Open main menu


HANNINGTON, JAMES (1847–1885), bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, was born on 3 Sept. 1847 at Hurstpierpoint, eight miles from Brighton, where his father, Charles Smith Hannington, had a warehouse. At the age of thirteen he was sent to the Temple School, Brighton. At fifteen he entered his father's business, in which he remained for six years. During this time he joined the 1st Sussex artillery volunteers, rising ultimately to the rank of major. He had no taste for commercial life, and in October 1868 abandoned it, and entered St. Mary Hall, Oxford, with a view to taking orders. His family were originally congregationalists, but joined the church of England in 1867. At college as at school Hannington was more given to amusement than study. He became captain of the St. Mary Hall boat, and president of the Red Club. In 1870 he read with the Rev. C. Scriven, rector of Martinhoe, Devonshire. In June 1873, after some difficulty, he took his B.A. degree; he proceeded M. A. in 1875, and was created D.D. 31 Oct. 1884. In the following September he was rejected at the Bishop of Exeter's examination, but in the spring of 1874 succeeded, and was ordained deacon at Exeter. He began his clerical life as curate of Martinhoe and Trentishoe, where he discharged his duties with energy and zeal. On 29 Sept. 1875 he became curate in charge, without emolument, of St. George's, Hurstpierpoint, a church which his father had built. He threw himself zealously into evangelistic and temperance work, becoming a favourite mission preacher. On 11 Sept. 1876 he was ordained priest. In 1882 he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society, 'for a period of not more than five years,' for the Victoria Nyanza mission, asking nothing but the payment of his travelling expenses, and proffering 100l. per annum to the funds of the mission. He was accepted, and appointed leader of a band of six missionaries who were to go to U-Ganda. On 17 March 1882 the party sailed from London. They reached Zanzibar on 19 June, whence they set out on their journey up country, intending to proceed by Mamboia and Uyui to Msalala, and thence by boat across the Victoria Nyanza to Rubaga. After many hardships and much suffering they reached Msalala, but Hannington's health was found to have suffered so severely by fever and dysentery that it was impossible for him to go further. Leaving some of his companions to finish the journey to Rubaga, he reluctantly retraced his steps to the coast, reached Zanzibar on 9 May 1882, and on 10 June was back in England. He settled down once more to his work at Hurstpierpoint, but on the recovery of his health placed himself once more at the disposal of the Church Missionary Society. Its committee now resolved that the mission churches of Eastern Equatorial Africa should be placed under the superintendence of a bishop. The post was offered to Hannington. He accepted it, and on 24 June 1884 was consecrated at Lambeth. On 5 Nov. following he sailed for Africa again, visiting Palestine on the way, where he was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to do confirmation and other duty. He reached Mombasa on 24 Jan. 1885, and at once entered on the charge of his diocese. From his headquarters at Frere Town he moved continually about it, infusing life and zeal wherever he went. Before long he was impressed with the advisability of opening up a new and shorter route to Lake Victoria Nyanza through the Masai country. He resolved to lead an expedition by this route in person, and on 23 July 1885 set out with a caravan 226 strong. They ad van ced patiently and courageously, in spite of opposition from the natives and much suffering at times from want of food, till they reached Kwa Sundu, where Hannington resolved to leave the larger portion of the party and go forward himself with fifty picked porters. On 12 Oct. he started. During the next week he walked 170 miles, and on 17 Oct. found himself to his surprise on the shore of the Lake Victoria Nyanza. But meanwhile the fears of Mwanga, the king of U-Ganda, and of his chiefs, had been aroused by the report of the approach of this white man by so unusual a route. Dreading some scheme of conquest, orders were given to seize Hannington whenever he should appear. On 21 Oct. 1885 the command was executed, and after eight days' confinement, during which he suffered terribly from sickness and privation, he and almost all his attendants were brutally murdered.

Hannington married Blanche, daughter of Captain James Michael Hankin-Turvin, by whom he had several children.

[James Hannington, first Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, by E. C. Dawson, M.A., 1887.]

T. H.