Arthur Shearly Cripps

Arthur Shearly Cripps bigraphy, stories - Anglican missionary, writer

Arthur Shearly Cripps : biography

10 June 1869 – 1 August 1952

Arthur Shearly Cripps (10 June 1869 – 1 August 1952) was an English Anglican priest, missionary and activist, short story writer, and poet who spent most of his life in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Douglas V. Steere, God’s irregular: Arthur Shearly Cripps, SPCK , London, 1973. SBN: 281 02675 0 ISBN: 0281026750


  • Titania and Other Poems (1900)
  • Primavera: Poems by Four Authors (1900)
  • Jonathan: A Song of David (1902)
  • The Black Christ (1902) poems
  • Magic Casements (1905)
  • Lyra Evangelistica: Missionary Verses of Mashonaland (1909)
  • Faerylands Forlorn: African Tales (1910)
  • The Two of Them Together: A Tale About Africa To-Day (1910)
  • The Brooding Earth (1911) novel
  • Pilgrimage of Grace, Verses on a Mission (1912)
  • Bay-Tree Country (1913) novel
  • Pilgrim’s Joy Verses (1916)
  • Lake and War: African Land and Water Verses (1917)
  • Cinderella in the South: South African Tales (1918)
  • An Africa for Africans: A Plea on Behalf of Territorial Segregation Areas and Their Freedom in a Southern African Colony (1927)
  • Africa: Verses (1939)


In his research on his great-great-uncle, Owen Sheers attended the annual memorial service at Cripps’ grave. “There were huge crowds of people dancing around the grave,” said Sheers. “It was fascinating that a missionary priest who had gone out there at the turn of the century in a period when the British were more or less the bad guys was still being honoured almost 50 years after his death."”

There is also a road in Harare, Cripps Road, named after Arthur Cripps.


Cripps was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and was educated at Charterhouse School and Trinity College, Oxford, where he read history. He then trained at Cuddeston Theological College, taking holy orders, and from 1894 had the parish Ford End in Essex.

He became a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, intending to work in Mashonaland, after reading criticism of the methods of Cecil Rhodes. From 1902 he had a parish near Enkeldoorn (now known as Chivhu) in what was then Southern Rhodesia.

He was in conflict with the British South Africa Company over land distribution, taking the side of the African population. He was given the Shona name Mpandi, or ‘the man who walks like thunder’. After more than 20 years he returned to England for a time after a quarrel with the British administration; but went back shortly for the rest of his life, having in 1927 published Africa for Africans, on the land issue.

Arthur Cripps lived for some time in Manyene Communal Lands, about 120 km South of Harare, 20 km North of Chivhu. An area of Manyene is now known by the name he gave it when he established the mission work there, Maronda Mashanu, which means "The Five Wounds" in the local Shona language. Father Cripps was buried in the chancel of the church (now a ruin) at Maronda Mashanu.

Some people from the area believe that Arthur Cripps performed miracles. For example there are claims that a white man who wanted to assault him for associating with Africans was crippled the moment he raised his hand. They claim that the man was only healed when Father Cripps prayed for him.

His great-great-nephew is the Welsh poet, Owen Sheers, who has written about him in the award-winning Dust Diaries (2004).