar`."

"The length of the package was about four and a half feet;  the body, encased in short lengths of some bark, was well and carefully wrapped up in several folds of cloth;  and the whole, covered with a kind of rug or horsecloth, was bound to a pole lengthways, in which fashion the body was brought down to the coast.   Much credit is due to Dr. Livingstone`s servants for the care bestowed upon their master`s remains."

"Princess Salme moved to a town house next to that of Heinrich Ruete, a young German on the Consulate staff. What started as curiosity as she watched him at dinner, developed into friendship, love - and even more. By August 1866 she was in the family way."

"The village of Prees, Shropshire, in 1846 was a pretty unruly place, described in fact as a 'Hell upon earth' where, before his arrival, 'parishioners went in fear of their lives in the dark throughout the parish'." 

"May Allen quickly established her reputation as a healer among the Africans. She was the pioneer of the mission's hospital work. Her great gift for languages was highly valued by Bishop Steere, who sought her help and criticisms in all his translations."

"On 8th June he sent out a proclamation:-`Know that we have prohibited the transport of slaves by sea in all our harbours and have closed the markets for the sale of slaves through all our dominions.   Whosoever, therefore, shall ship a slave after this date will render himself liable to punishment'."`

"The future of Africa is in the hands of the native races, vigorous and virile races who, before long, will possess the land."

“The wild shouts of our warriors, the fiendish yells of the Arabs, the reports of their guns, and the clash of steel against steel.   And above all I can hear the terrible, despairing shrieks of the wounded and dying - many of whom had fallen into the fire, and were being burned to death.   I can smell the acrid smoke, and the hot musky stench of sweating bodies - and as background to it all I can hear the moaning of  frightened women and the wailing of infants.   I cannot conceive of anything more like a representation of hell than was that dreadful scene."

A5 format
256 pages
60 illustrations

ISBN 0-9515015-1-8

By the same author:
Ruyton XI Towns - Unusual Name, Unusual History

Boreatton Park - From Agnes Hunt to PGL


Price 12.50
plus postage and packing

The Wedgewood Seal
By permission of Wedgewood Museum Trust


Other Books by Yoland Brown

In addition to Zanzibar, May Allen and the East African Slave Trade, Yoland has written several local history books:

Ruyton XI Towns, Unusual Name Unusual History
Boreatton Park,
a history of the home of Dame Agnes Hunt

Unfortunately, the histories of Ruyton XI Towns and Boreatton Park are at present out of print.

A Walk Through Ruyton XI Towns
A short tour of the  village together with some stories of important names and families. The Guide is available at 3.50 plus postage.

A Pictorial History of Ruyton and the XI Towns

Yoland is the Editor and Compiler of  this book which  contains over 200 photographs showing the townships past and present selected from a huge number submitted by local people. The pictures are accompanied by extended captions giving an insight into the history of the area. It is available at 8 plus postage.

book cover ruyton walk

Contact details to order

Yoland Brown
Brownhill House
Ruyton XI Towns
Nr. Shrewsbury


Telephone +44 (0)1939 261 121
Email yoland@eleventowns.com

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