Adisadel Historical Sketch

Adisadel College, at Cape Coast , Ghana is one of the oldest modern educational institutions for boys in Africa . It was founded on the 4th January, 1910 and modeled on the typical English Public School. The school’s original name was the S.P.G. (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) Grammar School. It later on became St. Nicholas’ Grammar school and finally became Adisadel College when it moved to its current location at Adisadel on the outskirts of Cape Coast in Ghana.

The School was established in 1910 in a storey building at Topp Yard, near Christ Church and the Castle, at Cape Coast. From a humble beginning with only twenty-nine boys, the School has grown over the past ninety seven years. When it was twenty-five years old in 1935 the School had about 200 boys on the registers. At the time of the Golden Jubilee in 1960 the enrolment had gone up to 545 and now in 2007 there are over one thousand five hundred (1500) boys.

The school’s Founder was the Right Reverend Dr. Nathaniel Temple Hamlyn of the Anglican Church. His purpose in establishing the School was to provide for sons of Anglican parents, opportunities of education of the grammar school type. In particular, his objective was to provide a training ground for turning out well-equipped personnel for the Church's work. Bishop Hamlyn amply realised his objective, and in so doing has immortalised himself in the annals of the School.

The School has, during these ninety seven years, attained remarkable heights of achievement. Today, it stands as the second oldest secondary school in Ghana, and indeed one of the most famous institutions of learning in sub-Saharan Africa. The first secondary school to be established in Ghana was Mfantsipim School, also in Cape Coast, which was founded by the Methodist Church in 1876. 

 S.P.G. Grammar School

The records of the School show that the pupils to be first enrolled included the following:

Augustus James Fry

Albert Sunkersette Mends

Joseph William de Graft Johnson

Clement Henry Elliott

James Victor Mayne

John Stephen Crankson

Lewis Augustus Brydow Brown

Samuel Cobbah Sagoe

Ebenezer Benjamin Quashie Quaynor

Jacob Tawiah Stephen

George Christian Mends

Robert Dougan Mends

George Christian Heywood

Albert Henry Addo

John Thomas Green Ackon

William Thomas Flight Davidson

Joseph Jonah Mefful

Robert Ekow Wryter

James Hector Mayne

Ishmael Thomas Williams


The life of the School, during its first decade, was shaped by the headmastership of four outstanding clerics and a layman:

  • the Reverend George Barton Brown of Lichfield Theological College, 1910 and again in 1912;
  • the Reverend Benjamin Philip Haines, M. A. (Durham),
  • Mr Hugh Hare, M.A. (Oxon), 1911; 1913;
  • the Reverend Robert Fisher M.A. (Cantab) 1914-1918,
  • and the Reverend William Hutton Mensah, the only Ghanaian among the pioneers, 1918-1924.

These early Headmasters gave themselves unstintingly to the service of the Church and the School. Animated all along by their steadfast faith in the true and living God, they nurtured the growth of the infant School. They also well and truly laid for the School a sound foundation on which over the years, a magnificent superstructure has been established.

It will be well here to give the Reverend William Hutton Mensah, the first Ghanaian Headmaster, honourable mention. It must be said that Hutton Mensah was a man of a rather small stature, yet, he was a man of immense charm and courage.

By his own industry, Hutton Mensah of Cape Coast developed as a finished scholar well read in English Literature and Theology. Without the advantage of a university education, he was a scholar whose erudition was comparable to the best products of any university. He was a teacher much admired by his pupils. His ordination to the Anglican priesthood in 1916 much improved his chances of becoming the Headmaster from 1918 to 1924.

The name given to the School at its inauguration was: The S.P.G. Grammar School. It was so named because it was to be managed and financed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (S.P.G.), a Missionary body based in London. The Society had selected the Gold Coast as one of its fields of operation, and had sent the Right Reverend Nathaniel Temple Hamlyn as the first Bishop of the newly created Anglican Diocese of Accra in 1909.

Bishop Hamlyn's first preoccupation was to found the School, the Headmasters of which were, from 1910-1918, appointed by the S.P.G. The original School house at Topp Yard was put to maximum use. The ground floor of the house provided classrooms and a dining hall, while the fairly roomy upper floor served as a dormitory. This house was nicknamed "S.S. Sir George" so called after one of the old steam boats that plied the West African Coast and was said to have every space aboard crowded with cargo. Topp Yard was all in all to the boys, and they made very good use of their opportunities there.

In less than two years after its inception, the School tried out its strength at a Public Examination then conducted by the London College of Preceptors. All the candidates were successful, one of them gaining six distinctions, and thereby breaking the record of examinations of the College of Preceptors in the whole of West Africa. This was indeed a happy augury for the School.  By 1918 the School had become more than a local School for Cape Coast. Anglican parents from Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi also sent their sons and wards there to be educated.

In 1912, Bishop Hamlyn left the Gold Coast and his place was taken by Bishop Mowbray Stephen O'Rorke, in 1913. Soon after his arrival, Bishop O'Rorke discerned in one young lad at the School potentialities for leadership. The Bishop spared no effort to have the boy properly groomed for service to the Church and country.

The young boy, Stephen Richard Seaton Nicholas, was sent to the C.M.S. Grammar School at Freetown, Sierra Leone, and then went up to Fourah Bay College, where he graduated M.A. (Durham) and obtained the Diploma in Theology. He returned home in 1922 and joined the staff of the School.

St. Nicholas' Grammar School

At this time a change in the control of the School had taken place. The School passed to the list of Government Assisted Schools, that is, Government had accepted to make a yearly grant not exceeding forty percentage of the total of salaries of the staff. There was also then developing an awareness that the School should come under direct management, locally.

This resulted in a change of name to 'St. Nicholas' Grammar School' by the Right Reverend John Orfeur Aglionby, M.C., D.D., who had arrived in 1924 to succeed Bishop O'Rorke as the third Bishop of Accra. The Reverend William Hutton Mensah left the School in 1924 to become the parish priest of St. Cyprian's Church, Kumasi, and Bishop Aglionby appointed S.R.S. Nicholas as an obvious choice to the headmastership.

Nicholas brought with him to St. Nicholas' a reputation as an eminent classical scholar. He established great influence by his masterful personality and his melodious speaking voice. Full of youthful vigour, Nicholas threw himself with consummate skill into the work of reconstruction.

He divided the School into three Houses: Primus, Secundus, Tertius, appointed House Masters to enforce discipline, and introduced Inter-House competitions in games and sports. He also put the pupils into uniform for Church service on Sundays-black coat and white trousers, a straw hat, complete with a band displaying the School crest; a white shirt and collar and black and white tie and black socks and shoes. The weekday dress consisted of khaki shorts and shirt.

By the latter half of the twenties, the number of pupils had increased to the extent that it became necessary to rent two other nearby premises to house the School. The steady increase in numbers, resulting in vast sums spent on rents and repairs on the buildings, inevitably raised problems. Nicholas saw the necessity of moving the School into buildings of its own. He accordingly succeeded in making the initial contact with the Ebiradze Family of Cape Coast from whom the lovely hill on which Adisadel College now stands was later acquired.

As Headmaster, Nicholas certainly played his part well. He succeeded in raising the standard of scholastic achievement and attained discipline with a dignity, which every headmaster might have envied. In 1929, Bishop Aglionby embarked upon a reorganization of the School and invited the Reverend Alan John Knight, M.A., LL.B. (Cantab) to become the Headmaster, and Nicholas was made the Second Master, the name then given to the Assistant Headmaster. Nicholas’ loyalty to Knight during this period was indeed commendable.

Knight was a great reformer. The black coat and straw hat for Church disappeared. A white suit became the official uniform for which a Kente cloth could be substituted, if so desired. Graduate members of staff had to appear at every morning assembly and at classes in their gowns. Evening dress was de rigueur for all members of staff during Visitation Day Ceremony, which was the name for what is now known as Speech and Prize-giving Day.

The ceremony constituted a great social occasion. It commenced with a Latin Oration, by the School Orator, nominated from among the best of the sixth form classicists! Sixth formers who had a hand in the preparation of the oration naturally applauded, intermittently, and all the boys took up such applause. This rather facetiously gave the impression that the whole school followed intently the learned discourse!

There were other changes by Knight. In the first place, a properly constituted Board of Governors was established for the School. Then, the three Houses were renamed: Primus became Hamlyn, in memory of the Founder of the School; Secundus became Quaque, after Philip Quaque, "the Castle Chaplain and Schoolmaster", generally believed to be the first African to have been admitted into Holy Orders of the Anglican Church after the Reformation; and Tertius became Elliott, after Canon C.H. Elliott.

Activities in sports were intensified. Rugby was introduced which tended to replace Soccer. Rigid training in Cricket and Athletics was instituted, and inter-House competitions became the order of the day. The School's teams for both Cricket and Athletics showed up brilliantly when they met competing teams.

Another novelty was the establishment of a Teacher-Training College, which was integrated with the School, with Knight as the Head. The students were housed in rented premises in town, but they actively participated in the life of the School, and shared common fellowship with the boys.

In due course, the nucleus of a Seminary was also added, with Knight as the Rector, to prepare young men for ordination. One of the students was Ishmael LeMaire, the first Ghanaian Bishop of Accra.

Knight was fortunate to be surrounded by a band of truly devoted teachers. It was remarkable what results these gallant men achieved. The Ghanaians among them included the late D. Jackson-Davies, the late T.J.O. Gyebi, and the late E. F. Andrews Ayeh; also A. W. E. Appiah (later an Anglican priest), S. G. Amissah and C. A. Ackah (Dr C. A. Ackah who became the first Principal of the University College of Cape Coast).

Others were H. Takyi-Mensah (later an Anglican Archdeacon), A. R. Otoo, E.B.O. Azu Mate, J. M. Awotwi, A.O. A. Hammond, K.O. Hagan, J.R. Amponsah and the late K. M. A. C. Ababio.  Others who followed included Mr. T.M. Kodwo Mercer and Mr. J. Ade Sawyerr.   One name must here be singled out. It is that of J. Maxwell Awotwi, an Old Boy, who was on the Staff of the School from 1930 up till 1970.

During Knight's time, the School ceased to worship at Christ Church, for another large building at Topp Yard was converted into a Chapel. Singing in Chapel took a new turn as The English Hymnal replaced the use of Hymns Ancient and Modern. It was in the School that The English Hymnal was first used in the Diocese of Accra. A ceremony which Knight instituted was also first performed in this Chapel. This was the'Blessing of Sixth Formers and the Induction of the Head Prefect.'

Knight was a great advocate of the Classics, and did his utmost to reinforce the reputation of classical education that had been well established by his predecessor. This reinforcement found ample expression in the staging of Greek plays by the School. In particular, Sophocles' Antigone was publicly staged in 1934-35 with great éclat, and had repeated performances at Cape Coast, and then in Accra and at Sekondi.

Aeschylus’ Agamemnon was also staged in 1936. The choruses were rendered in the original Greek, and the narrative was in English. Nicholas, as the Senior Classics Master, was indeed the moving spirit behind the classical plays. As producer, he coached the actors with remarkable efficiency.

The School magazine, Santa Claus, made its appearance at this time. Another publication was the OWL, a weekly newsletter that was entirely managed and produced by a group of upper formers. The OWL became an Institution in itself. Through its columns of editorial comment, news items and gossip, the OWL looked quizzically into every conceivable aspect of the School's life. It was a familiar sight as Masters and boys alike craned their necks, on Monday mornings, to scan its pages, which were exhibited in a special glass case in front of the Assembly Hall.

Adisadel College

Without doubt, Knight's significant achievement was how he succeeded in moving the School from Topp Yard to the site of Adisadel Hill. The story of this episode is well known. It will be well to pay tribute here to all who worked tirelessly at the very early stage. They gave of their time and talent to encourage the boys to undertake by their own labour the first phase of the building programme. This consists of the present Hamlyn House, the Acropolis and the Sanatorium.

In particular, it is worth recording the part played by the late John Buckman, M.B.E., a land surveyor and architect. Buckman was well known to devote a great deal of his leisure time to promoting voluntary activities. He travelled frequently in 1932-33 from Accra to Cape Coast, in order to supervise, free of charge, the work of construction on the Hill. A local architect in Cape Coast, I.R. Fynn, also gave generous assistance.

The dogged effort of the boys that came to be described as the 'Adisadel Spirit' attracted financial support from within and outside the country, especially from Britain. The Government gave a substantial grant which enabled construction work to be undertaken on proper basis. It was thus possible, in December 1936, for the Governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Arnold Hudson KCMG, to open formally the new buildings and name the School - Adisadel College. This was done before a great a company of local Chiefs and people.

Knight is regarded as the creator of the present School. He was indeed an inspirer. His results were attained by an energetic ubiquity. He was everywhere. He went everywhere and he was felt everywhere! No one gave a more practical refutation to the theory that school masters belong to a sedentary profession.

One of Knight's great gifts was his power of discovering hidden talent in the most unlikely quarters by something which might be called intuitive genius. It was in Knight's time that the School Ode was composed and it was he who inspired a pupil of the School, the late Jack Wilmot, to write the music.

In 1937, Alan Knight went on furlough, but did not return to Adisadel. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, who had evidently been struck by Knight's stirring qualities, as he campaigned in Britain for funds in aid of Adisadel, appointed him Bishop of Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). He later on became the Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies.

The Rev. Robin Decimus Hudson, M.A. (Oxon), Chaplain of Eton College, was appointed to succeed Knight. The news of his appointment was hailed with joy by many. Coming from one of England's old Public Schools, it was believed, Hudson would communicate the urbanity that was Eton's to the milieu at Adisadel. He was a man of magnificent and imposing appearance. He also combined sound scholarship with a keen sense of humour. He was a rugby enthusiast, a great swimmer and a lover of outdoor games.

It was during Hudson's term of office that the teaching of Science was introduced. A small room by Hamlyn House was converted for use as a laboratory. This greatly encouraged those boys who had decided to pursue advanced courses for which a knowledge of science was desirable.

Whatever plans Hudson had for improving the quality and content of the curriculum could not be carried out, because he had suddenly to leave Adisadel in 1940 in order to serve in the British Army during the Second World War. Hudson made an impact on the School, and deservedly won the respect of all who worked with him.

From 1941-43, Stephen Nicholas was in charge of the School. He left for Nigeria to take up an appointment with the Church Missionary Society and he was ordained. The man whom the Board of Governors selected to hold the fort was E. N. Agbettor, B.A.(Lond.), then a senior master of Mfantsipim School. Agbettor was a very sincere person, with a reputation as a good Latin teacher.

He came to Adisadel at a rather difficult period, for the war had seriously disrupted life in the School. Adisadel was one of the few schools which had to be given over for use by the Military during World War II. The School therefore had to move to Cape Coast and be housed in widely scattered premises. Agbettor had to cope with the formidable task of managing the School during this unsettled period, and he undoubtedly did his best. He left the School in 1947.

The headmastership next fell to the Revd. W. G. Harward, M.A. (Oxon) who had come to Ghana originally to work as a parish priest. He found an able lieutenant in the Rev. J. W. A. Howe, the Chaplain of the School. Harward's first preoccupation was with the teaching staff which he tried to improve. He built a block for science laboratories, and also two additional dormitories. One of these was named Canterbury House, in token of the generous support that Archbishop Lang, then Primate of all England, had given to the cause of Adisadel; and the other, Knight House.

UnderHarward, who had a passion for Sports, the School entered on a steady growth. It is significant to recall that the long concrete steps leading from the Hill to the playing fields below were constructed by him. The standard of sports was considerably raised, due principally to the efficient coaching of the Chaplain. When Harward left in 1953, C. A. Coleman Porter, the Assistant Headmaster was asked to act. Coleman Porter built by his own specifications, and under his own supervision, the retaining wall on the eastern slope of the hill on which the Chapel stands.

Arthur Dee, M.A. (Sydney), a Housemaster of Marlborough School, England, arrived in 1954 to take over as Headmaster. He entered on his role with great zest. Arthur Dee was a brilliant classical teacher who by his untiring zeal won the admiration of all. In the middle of 1955, he was compelled to return home in order to have a medical check-up. But he passed away, after undergoing an operation. Thus, once more, an interregnum was created over which Albert Hammond, B.A., Dip. Ed. (Lond), then Assistant Headmaster, was selected by the Board of Governors to preside.

In 1956, L. W. Fry, M.A. (Oxon), an assistant master at Achimota School was appointed to the headmastership. In his time the boys changed from khaki into blue uniform. Fry will be remembered as a good science teacher and a man with a powerful, sonorous voice which rose above all in the Chapel. With Fry's departure in 1959, the Board of Governors again turned their search to Achimota and selected T. J.Drury, M.A. (Cantab), to fill the vacancy.

It was certainly a wise choice, for the fortunes of Adisadel were entrusted into the hands of an able, wise and forward-looking administrator. Drury possessed excellent qualities -of sensibility, abounding energy, and will-power-which he soon manifested in the discharge of his duties. A new lease of life came to Adisadel during his years as Headmaster.

Drury gave the School a new look through an extensive building programme. He put up the dormitory blocks and other buildings that are to be seen at the base of the Hill, on the Cape Coast-Jukwa Road. The boys, with their characteristic sense of humour and timing, called the new development, 'Katanga', so named, because the buildings stood separated from those on the Hill, and were erected at the time of the Congo crisis when Katanga was then seeking separation from the rest of the Congo.

In 1960, the School celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. It was Drury's aim to ensure that the Golden Jubilee should be marked by some tangible form that would add to facilities which must, of necessity, be provided for an expanding School. Recalling the old spirit of the 1930s, Drury infused into the boys the idea of erecting, by their own labour.a much needed sports pavilion. He also built a gymnasium which was later named after him.

As a classicist, Drury was naturally conscious of the character of Adisadel as a place for classical education. He nevertheless also became deeply conscious of the necessity to expand the curriculum in order to meet contemporary needs. Thus it was that it fell to him to abolish Greek in order to emphasise the place of the Sciences. He was instrumental in establishing a Cadet Corps which became exceedingly popular with the boys. Under him the School became entirely a boarding establishment.

Drury's significant contribution was perhaps in the quality of those he recruited on his teaching staff. They turned out to be persons with a high sense of vocation, and gave their 'Chief' a most loyal and efficient help. This was to be expected, for Drury never spared himself and expected the same application to duty from his staff.

His own example of service inspired his staff, and they rallied round him and trusted him absolutely. Such fruitful cooperation between Headmaster and staff achieved much in Drury's time, and must be reckoned as a tribute to his leadership, when it became known that he had decided to resign after nearly five years as Headmaster, there was a general feeling of regret. It was indeed a great wrench that he should be compelled for personal reasons to leave a place of which he had become its contemporary chief architect and to which he was by all accounts so devotedly attached.

When Drury left in 1963, he was succeeded by Robert Thompson Orleans-Pobee, B.A. (Lond), M.Ed. (Springfield). He came back to his Alma Mater in 1953 as a physical education specialist from Jordan Hill, Glasgow, Scotland, followed by classical education at Legon.

Orleans-Pobee fostered the spirit of hard work and devotion to duty that had been evident in the School. Under his own inspiration a new life has manifested itself in the School in other extra-curricular activities, such as the School Choir, the Drama Society, the Jazz Band and the School Orchestra.

There has indeed been no other period in the School's recent history when the boys have won more academic and athletic successes. The present brilliant record is largely the outcome of team work by both the Ghanaian and expatriate staff who deserve to be congratulated..

Orleans-Pobee was also enthusiastic in his endeavour to rally the Old Boys to support their Alma Mater. He has often travelled to attend Old Boys' meetings in cities and towns.


In the year 2010 it will be one hundred years since Bishop Hamlyn founded the School, in the shadow of Christ Church, for the education of Ghanaian boys. The School still stands today as great as ever, a monument more enduring than bronze, to the foresight and wisdom of its Founder.

If one has to define that distinguishing note of the Santaclausian tradition, or, to state what has been its peculiar contribution to education in Ghana, it would not be the magnificent record of academic achievements or athletic successes. Rather, one would say that it is the stimulation of individual mind and character within the boundaries of a salutary School discipline and a strong corporate loyalty.

This has been exhibited often and often by products of the School. Moreover, it must here be recorded that the presence of the older foundation at Cape Coast-Mfantsipim School on Kwabotwe Hill-has also all along been a stimulus to Adisadel. It will be true to say that the healthy rivalry between the two old Schools has, over the years, been one of the secrets of success of either institution.

In just three years time in the year 2010, the School shall, hopefully have grown from strength to strength to celebrate its centenary. When that great day dawns, Santaclausians, to re-echo what Archbishop Knight said years ago, 'shall come from near and far to rejoice together in our proud inheritance'. And, as they once again scale the Hill, they will no doubt renew their faith in their Alma Mater and so proudly exclaim - manet inmota fides.

May the School live up to its motto, and still continue to be- "vel primus vel cum primis!"

Floreat Adisadel !


By Gilbert N. O. Addy
Knight House, 1973
(With excerpts from the Diamond Jubilee Booklet & "Reminiscences of Adisadel")