Ughoton Edifice: The First Documented Storey Building in West Africa
Bookmark and Share
Written by Ekhaguosa Aisien (Last Update April 5, 2022)
Ughoton Edifice

UGHOTON Village steals the lime-light here on Benin City because the first documented store building built on Benin land was constructed in that water-side village three hundred years ago as engagingly told by Professor Alan Ryder in his book. Benin and the Europeans 1485-1897 page 160. Ughoton was the entre-port for the Kingdom of the Benin overseas trade, through which the Benin Kingdom the northern Yoruba-land and Benue land obtained European goods.

The Ughoton edifice was also single-storey structure. It was built in 1718 nearly two hundred years before the construction of the Erhie Street EGEDEGE NOKARO. It was built by Herr Van NAERSSEN the resident Manager of the UGHOTON Trading Station of the Dutch Trading Company which West African Headquarters was at Elmina Castle now in modern Ghana. When Van Naerssen completed the building he pronounced it to be the finest Company residence on the West African Coast. The upper floor of the building served as the living quarters for the resident Dutchmen The ground floor was both the shop and storehouse where merchandise was sold, and the export purchases from the Edos stored until the arrival of ships from Elmina Castle which was about twice a year The ships brought fresh trade goods from Europe and evacuated the exports accumulated in the interval.

The artisans, especially the carpenters, who helped to build this first storey edifice on Benin land nearly three hundred years ago, were obtained from Benin City by the Dutch, with the cooperation of the Oba who almost certainly was AKENZUA the FIRST. The artisans must have come from OWINA Street off Sokponba Road They must have been  under the general supervision of Chief ASUEN the palace  official who was in charge  of the forests of the kingdom and who controlled the Owina Guilds which obtained from these forests the hardwood and other resources they needed in their service to the palace

Timber was felled and sawn and the planks obtained were used for the flooring of the upper story. The artisans probably used planks obtained from the Iroko tree for this crucial aspect of the construction as well as for the building of the staircase. But in order to do this Chief Asuen must have obtained clearance from the Oba because timber from Iroko trees of the forests was reserved exclusively for the construction in the Oba palace. Other hardwoods serviced the chiefs and people
The doors and windows were probably obtained from the timber of the lighter hardwoods.
Each plank obtained for this story building cost the Dutch one hundred cowries reports Alan Ryder.
The Blacksmith guilds of the city the Adaha the brought into the enterprise to make the iron nail long and short with which the constituents of the building were riveted together under the direction of the Dutch. Each nail brought from Benin cost the Dutch eight to ten cowries depending presumably on the size and length.

This picture of a European country depending matter-o-factly on the technology of Benin three hundred years ago for her base needs in the construction of an edifice had been radically altered two hundred years later when the first Benin City Storey building was constructed. The Overseas Slave Trade of the intervening two centuries had like the on-going Overseas Petroleum Oil trade so sapped the energies the inventiveness and the self-dependability of this portion of the continent that much of the material which was used for the construction of the 1906 edifice was imposed including the treated timber for the floor of the upper storey.

Comment Box is loading comments...
Benin kingdom copy right