Born at Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, on the third of September 1847, James Hannington received his education at Temple School, Brighton. For six years, he assisted his father in the warehouse business. The family became members of the Church of England in 1867, and the following year Hannington entered St Mary Hall, Oxford, where he obtained his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees.
Following ordination at Exeter, Hannington served a curacy in his hometown until, in 1882, he offered himself to the Church Missionary Society for its mission in Nyanza, East Africa. Landing at Zanzibar in 1882 at the head of a group of six missionaries, fever and dysentery compelled him to return to England less than a year later. On recovering, he again offered himself for missionary work, was consecrated Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa in June 1884, and was back in Mombasa in January 1885.
Hannington’s mission field was the shores of Lake Victoria. On a difficult venture towards Uganda, he and his party were apprehended by emissaries of King Mwanga, who feared this foreign penetration into his kingdom. After a week of cruel privations and suffering, he and the remaining members of his company were martyred on the twenty-ninth of October 1885.
Hannington’s last words were these: “Go, tell Mwanga I have purchased the road to Uganda with my blood.” Other martyrs of Uganda shared his fate before the Gospel was firmly planted in this heartland of Africa, where today the Church has a vigorous life and has provided several leaders among the Anglican Churches of the Global South.
prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
Precious in your sight, O Lord, is the death of your saints, whose faithful witness, by your providence, has its great reward: We give you thanks for your martyrs James Hannington and his companions, who purchased with their blood a road into Uganda for the proclamation of the Gospel; and we pray that with them we also may obtain the crown of righteousness which is laid up for all who love the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.