The Victorian explorers who went to Africa helped to create new ways of seeing the world for the British public beyond Britain and Europe and played an important part in the history of empire making. These Victorian travellers included men such as Blantyre man, David Livingstone and women such as Mary Kingsley.
Several African people also travelled in Africa, and many travelled with the European explorers. Their local knowledge was an important contribution to the Victorian’s geographical understanding of the continent. Amongst the African travellers were Samuel Crowther, an Anglican missionary who was involved in expeditions to the River Niger; James Chuma, Abdullah Susi, Matthew Wellington and Jacob Wainwright who all travelled with David Livingstone.
Matthew Wellington had a particularly eventful life. He is pictured here on his travels with Livingstone. Born in 1847 among the Yao tribe in East Africa (modern-day Northern Mozambique), named Chengwimbe. He was Captured and made a domestic slave among the Yao. Taken to Kilwa (modern-day Tanzania) and sold for a 1 x “roll of cloth”. Taken first to Zanzibar and resold. Taken by dhow (a ship) to Mogadishu (present-day Somalia), then towards Arabia. In 1871 the dhow holding some 200 enslaved Africans is captured by a British ship, HMS Thetis. Appalled at the conditions on the slave ship, the British Navy saved the Africans from a terrible life and immediately freed them. They were taken to the port of Bombay. From Bombay the Africans are taken to the mission station at Nasik, further North. In 1872, one year later Chengwimbe is baptized as Mathew Wellington. He returned to Africa as a volunteer to join an expedition in search of David Livingstone. In 1874 he joined the Church Missionary Society, and became one of the pioneers in the establishment of Freretown and Rabai as communities for liberated (freed) Africans in what later became Mombasa, Kenya. In 1911 the governor of British East Africa suggested Mathew Wellington should be given a pension in recognition of his connection with Livingstone. This was refused by the British government. Matthew died on 6th June 1935.
David Livingstone was one of the most famous Victorian explorers in his own lifetime. His beginnings from working in a factory as a child to famous explorer made him a national hero.