Henry Townsend (1820-1885)
Henry Townsend was born in Exeter in 1820. From an early age he wanted to be a missionary. In 1836 he travelled to Sierra Leone to be a teacher, he was still only 21. It was during this time that he became sympathetic towards the situation of the freed Yoruba slaves, many of whom wished to return to their homeland in what is now Nigeria.
Townsend later volunteered to work for the Church Missionary Society in Abeokuta, Nigeria, from 1843. While living there, he collected artefacts from the local Yoruba people. He donated many of these to RAMM during a period of leave from Africa in 1868. These pieces now form an invaluable picture of Yoruba life in the middle of the 19th century. Among the most poignant is a set of slave chains. The museum’s Accessions Register records that they were taken from “Two captives freed by Rev Townsend”.
Townsend finally returned to Exeter for good in 1876, and died a few years later.