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Diary of Agnes Wilson in South Africa

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/RCMS 206

Scope and Contents

The diary, 100 x 120 mm, is comprised of two notebooks bound together totalling 374 pages, and is lettered 'A.M.W. South Africa 1901-2' on the front board. There are entries on most of the right-hand pages, and notes, photographs, passes, tickets, cuttings and other souvenirs on the left-hand side. The diary describes life on board ship, visits to the Cape, travels in the interior, and events of the period in South Africa, including comments on the ongoing Anglo-Boer war, or South African war, which had entered its guerilla phase. There are two pages of reflections on WIlson's work with knitting classes in the refugee camps in Bloemfontein and elsewhere, written in 1952. There is a botanical specimen (pressed flower) labelled 'Flowers from Caesar's camp' on folio 160, with fragments housed separately (Caesar's Camp featured in the Battle of Wagon Hill or Platrand during the siege of Ladysmith in Jan. 1900).
Diary is not a day-to-day account but is divided into sections as follows:
- sea voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, 3 - 11 Nov. 1901 [folios 3 - 44];
- stay in Cape Town and train journey to Bloemfontein, Nov. 1901 [folios 47 - 67];
- list of people entertained by the Wilsons between Nov. 1901 and Apr. 1902, including dinner party for Lord Milner (Alfred Milner, administrator of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, 1901-2) [folios 68-84];
- journey to Johannesburg and Pretoria, Mar. 1902 [folios 85 - 124];
- visit to Brandfort, site of a British concentration camp, Mar. 1902 [folios 125 - 130];
- 'Easter Ausflug' [excusion] and visit to Thaba 'Nchu [Blesberg] [folios 131 - 158];
- journey through Natal to Durban, April - May 1902 [folios 161 - 191]
- 1952 postscript [folio 193].


  • Creation: 1901-1902, 1952

Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

Agnes Maria Wilson (1867-1957), known as Amy, was the sister of Sir Henry Francis Wilson (1859-1947), Colonial Secretary of the Orange River Colony. In November 1901 she sailed to South Africa to act as her brother's hostess. She remained until 7 May 1902, when she accompanied him back to England on leave. Harry Wilson married Isabelle Anderson in August 1902, and Amy Wilson returned to South Africa on her own account in 1903. She bought property near Pietermaritzburg, and engaged in farming until just before the Second World War. After retirement from public service, Harry Wilson served as secretary of the Royal Colonial Institute from 1915-1921.


1 volume(s) : paper

Language of Materials


Former / Other Reference


Other Finding Aids

MSS Addenda, vol. III. The photographs from the diary are described at Y305Q in the R.C.S. Photograph Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by Christopher Wilson, nephew of Miss Wilson, March 1976.


Elizabeth Hammerton, 'Amy Wilson's South African diary 1901-2', in 'Royal Commonwealth Society library notes', no. 220, October-December 1976, pp. 2-5, describes the diary and includes some extracts. The donation is recorded in 'Royal Commonwealth Society library notes', no. 218, April-June 1976, pp. 3-4.


This collection level description was created by RAS using information from the original typescript catalogue.


Wilson, Agnes Maria, 1867-1957

Includes index.
2003-12-08 09:49:02+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
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Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom