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Section IV: Africa Missions

Part 24: Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles, 1856-1929

Section IV Part 24 covers the papers for the Mauritius, Madagascar and Seychelles Missions. Included are Individual Letter Books, Letter Books, Mission Books, Précis Books and Original Papers covering the years 1856-1929.

Background to the Missions



After the British annexed Mauritius in 1810 the inhabitants continued to speak French as the official language and most of them were Roman Catholics. A small Anglican church was established in the 1820’s but it was not until 1854 that a separate diocese for Mauritius and the Seychelles was set up.

The first CMS missionaries in Mauritius were Rev Stephen Hobbs and Rev
Paul Ansorge who arrived in 1856 and began work, mainly amongst the immigrant Indian coolies, on the sugar estates. By 1873 nearly 2000 of them had been baptised, about half that number returning to India. In 1873 the Rev
P S Royston was appointed as bishop. He had long experience as chaplain and missionary in the island and in India and he encouraged the development of a CMS Native Church Council. The itinerating districts covered by the missionaries were centred on Port Louis, Plaines Wilhems and Plaisance. However, work in Mauritius was hampered by the presence of the Roman Catholic church and the CMS withdrew in 1907. Work was handed over to the Church in Mauritius in December 1908 but complete separation did not come about until July 1919, a small annual grant being paid by CMS during that time. On the closure of the mission the lady missionaries were transferred to India while the remaining clergymen were retained as ecclesiastical staff.


In Madagascar work had been started by the London Missionary Society in 1820 and many converts were made. However during the reign of Queen Ranavalona I
(1835-1861) the Christians were bitterly persecuted and the missionaries driven out. In 1862 the mission was re-established and the London Missionary Society asked the CMS and SPG to unite with them in the work. Rev Thomas Campbell and Rev Herbert Maundrell were sent out, working mainly at Andovoranto and Vohimare. Unfortunately there was a dispute among the three missionary societies over the division of their work and the proposed bishop for Madagascar and in 1874 the CMS mission was wound up.

The Seychelles

Work began in the Seychelles in 1871 and at first was considered as part of the CMS East Africa Mission. The main work was centred on an industrial school and settlement for liberated African slaves at Capucin Mountain, Venn’s Town in Mahé. It had been founded by Rev W B Chancellor in 1875 and was called Venus Town. However as the slave trade died it became less useful and in 1894 the missionaries were called home and the work handed over to the Seychelles branch of the Mauritius Diocesan Society.

Description of Contents 

Individual Letter Books

These contain copies of private and confidential letters, 1863-1871, 1876-1879, 1881-1886, 1888-1889, from the Secretary at headquarters in London to individual missionaries and bishops in the mission. In addition to containing personal matters the letters sometimes also contain discussions on topics of a personal interest to the Secretary. Each volume has a useful index.

Some highlights are:

  • Letters to the bishop of Mauritius
  • Letters to the bishop’s commissaries in Mauritius, Rev N D Mathews
    and later Rev W Gray
  • Detailed account of the death of Major General C A Browne, Lay Secretary
  • Proposals for a bishop of East Africa

Letter Books

The Letter Books, 1857-1926 and 1929, contain copies of correspondence from the Secretary at headquarters in London to the missionaries and the mission secretary on matters concerned with the mission. For the years 1884-1893 and 1895-1897 summaries of all the letters received are also included.

Topics include:

  • Instructions from the Secretary to new missionaries going out to the field
  • Letters to the bishop of Mauritius 
  • Estimates for the mission
  • Letters to Rev Paul Ansorge and Rev Stephen Hobbs regarding their work
  • Letters to the secretary of the mission
  • Minutes of the Committee of Correspondence.

Mission Books

The Mission Books, covering 1856-1862 and1867-1880, contain copies of the Original Papers received at headquarters in London from the missions. The papers were entered into the books in the order in which they arrived at headquarters. Letters were copied in full, while a note of receipt was made for the printed papers, financial papers and some letters and from 1858 journals of missionaries. From 1870 Annual Letters were copied out (or if printed, pasted into) the backs of the volumes. The Annual Letters written by the missionaries give an account of their year’s work and contain fascinating details on many topics. Each of the volumes contains an index.

Contents include:

  • Letters from Rev P Ansorge describing his arrival in Mauritius and from other missionaries such as Rev S Hobbs, Rev H Maundrell, Rev F H Sparshott, Rev H D Buswell, Rev W Denning
  • Annual Letters from missionaries including Rev S Hobbs, Rev H Maundrell, Rev P Ansorge, Rev C Kooshallee, Rev H D Buswell 
  • Letters from the Bishop of Mauritius regarding the work in the mission, including news on the Indian Mutiny
  • Journals of Rev S Hobbs describing his itinerations in the mission
  • Mission estimates
  • Minutes of Conferences
  • Letters from Mrs P Ansorge, wife of Rev P Ansorge
  • Minutes of the Finance Committee
  • Notes regarding freed slaves admitted to the Seychelles
  • Despatches
  • Details on the sale of CMS property

Original Papers

These comprise all the papers sent by the mission secretary to headquarters in London. They cover 1856-1925 and consist mainly of letters, journals and reports together with minutes and papers of local CMS committees. The early papers up until1880 are arranged by bishop and alphabetically by missionary.

Highlights include:

  • Letters and papers of individual missionaries, catechists and others such as: Rev P Ansorge and Rev S Hobbs, the first CMS missionaries in Mauritius; Rev Thomas Campbell and Rev H Maundrell, the first CMS missionaries in Madagascar; Rev (later Bishop) P S Royston; Rev W B Chancellor, the founder of Venus Town in the Seychelles. The papers include journals, Annual Letters, reports on the missions, statistics of schools and pupils, details on slaves in the Seychelles, mission expenses, financial papers.
  • CMS Conference minutes
  • Local Church Council papers
  • Reports of the Mauritius Mission Committee
  • Reports of the Mauritius Church Missionary Association
  • Minutes of the Finance Committee and other financial papers
  • Correspondence with Bishops of Mauritius and Madagascar
  • Minutes of the Native Church Council together with financial statements and annual reports
  • Annual Letters
  • Statistics on pupils of the school at the African Institution at Venns Town with figures showing the number of coffee, cocoa, vanilla and cocoa-nut plants on the CMS estate at Venus Town, Capucin, the Seychelles
  • Reports of the Mauritius Diocesan Church Society
  • Report on the Plaisance Orphanage School, Mauritius
  • Report on the CMS Girls’ School and Orphanage, Rose Belle, Mauritius
  • Minutes of the proceedings of the Council of Education
  • List of the charitable institutions in Mauritius with an estimate of the number of residents and funds received
  • Printed reports on the Mauritius mission by Rev N Honiss with notes on contributions and expenditure
  • Reports on the work of native catechists such as Ibrahim Jasson
  • Mission estimates
  • Lists of liberated African slaves admitted to the Seychelles
  • News cuttings
  • Minutes of Women’s conferences

Précis Books

The Précis Books, covering 1897-1927 and 1929, contain a printed synopsis prepared for meetings of the Group Committee in London. The précis comprises number, date, writer, date received, summary of the contents, proposals for committee action to be taken and/or the Secretary’s remarks. For the period

1880-1883, 1885, 1888-1889 and 1894, for which no Précis Books are extant for the Mauritius mission, we have also included the relevant pages from the General Précis Books. Synopses can be found of letters, estimates, minutes of conferences, meetings, the Native Church Council and other relevant mission affairs.

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