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Rhodesian records

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3052O-S

Scope and Contents

Collection of five albums of family photographs, made up almost entirely of amateur snapshots between 80 x 60 mm. and 110 x 150 mm., and many of which are of purely personal interest. However, taken as a whole, they comprise a record of aspects of life in Rhodesia and elsewhere in Africa of interest to the social historian. The albums are carefully annotated by Zöe Ellison towards the end of her life (she died in Cambridge on 4 August 1986, only a fortnight after her last letter to the RCS Librarian) with names and places where known, in some cases elaborating information originally written under the photographs. The albums are not systematically arranged, and there is some duplication of photographs. No attempt has been made at a systematic or comprehensive list, but the main subjects are indicated below.

Mrs. M.L. Hewetson’s personal collection of 125 photographs, a record of her children and friends, social occasions and everyday life in Southern Rhodesia (Sinoia, Hillside, Hunyani River) mostly dating from about 1915-28, but with some from the 1950s and from other locations (Scotland, in 1921, South Africa, Brazil). Subjects include members of the staff of the Tobacco Research Station and ‘Father Christmas’ at Sinoia around 1928. Those depicted include H.S. Keigwin (small studio portrait and informal snapshots), Templeton, Wilson and Nash families, and other friends and neighbours.

Miscellaneous family photographs, 136 prints, mostly from the late 1930s and early war years, recording James Hewetson’s schooldays at Plumtree School, family gatherings, and a number of weddings within the Hewetson’s circle of friends. There is a collection of twenty-one photographs showing a military wedding (‘Letitia & Gerry Spencer’) in Dar es Salaam 1939, numerous shots of a pet dog ‘Ruffles’ and some of Zöe and Jan Ellison in England during the 1950s; one shows Zöe (who was a potter) at work, with Jan at her side.

281 family and other photographs from 1917 to 1947, many recording Zöe Hewetson’s schooldays. In addition to Southern Rhodesia, locations include the UK, South Africa, Mozambique and Norway. Group photographs of social occasions includes one (last page of album) in which the writer Doris Lessing appears. There are also numerous scenic views, including the Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

More family photographs (99) mostly dating from the 1940s and 50s and featuring Zöe Hewetson and friends, some taken in Denmark, South Africa, and Brazil, as well as in Southern Rhodesia. They include Mrs. Hewetson’s various houses.

This contains six postcards showing street scenes in Salisbury on the occasion of the royal visit, April 7, 1947 (wrongly dated 1938/39 on the cover) and two snapshots of floats in Salisbury during World War II fundraising events.


  • Creation: 1915 - 1959

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

Zöe Thelma Hewetson was born in Rhodesia on 21 February 1916; her parents, Dr. Morton and Mrs. M.L. Hewetson were married in Cape Town around 1915 and it appears from photographs of ‘Grandfather Wilson’ in Y3052O that Mrs. Hewetson’s maiden name was Wilson. Dr. Hewetson practised as a dentist as well as a doctor at Sinoia, travelling widely in the surrounding countryside. The Hewetson’s also had a son James Cecil William (‘Jimmy’) born in 1921, who became a Pilot Officer in World War II and was killed on 23 February 1943 over Malta, where his name is now inscribed on the Air Force Memorial. Zöe Hewetson’s godfather was Herbert S. Keigwin (1878-1962), Southern Rhodesia’s first director of Native Development (1920-26) and subsequently Director of Education in Sierra Leone (1926-1930). Dr. Hewetson left Rhodesia in 1925/6. He served as a doctor on the Dunluce Castle and later had a place in Hammersmith. Mrs. Hewetson and the children at first lived at the Templeton’s’ farm at Dunphaile, near Banket. Mrs. Hewetson worked at the Experimental Tobacco Station at Hillside, a suburb of Salisbury/Harare, until 1954, the year after her marriage to the sculptor Jan Ellison, Mrs. Hewetson visited them in England, returning to Rhodesia where she died in 1957.


5 album(s) (649 images in 5 albums)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Four albums O and Q-S were given to The Royal Commonwealth Society by Mrs. Zöe Ellison in July 1986, album P was bequeathed and received in April 1987.


This collection level description was entered by WS using information from the original typescript catalogue.


Zöe Ellison

Includes index.
2006-09-13 11:20:35+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge CB3 9DR United Kingdom