The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

Axim is a town and district on the Western Region of Ghana. It lies 40 miles  west of the Port of Takoradi and 168 miles  from Accra. The town is divided into 2 parts: Upper and Lower Axim. Axim is the largest town on the West of Takoradi, located almost halfway between Elubo and Takoradi and distinguishable by rocky beaches, which are spectacular. This settlement of approximately twenty four thousand people is situated in a tranquil and sheltered natural bay. Axim is most probably one of the locations on the west coast where one can enjoy nature without giving up convenience.

Historically and architecturally, one of Axim’s most interesting features is the triangular-shaped Fort San Antonio, sub Saharan Africa’s second oldest fort, constructed by the Portuguese in 1515, after Fort Jago in Elmina. The fort, during the Portuguese rule, was an important trade centre. The fort boasted a history, which I will not venture into, but to say the Dutch captured the fort in 1642 and traded slaves until the abolition of the slave trade. Today the structure is fairly well preserved and a source of income for the town. Axim also has two beautiful tourist beach resorts. As you can see  from the map of Ghana below, Axim lies right on the Coast line.

Axim was one of the busiest trading posts on the coast of Ghana. History has it that Axim was a major port for the export of timber products and gold. Many companies established their offices in Axim and engaged in brisk commercial activities. Axim however, lost its glamour when the Takoradi and later the Tema harbours were constructed.  Similarly, the concession division of the Supreme Court of the Gold Coast closed down and re-opened at Secondi. These events forced the Legal firms to establish at Secondi.  Currently, although Axim seems like a sleepy town, it has a large vibrant fishing community that produces fresh and dry fish for sale in the urban centres.  Palm, timber and plantations are also abundant in the area.

St Mary’s Anglican Church Axim was instituted by the Rt Rev Bishop S O Roke in the year 1926. The institution of the church became necessary when Axim grew and flourished in the 1900’s. The Church was founded with Rev Fr J Yalley as the first parish priest. Church services were held at the Mingel Log office building at the Upper Axim. After a time, the Church moved to the Magistrate’s Court room by permission of the then Chief Commissioner. With the increase in the number of worshippers, the court room became too  crowded for holding Sunday services.  A lawyer  - Mensah Sarbah an illustrious practitioner based at Axim, offered the Church a vast piece of land to be developed. A wooden storey house was erected on this land, Church services were held on the ground floor and the first floor served as the mission house for Rev Fr J Yalley and his wife. The Church continued to grow and members contributed to maintain the progress. The alter, the pulpit, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the statue of our Lord Jesus Christ and a wall clock were presented to the Church by the members. These gifts are still in use in the Church.

In 1935, Rev Fr Yalley had the plan of the Church building ready. A day was set aside for the laying of the foundation stone and dedication. Rev Fr Yalley and his church dignitaries sent out invitations to the local churches, the Chief of Axim and distinguished personalities of the town. On the 19th July 1935, Rt. Rev. Bishop Anglionby officially came to Axim and on the 20th July 1935, he laid the foundation stone of St Mary’s the Virgin Anglican Church Axim and dedicated it in a colourful ceremony. This was followed by a solemn evening service. Overall, since the church has been established 18 priests have occupied the parish including the current priest Rev Fr John Dickson whom I have met several times on my visits to Axim. As Parish priest, he is very active in his parish activities. He worked very hard with his congregation in the completion of the re-roofing of the Church. I am particularly impressed with his communication with St George’s. The church has a membership of about three hundred and the Church organisations are very similar to ours and the Eucharist follows the same tradition. The high Mass usually lasts up to four hours accompanied with drumming, music and dancing.

During a visit to the UK in 1986, the Bishop visited the Parish of St George’s Waterlooville in the Diocese of Portsmouth. In May 1987, the Rev Fr Peter Stanway wrote to the Bishop telling him that St. George’s Parish would like to form with a Parish in the Diocese of Secondi perhaps with another St George’s. The Bishop wrote back and told Fr Stanway that there was no St George’s Parish in the Diocese and he recommended St Mary’s Parish Axim and gave him the address of Rev. Fr Thomas Anquaah Arhin – the Parish priest. In 1989 Fr Aquaah Arhin visited St George’s Parish when he was in Britain, thus cementing the partnership. St George’s has since then formed a link with St Mary’s Church Axim.

In April 2000, the roof of the church fell and the sidewall also collapsed. It became imperative not only to re-roof the Church, but also to rebuild the edifice. The physical and financial task was herculean on parishioners many of them aged and poor. By dint of hard work and at great financial sacrifice much has been done to bring the Church to its current state. Since the collapse of the roof, St George’s has since then supported St Mary’s Axim with various sums of money, from Sunday collections and table top sales to raise funds for the re-roofing of the church. St Mary’s Axim is very grateful to the Parish priest and the entire congregation of St George’s for their support. I pray that the friendship in the body of Christ will grow from strength to strength.

I can not complete the brief history of the Church without mentioning the school.  The Anglican School in Axim was built by the missionaries in the early 20th century.  While St Mary’s Anglican Church still owns the building, and co manages the school together with the Axim Education Department, who runs the programmes and provide teachers. The parish priest, Rev Dickson is involved in the day to day running of the school. The school runs two shifts, due to overcrowding. Over the years, the school has been renovated alongside the church with funding from USPG. In the year 2005, Western Heritage, with funding assistance from Ghana together presented desks, chairs and books to the school. The Church has a vast land at Tikobo reserved for the development of a secondary school.

I will end now by just saying, Rev Fr John Dickson has been transferred to another Parish, St Mark – Essikadu. His successor is Fr Samuel Benjamin Ghartey, married with three children.

I look forward to meeting the new Priest and his family on my next visit to Axim.

Mabel Maginn

Festival  Edition 2011

A history of Axim and its Anglican Church