Royal Niger Company's Medal 1886-97,
Lot 73
Royal Niger Company's Medal 1886-97,
Sold for £ 3,840 (US$ 5,352) inc. premium

Lot Details
Royal Niger Company's Medal 1886-97,
silver issue, one bar, Nigeria 1886-1897, impressed (J.H.Burgess.). Extremely fine. (1)


  • Following the abolition of the slave trade in 1820's Britain's control of the West African coast was necessary to prevent continued use by slavers of the ports and estuaries. Trading post were set up at Bathurst, Freetown, Lagos and Brass. In 1832 Liverpool trader Macgregor Laird led an expedition up the Niger River. In 1841 a government sponsored expedition was launched under the control of several naval officers styled Niger Commissioners. They established a settlement at Lokoja. Both the Laird expedition and the Government settlement were failures largely due to sickness in the area that became known as a white man's grave.
    In 1866 the Government decided to put an official consulate at Lokoja but this could not be maintained due to the high death rate. All traders in the Niger River area were therefore largely unprotected and remained so until the appearance on the scene of George Goldie-Taubman an ex sapper officer who, established trading posts all over the Niger basin. Due to Goldie-Taubman's hard work a charter company was formed in 1886, similar in nature to the BSA Co, with Taubman at its head and this was known as the Royal Niger Company. As a chartered company it was not just a trading company. It was responsible for the administration of the area defined in the charter very much like the old East India Co. It could impose customs duties, execute laws and maintain armed forces which were internationally recognised. As part of the administration, the company set up the Royal Niger Constabulary which it used to maintain order, the rivers Niger and Benue forming the highway into the interior from the coast. The charter company attracted a number of ex army and navy officers as employees and civil administrators, one of whom Frederick Lugard was to become High Commissioner of Northern Nigeria in 1900. The life of the charter company was to be short, since, due to inadequacies in administration and charges of monopolistic tendencies, a government investigation was set up under Major Claude (Later Sir Claude) MacDonald (of defence of legation fame) which led ultimately to the revocation of the charter and the handing over to the British Government all its treaties, obligations and rights. This finally took place on the 1st January 1900. The charter company had been in existence only 14 years but during that period over 40 expeditions in connection with the law and order matters had taken place, where actual casualties had occurred. As part of the winding up of the charter company permission was sought and obtained for a medal to be issued. 1000 Bronze medals were struck-about 750 were issued and the remainder are held by the United Africa Co. Ltd successors to the trading activities of the Niger Co. 100 silver medals were struck of which 80 were named in the impressed style. Several replacements have been made but in 1984 the UAC still held 5 un-named and 11 of the named medals, there having been no forwarding address for these. As far as is known the maximum number of expeditions taken part in by any recipient is 9.

    The medal is that awarded to Mr John Henry Burgess a Marine Engineer employed by the Royal Niger Co. Born n Bristol in 1865. Mr Burgess attended Wellington College and was later indentured as an apprentice in Marine Engineering to Mr Watt of Bristol at a cost (to Burgess's father)of £200.
    Harry Burgess as he was known, completed his apprenticeship in January 1885. On 17th August 1896 he signed an agreement with the RNC to act as engineer on shop shore and to be based at Akassa for a period of two years at the salary of £312 per annum. He took up a second agreement in June 1899 under the same terms, but this time was interrupted by the takeover in 1900 and therefore in September 1900 he signed as a Marine Engineer for the government of Northern Nigeria on a permanent basis. We are unable to say how long he stayed in this capacity, in fact, all that is known of his activities after 1900 is that he eventually emigrated to New Zealand and died there in 1937. His medal was despatched to him on 28.8.1900 to his address 17 St Paul's Road, Clifton, Bristol.

    The lot is sold with a small file of research which includes details of the Niger expedition, photocopies of Burgess applications for employment, medal roll page details, his original Indenture as a Marine Engineer Apprentice, three original employment agreements dated 1896, June 1899 and Sep 1900. Also a case bound map by W & A K Johnston of the Niger expeditions which is autographed by Burgess on the facing page to the inside front cover.
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