Written by Hadi Bah    PDF Print E-mail
Heddle’s Farm, a relic from Sierra Leone’s history, is no more
News - Society
Heddle’s Farm, a relic from Sierra Leone’s history listed in the catalog of the Monuments and Relics Commission has been destroyed by the chaotic and disorganized building boom that plagues most of the country.

heddlesfarmAbout 600ft above Freetown just below Mount Oriel (Mt. Aureol today), many a 19th century European writer paid homage to the stunning views that can be enjoyed from the site. Thomas Joshua Alldridge, a traveling commissioner wrote, “Few who see this view can ever forget it.” But the site’s claim to historic fame started in April 1841 when the Melvilles, Elizabeth and Michael moved in.

Here between 1841and 1846, Mrs. Melville wrote A Residence at Sierra Leone. For her European audience, it was a riveting eyewitness account that blended her personal experiences with descriptions of the climate and vegetation. Mrs. Melville recounted the difficulties of the infant colony and offered her opinions of the Nova Scotians, Maroons and Liberated Africans. Fascinated by the cleverness of her little Kossoh (Mende) girl servant, Mrs. Melville even ruminated over the intelligence of Africans in general.

Mr. Melville spent over a decade in Sierra Leone and was acting governor and registrar and judge of the Mixed Commission Court, the tribunal that tried captains of slave ships captured by British Navy ships. As acting chief justice in 1832, it was Melville who concurred with defense counsel William Henry Savage that the Sierra Leone Colony’s jurisdiction did not extend beyond its boundaries during the Cobolo War trials of some Aku (Yorubas). A consequence of that decision was the establishment of the Yoruba community at Fourah Bay.
Charles Heddle, a businessman of European and African ancestry and the Donald Trump of Sierra Leone at that time bought the Melvilles’ house for use as a dacha in the 1850s.  Over the years, the cottage and its surroundings known as Heddle’s Farm was also used as a government sanatorium and quarters for the forestry department.

Today, Heddle’s Farm is occupied and inhabited by the urban poor who moved to Freetown in search of opportunities. Described in books as having seven jalousie windows, the Melvilles’ cottage has been displaced by the unsophisticated structures common among poor Sierra Leoneans. A woman was preparing a supper of potato leaves near what remains of the foundation as the three sided views of Freetown and its harbor lolled below on a sunny afternoon. Nearby, bright newly made bricks made for the construction of a new shack, gloomily prophesied the imminent destruction of whatever is left of the Heddle Cottage.

Surprise, surprise?  Not really, because the 1664 De Ruyter Stone, perhaps the country’s most important relic remains surrounded by garbage and submerged in dirty water.  And the tomb of Emmanuel Cline, the Hausa recaptive who originally owned most of Cline Town, the Freetown neighborhood that he lent his name to, is now next to a latrine.
Facing an uphill task, the Monuments and Relics Commission’s slogan of “Preserving Monuments and Relics for present, past and future generations,” is just that, an ineffective and unimplemented catchphrase.