Sunday, July 31, 2016

West St Durban 1895

West St Durban, looking west, on Christmas Eve 1895

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Gadsden Swires Natal marriage 1909

Maud Alice Swires (1890-1969)
 daughter of James Dudley Swires
and Alice Mary King

Maud Alice Swires married Sydney Bartle Gadsden on 3 November 1909 at St Peter's Church, Pietermaritzburg. Witness were Frank W King and Winifred Emily Swires. 

The couple shown on the marriage record are my grandparents. You may find your own Natal ancestors' marriages if you access the Civil Marriage records 1845-1955 on Family Search. See link at foot of this page*.

Sydney Bartle Gadsden (1880-1953)
 son of Thomas Alfred Gadsden
(Lighthousekeeper at the Bluff Lighthouse)
and Eliza Ann Bell.(daughter of Capt William Bell)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Port workers ca 1860s Durban

Note the turbaned Indians. This photograph would have been taken after the initial arrival of Indian migrant labour and reminds us that not all of these immigrants worked on sugar or other plantations. Many were employed at the harbour or, later, on the railways.

Below, African port workers manning a boat: a rare photograph. Listed in the Natal Almanac
of 1875 (see final photo below) are 'Native Boatmen and freed slaves at different rates per agreement'.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Landing by basket at Durban

Basket used for landing passengers at Durban
before the wharf was built. This original basket can
be seen at the Maritime Museum in Durban (Victoria Embankment).

Passenger emerging from (or entering?) the basket
at Durban

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Archdeacon Lloyd, Durban, Natal

Archdeacon Lloyd who married my great grandparents,
Thomas Alfred Gadsden and Eliza Ann Bell at Conch Villa, the Bell family home on the Bluff, Durban, on 6 August 1873.

William Henry Cymric Lloyd, Anglican, Archdeacon of Durban (13 January 1802-3 January 1881). He was well-connected. Lloyd was the son of Bell Lloyd, brother to Edward Lloyd, 1st Baron Mostyn, and Anne Anson, sister of Thomas Anson, 1st Viscount Anson and niece of Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, Archbishop of York. He was brought up at the Anson seat, Shugborough Hall and at Lord Mostyn's castle in Flintshire.
Accompanied by his family Lloyd arrived in Durban, South Africa in 1849 as the first Colonial Chaplain appointed by Earl Grey. Lloyd was involved in the Colenso Controversy. He was rector of St. Paul's Church, Durban and subsequently Archdeacon of Durban. As military chaplain at the Fort during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 he played an important role.
He married firstly Lucy Jeffreys (died 1843) the daughter of the Rev. John Jeffreys, and secondly married Ellen Norman (died 1903). Archdeacon Lloyd's children remained in Natal and gained various distinctions
  • Jemima Charlotte Lloyd (1837–1909) married philologist and librarian Wilhelm Bleek.
  • Lucy Lloyd (1834–1914) renowned traveller and African linguist.
  • William Llewelyn Lloyd married Baroness Maria von Gross-Zauche, daughter of the German consul to Namibia.
  • Alfred Norman Mostyn Lloyd (1868–1941), registrar of deeds, Pietermaritzburg, and father of Anson Lloyd (b. 1914), chairman of the Board of Governors of Michaelhouse, a school the men of the family traditionally have attended.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Baines 1820 – 1875: artist, explorer and photographer

Born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, the son of a master mariner, Thomas Baines was educated at Horatio Nelson's Classical and Commercial Academy. 

He started his working life in 1836 as an apprentice to an ornamental carriage builder but soon turned to painting and studied under the heraldic painter William Carr. 

In 1842, wishing to see more of the world and inspired by explorer artists like George French Angas and William Cornwallis Harris, he left England on the Olivia, bound for Cape Town.

He arrived at Cape Town on 23.11.42 and worked as an apprentice to a cabinet maker, an ornamental sign-painter, then from 1845 as a portraitist and painter of marine subjects.

 Later Baines based himself in the eastern Cape. Many adventures and explorations were to follow.

He is of particular interest to me because he painted my g g grandfather, Capt William Bell's, schooner Conch arriving at Port Natal in 1842, towing boatloads of troops to raise the siege of the British Regiment at what is now called the Old Fort. Baines was not present in Natal for this event but painted his famous work from a drawing by an eye-witness. It remains one of his most well-known and recognisable works.

Conch 1842 entering Port Natal

He was not only a prolific painter but was an early exponent of the photographic art, many of his works showing him busy capturing images or setting up his equipment.

Later his magnificent paintings of the Victoria Falls would bring him renown. However, he also left a wealth of Natal views including Durban from Mr Currie's Residence - a snapshot in time showing the town in the 1870s.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: E Larsen, photographer, and family

Here we have a photograph of a photographer.
Emil and Gusta Larsen with daughter Dora (b 1897 d 1926). 
Gusta was the daughter of Thomas and Ane Dahle of Lot 30, Marburg.
Photographed around the turn of the century. Cabinet print.

Emil Larsen and his twin brother Sigvart were both photographers in the Dundee, Vryheid, Volksrust triangle. In October 1900 the Larsen home was occupied by the British, who destroyed all the family's photographic plates. Regarded as 'undesirables', the family were given one hour's notice to leave with a British convoy. Mrs Larsen, a British subject who had recently lost a child, was 6 months pregnant and Mr Larsen, a Norwegian and a non-combatant, had four brothers serving with the Royal Durban Light Infantry (RDLI).

See more at

Emil Larsen initially operated a studio in Greyville, Durban. By the turn of the century he and his brother Sigvart were working together as Larsen Bros at 410 West Street, Durban - the studio mentioned on the above photo mount. Emil crops up in 1904 at a studio in Winder Street, Durban; after that, entries for him in the Natal Almanac cease.

Natal Almanac entries re Larsen photographers, Durban.

1894  Natal Almanac Larsen ‘F’, photographer, Greyville [probably an error for ‘E’]

1896 -1897 Natal Almanac same entry as above ‘Larsen, F’

1898 Natal Almanac – first mention of Larsen, E, photographer, Greyville’ [the Almanac corrected their error in this edition]

1899   Natal Almanac Larsen, E   Greyville  

1900 Natal Almanac – first entry for Larsen Bros 410 West St.

David Larsen

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lighthouse Gravestone

Lighthouse Gravestone in cemetery at Burwen, Anglesey

The inscription on the stone reads: In loving memory of Thomas Cunningham, beloved husband to Mary Jane Cunningham 41 Mona Street, Amlwch Who departed this life August 17th 1910 Age 70 years.

Thomas Cunningham had been a lighthouse keeper in China, possibly in Shanghai, for about 30 years.

Graham Mason

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Lighthouse keeper's view, Bluff, Durban ca 1860

The Bay of Natal from the Bluff  ca 1860:
  watercolour by unknown artist, from an Album amicorum.
 (author's collection)

This is the view my lighthouse keeper great grandfather Thomas Gadsden would have looked out upon from the Bluff lighthouse during his tenure there (1867 - 1880s). 

It is taken from the seaward end of the Bluff looking across the Point and Bay towards the heavily wooded Berea, with the buildings of D'Urban clustered onshore, right. A sailing ship negotiates the entrance channel in the foreground, dhows and other small craft are seen in the Bay, and the tug Pioneer, her single stack smoking, is in the centre of the picture, near the Point. At left is the signal station and signalman's house on the Bluff. It is possible that the tall building on the extreme right represents St. Paul's Church.

The painting can be dated to post December 1859 because the steam vessel shown is undoubtedly the Pioneer, Natal's first steam tug. She was 124 tons and was despatched (fitted with masts and sails) from the Thames at the end of July 1859, arriving in Durban 111 days later, having made the journey under sail only, her paddles being fitted in the Bay after her arrival here. On Boxing Day 1859 she was shown, flag-bedecked, to the assembled populace, and crossed the Bar with various dignitaries on board, sailing out into a choppy sea beyond the Bluff - to the discomfort of some of her passengers.

A rare find, this little watercolour in ornate embossed surround, was one of several original drawings in a mid-nineteenth century 'Album amicorum' (what we used to call an autograph album), bound in gilt maroon calf. The artist has signed himself (more probably herself) 'L.C.' and entitled the picture 'Bay of Natal  and; Town of D'Urban'.

A peaceful and attractive colonial scene, though with hidden dangers lurking - many vessels came to grief on the beach or the Bluff rocks.

The notorious Bar, a sandbank across the entrance to the Bay, was the greatest hazard to shipping at Port Natal, and 'should on no account be attempted by a stranger, as the channel frequently shifts in direction and depth'. It was this problem, the changing depth of water over the Bar, which frequently necessitated vessels anchoring in the roadstead outside, and, if a gale sprang up, there was a chance of them being driven on-shore or wrecked on the rocks below the Bluff. A case in point was the Byrne settler ship Minerva, 987 tons, which was wrecked on the night of 4 July 1850 when she parted her main anchor in a sudden north-easterly while waiting in the 'roads'. Though the 2nd mate drowned, all the passengers were saved, but the ship became a total wreck and the immigrants' personal belongings went to the bottom. 

Only three months after Thomas Gadsden's arrival, the Sebastian and the Earl of Hardwicke were beached in a similar gale on 26 September 1863.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Waratah anniversary reminder: July 1909

Waratah at Port Adelaide before her voyage to Durban.

A poignant letter written by a crew member on 26 July, from the SS Waratah in Durban, was received by his sister in London.  
'Just a line to let you know we arrived here safely after a pretty rough voyage from Adelaide. For 13 days after leaving that place we had heavy seas and weather and a lot of the deck fittings were broken and carried away by heavy seas that swept over the vessel. The last five days however have been fine and we got here yesterday midday (Sunday) and we leave the Cape Saturday next, on 31st  July for London, where we will arrive on August 21st although we are not due until the 23rd.' 
The ship never arrived at the Cape. Her precise fate and the location of her wreck
 remain unknown

Advert from Sydney Morning Herald 26 June 1909

Memorial protea wreath for the Waratah centenary in July 2009

(photo courtesy Suzanne-Jo Leff Patterson)

For much more on the Waratah see

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Unusual Bluff view and Gadsden family

Bill (William Bell) Gadsden, my father, great grandson of
Capt William Bell of Port Natal, grandson of Thomas Alfred Gadsden Bluff Lightkeeper, and son of Sydney Bartle Gadsden of James Brown & Co.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Souvenir Saturday: Bluff Hotel Tea Room ca 1902

Bluff Hotel Tea Room
Photograph by Lazarus Bros, Durban.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Battle of the Somme Centenary: Lest We Forget

July 1916: the opening phase of the Battle of the Somme. British troops in a communication trench before an attack.

HQ Company 8th East Lancashire Regiment at Whizz-Bang Corner,
Fonquevilliers, 1915
A staggering 22,000 men lost their lives on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.
The largest battle of the First World War would continue until November, with Allied and German forces locked in a bloody, muddy stalemate as the daily death toll rose.
It would go on to become the bloodiest battle in history, with more than a million soldiers wounded or killed.
Britain alone lost 794,238 troops.