• Biography
  • Milestones
  • Quotes
  • Photos
  • Learn More

Ernest Graham Ingham
January 30, 1851-April 9, 1926
Anglican clergyman, author, Bishop of Sierra Leone

Bishop E. Graham Ingham

Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London

Although born and raised in Bermuda, Anglican clergyman Ernest Graham Ingham spent his entire working life overseas, mostly in the UK, but also in Sierra Leone, where he was Bishop for nearly 14 years. He was a white Bermudian who made a singular contribution to the community of black Anglicans in segregated Bermuda.

Ingham, who was known as Graham, was the inspiration for the establishment of the black-led Guild of the Good Shepherd, the Anglican church’s oldest lay organisation. He also laid the groundwork for a move to Sierra Leone by black Bermudian Frederick Edmondson. Edmondson began life in Sierra Leone as a missionary, and in 1903, he became the first black Bermudian to be ordained an Anglican priest.

Born into a prominent Paget family, Ingham was a son of Samuel Saltus Ingham, Speaker of the House of Assembly, and Margaret Leaycraft. He was schooled locally until age 15, when he was sent to Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada to complete his high school education.


He continued his schooling in the UK, graduating from Oxford University with a bachelor’s degree in 1873 and a master’s in 1876. He was ordained a deacon in 1874 and a priest the following year. His first year as a clergyman saw him “doing parish work in the slums of Liverpool”. He was then attached to a church in Rugby. In 1878, he became secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) In Yorkshire. The CMS, whose goal was to spread Christianity throughout Africa and Asia, would play a crucial role in his life’s work, and was responsible for his move to Africa.

Ingham was vicar of St. Matthew’s Church in Leeds from 1880 until 1883, the year he was appointed Bishop of Sierra Leone. The country was at the time a British territory and his appointment had to be approved by Buckingham Palace.

His posting to Sierra Leone came a year before the Berlin Conference, an event that saw European powers formalising their claim on territories in Africa, with no involvement from the people of Africa. Modern-day historians say the consequences for Africans were devastating.  


Ingham was the sixth bishop to serve in Sierra Leone—but it was no dream job.  English missionaries viewed a posting to West Africa with dread because of the high death rate. Three of his predecessors had died in office within two years. At his own consecration as Bishop a friend commented: “Ah, well, we have seen the last of Ingham.”

But Ingham thrived in Africa. He would describe his time there as “one of the great opportunities of my life”.

Writing years later about his reasons for going to Africa, he said: “It was not surprising that, a Colonial myself, and brought up in the midst of people of African descent, who had formerly being held as slaves by the white people, I was attracted by this bit of work, to which I was to give fourteen years.”

Ingham was responsible not just for Sierra Leone, but for a much larger swath of territory that included Lagos, what was then the Gold Coast (now Ghana), and the Canary Islands.  Although he threw himself into his work, establishing church-run schools and training local clergy, winning converts was an uphill battle.

St. George’s Cathedral is said to be one of the oldest and grandest churches in Sierra Leone. 


In late July 1895, after a 20-year absence, he arrived in Bermuda. The island was the last stop on a journey that had taken him to Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica. He was travelling under the auspices of the CMS and was on a mission: to recruit blacks to become missionaries.

Over the next month, he spoke at churches and community halls, to blacks and whites, but his message was directed at blacks. Addressing a packed house at Mechanics’ Hall on August 15, and aided by 19th Century visuals—a magic lantern that projected images of landscapes, houses and people—he urged black Bermudians to consider moving to the land of their ancestors to spread the gospel.

He spoke of the challenges whites faced in Africa: the climate and the fact that Africans would always regard the white man “as an enemy who wills them evil…” Although there were references to cannibalism, savagery and superstitions “of the natives”, Ingham went on to predict a great and glorious future for Africa.


Ingham’s talks created much interest, but only Frederick Edmondson, a teacher who ran a school in Warwick and who had dreamed of becoming a missionary in Africa from boyhood, answered the call.  Ingham organised his move to Sierra Leone. Edmondson resigned his teaching post and spent more than a year in Jamaica preparing for his new life.

But by the time Edmondson arrived in Sierra Leone, Ingham was back in the UK, a dispute with a local clergyman having ended his tenure. The two men were reunited in the UK in late 1897, when Edmondson was on his way to Sierra Leone. According to a report in The Royal Gazette, Ingham showed him “considerable attention”, but the two would never meet again.

Meanwhile in Bermuda, Ingham’s talks having resonated with black Anglicans, in 1896 members of the Anglican Cathedral established the Guild of the Good Shepherd to raise funds for Ingham’s church in Sierra Leone. The Guild became an important lay organisation and guilds at other Anglican churches on the island were established.


Michelle Simmons, in her book The Guild of the Good Shepherd and Bermuda’s Forgotten Anglican Missionaries, wrote that the Guild was similar to Friendly Societies that blacks formed during the post-Emancipation era. It provided black Anglicans with leadership opportunities during a time when the Anglican church was segregated.

By all accounts, Ingham’s tenure in Africa was successful, at least from the viewpoint of Anglican church leaders, but he would spend the rest of his life in the UK. He was rector of Stoke-next-Guildford from 1897 to 1904, was Home Secretary of the CMS until 1912, and finally vicar of St. Jude’s, Southsea.

In 1909, Ingham embarked on a nine-month world tour on behalf of the CMS that began in Canada and ended in India. He visited western Canada in 1912. Despite being from a large family—he was one of 11 children from his father’s two marriages—it does not appear he visited Bermuda again.


Ingham was the author of six books, including Sierra Leone after a Hundred Years, From Japan to Jerusalem and Sketches in Western Canada. His portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

He and his wife had one son, Arthur Graham Ingham, but his line of direct descendants ended with his two grandchildren.

Like Ingham, Edmondson never returned to Bermuda. He spent the rest of his life in Sierra Leone. He married, had three sons, and moved up the church ranks to become Canon of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in 1934.

Given Ingham’s role in recruiting Edmondson, one is left wondering whether he made any attempt to maintain a connection with his fellow Bermudian, especially in light of his role with the CMS, which was responsible for missionaries. And if he did not, why not?

Edmondson was apparently denied the opportunity to relocate to Africa under the auspices of the CMS, which would have paid for return visits to Bermuda. Michelle Simmons writes that benefit would have been automatic for white missionaries.


For many years, members of the Guild of the Good Shepherd organised fundraisers for the church in Sierra Leone, but they eventually switched their fundraising focus on Edmondson. They sought to bring him home for a visit, although the much anticipated homecoming never occurred.

Ingham died in 1926 and Edmondson in 1940. In his Wikipedia bio, Ingham is described as “an eminent cleric”. An obit, reprinted in the Gazette, described him as “a most lovable man. One great charm and the secret of his influence was the remarkable way he was able to detach himself, for the time being from his own concerns and put himself entirely at one’s disposal. In these days of rush and self-centredness, even in the religious life, alas! this is far too rare a gift.”

Bookmark and Share

January 30, 1851—born in Paget

1866—Attends Bishop’s College in Lennoxville, Quebec

1873—Graduates from Oxford University with a BA

1874—Ordained a deacon; marries Josephine Kent

1874-1875—Is a curate at a church in Liverpool

1875—Ordained a priest by the Bishop of Chester

1876—Receives an MA from Oxforad

Dec 1875-June 1876—Visits Bermuda; preaches at several churches, including his family church, St. Paul’s, Paget

1876-1878—Attached to St. Matthew Church in Rugby

1878—Son Arthur Ernest Ingham is born; becomes secretary of the Church Missionary Society in Yorkshire

1880—Becomes vicar of St. Matthew’s in Leeds

1883—Appointed Bishop of Sierra Leone

July-August 1895—Visits Bermuda after travels to Antigua, Barbados and Jamaica and urges black Bermudians to become missionaries.

March 1896—Guild of the Good Shepherd founded to raise funds for West African Diocese of Sierra Leone

June 1896—Resigns as Bishop of Sierra Leone and returns to the UK

December 1897—Meets up with fellow Bermudian Frederick Edmondson, his sole missionary recruit, prior to Edmondson’s departure for Sierra Leone

1897-1904—Rector of Stoke-next-Guilford, Surrey

1904-1912—Secretary of Church Missionary Society, London; a stint which includes a nine-month trip in 1909 to Japan, China, India, Palestine and Egypt

1912—Appointed Vicar of St. Jude’s in Southsea, Hampshire

1924—Celebrates 50 years in the ministry

April 9, 1926—Dies in Southsea

“What I want you particularly to understand is, how little, how very little has been done by us in that country. The great difficulties and dangers which this country offers to the Europeans and under which we have almost daily to labor, the savagery, only too frequent cannibalism and superstition of the natives, who will always regard the white man as an enemy who wills them evil, makes the missionary’s work often one of the most difficult tasks in the whole world.”

“I am fully convinced that Africa is not the place for the white man. He does not suit the climate and the climate does not suit him. But those people who physically and in every other way are made up exactly to suit the various climatic influences of a country so vast as Africa, should be returned to their native soil, from whence they were taken against their wills.”—Mechanics’ Hall talk, The Royal Gazette, August 20, 1895

“My father was Speaker of our legislative House of Assembly, as it is called, and we are rather proud of being the oldest Parliament out of London. We celebrated our tercentenary some three or four years ago. King James gave us our privileges, and I remember as a boy seeing the U.S. warship Alabama looking for blockade runners during the Civil War and I am not sure we were always as right-minded as we should have been on the great slavery question.

Born in 1851, I went at 15 to an English public school in Canada at Lennoxville, in the province of Quebec. I came over to Oxford from there in 1870 and I well remember that, at that time, England had very little use for her Colonies, and if one mentioned one’s antecedents at all, one came under the suspicion of being touched with the tar-brush!”—The Royal Gazette, July 3, 1924; Reprinted from an article Ingham wrote in his local paper, the Portsmouth and Hampshire County Times, in celebration of his 50 years in the ministry

No content available at this time


Further Reading

“The Bishop of Sierra Leone in Bermuda”, The Royal Gazette, August 6, 1895

“Bishop Ingham lectures at Mechanics’ Hall, Hamilton”, The Royal Gazette, August 20, 1895

“Guild of the Good Shepherd”, The Royal Gazette, March 22, 1898
“A Great Record—Noted Bermudian Celebrates Jubilee in Ministry”, The Royal Gazette, July 3, 1924

Ernest Ingham obit, The Royal Gazette, May 7, 1926.

The Guild of the Good Shepherd and Bermuda’s Forgotten Anglican Missionaries by W. Michelle P. Simmons, 2020

© Bermuda Biographies. All Rights Reserved.
Site design by Kaleidoscope Media