Remembering martyred Bishop in 1985

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In 1885, Bishop James Hannington was kidnapped and murdered in Uganda while carrying out missionary work.

A century later, the people of his home town, Hurstpierpoint, laid on a pageant to commemorate their fallen hero.

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These pictures were published in the Mid Sussex Times on November 6 1985 and show some of the actors who helped educate their fellow villagers about the Bishop’s life.

The role of the young Hannington at various stages of his childhood was played by Dominic Hecht and Richard Dufty, while the pageant – In Search of James Hannington – was written by Hurst man William Alban.

Reporting on the event, the newspaper said: “At the time, the murder shocked the village. A muffled peal of bells was rung and the parish magazine reporting ‘a heavy grief has fallen upon us’. But after 100 years, he became a shadowy figure, totally unknown by a large number of residents.”

By the time more than 40 hand-picked locals had finished, the name James Hannington was on everyone’s lips again.

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James Hannington was born in Hurstpierpoint, on September 3 1847, entering St Mary’s Hall, Oxford, in 1868 and being ordained on March 1 1874.

He was curate-in-charge at St George’s, Hurstpierpoint, from 1875-1882 before volunteering for service in Uganda with the Church Missionary Society.

On June 24 1884, he was consecrated Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. In July of that year, he set off for Masai territory where his party was ambushed and Bishop Hannington help captive on October 21. On the 29th, he was murdered. He was just 38 years old.

News of the kidnapping was slow to reach England and the Bishop had been dead for weeks by the time the Mid Sussex Times carried the following report on New Year’s Day 1886.

Under the heading Seizure of Bishop Hannington, the report read: “A telegram was received from Zanzibar, dated the 1st January, announcing that the Right Rev Bishop Hannington, of Hurstpierpoint, had been captured by order of the King of Uganda, and that last reports stated that the monarch had ordered the Bishop to be executed.

“Sir John Kirk, British Consul in Zanzibar, telegraphed confirming the report of the Bishop’s seizure, and further saying that negotiations had been entered into for his release.

“The arrival of the news in Hurstpierpoint and the county generally created a sad sensation, and much regret and sorrow has been expressed with Mrs Hannington and the family, who reside at Amwell Place, Hurstpierpoint.”

During the week he was held captive, Hannington was able to keep a journal, which was sold to a later expedition.

In it he described 20 “ruffians” setting upon his group and his initial fears they were being robbed; his attempts to escape and his faith that God would protect him.

His last recorded words were: “Go tell your master that I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.”

l Some material courtesy of the Bishop Hannington Church, Hove.

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