In 1787 the British helped four hundred freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain head to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the ” Province of Freedom.” The area was first settled by freed slaves sent from England around the Cotton Tree which was said to have previously been a slave market. Unfortunately disease and hostility from the indigenous population nearly eliminated the first group of returnees.
This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain’s first colonies in West Africa. It is the largest city and also capital of Sierra Leone lying on the peninsula near the Atlantic coast and hosts the third largest natural harbour in the world – Elizabeth II Quay.
Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans or Creoles – as they came to be called – were from all areas of Africa. Some of the earliest settlements can be found in the mountain villages of York, Regent, Bathurst, Leicester and Gloucester. From Regent you can walk through creole villages to Charlotte falls and also climb Sugar Loaf Mountain which is one of the highest points on the peninsula. Some fascinating Creole architecture can be found in these areas as well as in downtown Freetown.
Fourah Bay College (pron. frah bay) was established in 1827 in Freetown and rapidly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. For more than a century, it was the only European-style university in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fourah Bay College (FBC) became known as the “Athens of West Africa” due to a strong focus within its curriculum on learning Greek and Latin and because of the success of its graduates at home and abroad. In addition, FBC attracted students from all over West Africa, particularly British West Africa ( Nigeria, Gambia, and Ghana).
The landscape in Freetown is very hilly and I’ve heard it described as looking similar to other great landscapes for example the San Francisco Bay Area. In Freetown, you can see the sea from almost any point in the city and you are never far away from the beach!
Today, Freetown is a buzzing capital and is lively by day or by night. In the main city centre and further towards the east is mainly the commercial area although more businesses today are moving towards the west to avoid overcrowding. On a busy day, Freetown echoes with the sound of hooting cars, local traders and passers-by. The west of Freetown is mainly residential and further west (South-West) you will find some of the country’s most beautiful beaches.
The markets in Freetown are colourful and can be noisy as every trader tries to capture your attention, but just like Freetown and Sierra Leone, there’s a certain charm to it.
At night, Freetown cries out through the speakers of local night clubs and bars. New York is not the only city that does not sleep! Sierra Leoneans love to have a good time and in Freetown you’re never far away from an entertainment spot.
Some of Freetown’s attractions famous structures include The Cotton Tree, Freetown Law Courts, the Slave Gate and Portuguese Steps, St John’s Maroon Church (built around 1820), St George’s Cathedral (completed in 1828), Sierra Leone Museum, Foulah Town Mosque (built in the 1830s) ,Sierra Leone Museum (featuring the Ruiter Stone and original drum of Bai Bureh), Victoria Park, creole and colonial architecture, the lively markets and fantastic beaches.