Mbweni Ruins used to be St Marys School for Freed Slave Girls and was constructed in 1874 by the UMCA. The British freed the slaves from the illegal dhow traders, and as more were freed a village developed around the mission of freeing the slaves.
At one point more than 250 slaves lived at the Mbweni Ruins. Training included basic studies such as math, English and geography and went on to include religion. The school normally had 60 – 80 girls studying at any one time. There were living quarters, a chapel, a schoolroom, and later an industrial area. The Chapel had a beautiful marble altar with mother of pearl inlay that is now the altar at St John’s Church. Edward Steere oversaw the construction of Mbweni Ruins. He was also the first person to write a Swahili-English dictionary.
In the 1917 the school closed and was vacated although a part of it had been sold to the Bank of India when the UMCA ran into financial trouble. The ruins remained abandoned except for locals who came to collect water from the cisterns until the current owners of the hotel began renovation.
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