Cumbria's connection to the Benin Bronzes
Image: Carved wooden panel from Benin City [© The Trustees of the British Museum, licenced for use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]
James Robert Phillips (1863-97) was the eldest son of the Revd Thompson Philips, vicar of Ivegill and later the archdeacon of Furness. After training as a solicitor in Carlisle, Philips's career took him to the West Coast of Africa. It was in his role as deputy commissioner and consul for the Niger Coast Protectorate that he led an expedition to Benin City in the winter of 1896-97, with a view to deposing the Oba of Benin. However, his party was ambushed and Philips was among those killed. The British Government's subsequent punitive expedition against the king of Benin in February 1897 led to the looting of some 10,000 cultural artefacts including the Benin bronzes, which are currently the subject of demands for their repatriation to Nigeria, and the eventual absorption of the Kingdom of Benin into colonial Nigeria. A memorial to Philips, a brass lectern, is now in Carlisle Cathedral.
To read more about the 'Benin Bronzes', many of which are currently held at the British Museum, click here.