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David Livingston Centre

The David Livingstone Centre is a biographical museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, dedicated to the life and work of the explorer and missionary David Livingstone. The centre is operated by the National Trust for Scotland and is housed in a category A listed building. It is located in the former mill buildings which once housed 24 families including Livingstone's, and where he was born on 19 March 1813. The centre depicts Livingstone's life from his early childhood working in the mill, to his African adventures. These are illustrated with the aid of various pieces of his navigational and medical equipment, interspersed with African artefacts. The project was overseen by Sir Frank Mears and Pilkington Jackson was commissioned to sculpt the several bronze tableaux depicting the life of Livingstone.

David Livingstone was born on 19 March 1813 in the mill town of Blantyre, Scotland, in a tenement building for the workers of a cotton factory on the banks of the Clyde River under the bridge crossing into Bothwell, the second of seven children born to Neil Livingstone (1788–1856) and his wife, Agnes (née Hunter; 1782–1865). David was employed at the age of 10 in the cotton mill of Henry Monteith & Co. in Blantyre Works. David and his brother John worked twelve-hour days as piecers, tying broken cotton threads on the spinning machines. He was a student at the Charing Cross Hospital Medical School from 1838–40; his courses covered medical practice, midwifery and botany.

Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley on 10 November 1871 gave rise to the popular quotation "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Perhaps one of the most popular national heroes of the late 19th century in Victorian Britain, Livingstone had a mythic status, which operated on a number of interconnected levels: Protestant missionary martyr, working-class "rags to riches" inspirational story, scientific investigator and explorer, imperial reformer, anti-slavery crusader, and advocate of commercial empire. His fame as an explorer helped drive forward the obsession with discovering the sources of the River Nile that formed the culmination of the classic period of European geographical discovery and colonial penetration of the African continent.

Livingstone died in that area in Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala southeast of Lake Bangweulu in present-day Zambia on 1 May 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery. He took his final breaths while kneeling in prayer at his bedside. (His journal indicates that the date of his death would have been 1 May, but his attendants noted the date as 4 May, which they carved on a tree and later reported; this is the date on his grave.) His two followers, Susi and Chuma, on the morning of his death made the decision to remove the heart and prepare the body for carrying to the coast for subsequent shipping to England.

Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree near the spot where he died, now the site of the Livingstone Memorial. His body together with his journal was carried over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) by his loyal attendants Chuma and Susi to the coast to Bagamoyo, and was returned to Britain for burial. After lying in repose at No.1 Savile Row — then headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, now the home of bespoke tailors Gieves & Hawkes — his remains were interred at Westminster Abbey, London.

At the same time, his missionary travels, "disappearance" and death in Africa, and subsequent glorification as posthumous national hero in 1874 led to the founding of several major central African Christian missionary initiatives carried forward in the era of the European "Scramble for Africa"

(Website)


Ref: DP353

Gallery: Buildings

David Livingstone Centre

Blantyre.

South Lanarkshire.

Scotland.

United Kingdom

NTS Website

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