Gateway to the Old King's Yards - Atlas Obscura

Gateway to the Old King's Yards

Tens of thousands of Africans rescued from slave ships passed through this gate before being settled in Sierra Leone. 


After the United Kingdom passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807, prohibiting the slave trade, they then had to enforce it. This was the job of the Royal Navy, which patrolled the coast of Africa looking to capture slave ships. When ships were captured, they were most often brought to the port of Freetown, which was home to an admiralty court charged with certifying a ship was participating in the now-illegal trade and condemning them.

Captives on those ships were brought into Freetown, and their first stop was the King’s Yard, located near the King Jimmy Wharf. Here, they would be provided with initial shelter and their health would be checked. They would not, however, then be returned to their homes. Instead, they would be settled in various “Liberated African Towns” (many of which became neighborhoods in the modern city of Freetown) or “apprenticed” to local families, for whom they would work for no pay.

Between 1808 and 1864, a total of at least 80,000 “liberated Africans” passed through the King’s Yard, instead of being transported across the Atlantic and sold into slavery. As the West African slave trade became fully suppressed, the King’s Yard no longer needed to be used as temporary housing. The site was converted into a hospital, which it remains to this day. The gate where tens of thousands of the ancestors of today’s Sierra Leoneans still stands though, as a testament to their strength.

The plaque at the top of the gate reads “Royal Asylum and Hospital for Africans rescued from slavery by British Valour and Philanthropy. Erected AD MCDD XVII - H.E. Lt. Col. MacCarthy.”

Know Before You Go

The gate is along Wallace Johnson St at the west end and is visible at all times of day.

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