I visited Nigeria's first storey building and found something interesting no one ever talks about

Hint: It is the first of its kind in Badagry and Lagos state.

First Storey Building in Nigeria
  • Nigeria is home to several historical sites, one of them being the storey building in Badagry.
  • Growing up in the sleepy town, I got to visit the famous property on several occasions but never noticed anything unusual.
  • Until this recent visit when I discovered a magical well that has healing properties.

As a child living in Badagry, Lagos state, I grew up hearing a lot about Nigeria's first storey building, erected by Reverend Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1845. I even visited it a couple of times, once with my primary school's excursion group, other times with my family.

Through my young eyes, it wasn't anything interesting, just an old, famous building people fawned over. Recently, I visited again. This time, I had a different experience. I finally saw what the big deal was.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019, I visited this historical site for the umpteenth time. Normally, you’d pay to get in (N500 for Nigerian adults and N1,000 for foreigners), but I got lucky and the guide recognised me. I didn’t pay a dime. 

The first thing to catch my eye in the massive compound was a well with the year 1842 inscribed on it. I have heard many people talk about this property, read stuff online but never seen anything about a well beneath a huge tree.

I immediately turned to the guide for answers who told me all about this magical well. According to him, this is the first cemented well in Badagry and the entire state, made in 1842 when the foundation of the building was first laid.

Concerning its name - Miracle Well - he explained that this is what the locals call it as a result of the many miracles credited to it. The guide then shared the testimony of a lady who visited the building, drank the water and delivered a baby after 15 years of barrenness.

Despite being extremely old, the guide told me that it has never been polluted or gotten dirty. This is might explain why people who live in the area still get their drinking water from it. A few children troped in to fetch water from the well while I was there.

Another thing i learnt is that it never gets dry, unlike other wells in the area that dry up during the dry season. The tour guide also told me that Nigeria's first well is located in Daora, Katsina state. It was made in 1425.

With my fascination with the well adequately satisfied, I finally made my way into the building. Here is what I discovered:

- The house was built in 1845.

- Still contains every iron corrugated sheets ever used on the building.

- Doubles as a small museum paying homage to Anglican missionaries and the first teacher in Nigeria - - Mr Claudius Philips (1845–1868).

- It also contains Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s Yoruba bible and the first English Bible brought to Nigeria by CMS missionaries.

- Houses the first safe in the country which currently contains cowries, the first money spent by our forefather and the first notes used by Nigerians in 1973.  

- There are signs for where the first Anglican church, school, boarding house and kitchen used to stand before they all collapsed. The guide said primary one pupils were at least 45 years old. The oldest pupils were 58 years old. They spent twelve years in only primary school. There were no secondary schools then. 

- At that time, there was no fence surrounding the compound. The fence was built after slavery was abolished in Nigeria in the 1880s. The compound also contains the Bishop Crowther Bible College.

- Despite being a national historic site, this property is run and managed by the Anglican church. Everyone on the property, including my tour guide, are all members of the church. 

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