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Redwood Natal [i.e. Province of KwaZulu-Natal] and Zululand Album 1879-80

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3058A

Scope and Contents

An album containing albumen prints, measuring approximately 190 x 130 mm, with handwritten captions beneath the plates. The captions have been used as titles and may include language which is offensive, inaccurate or inappropriate. They have been retained to reflect the context of their creation. The album contains views of Durban and Pietermaritzburg as well as Zulu War Scenes (at Fort Pearson, Isandhlwane and Rorke's Drift).

Natal and Zululand in 1879.
The photographs in this album form an important historical record of several aspects of the hostilities of 1879. The rise of Zulu power under a line of kings starting with Shaka and continuing after his death in 1828 through Dingane, Mpande and finally Cetshwayo was enforced through a ruthless and highly trained standing army which in time of war conscripted almost all able bodied males (see Y3058A/25). The expansionist nature of the Zulu system which had already precipitated large migrations, was eventually bound to come into conflict with the growing European presence (the area around Durban had been signed over to the Natal Trading Co. by Shaka in 1824). The arrival of Sir Bartle Frere as Governor of the Cape in 1877 with his instructions to pursue the cause of South African federation, made some sort of confrontation with the Zulu Kingdom inevitable. A major point of dispute was the border between Zululand and the Transvaal and although (to Frere's consternation and dismay) an independent commission found unequivocally for the Zulus, the report was for a time suppressed and its findings later distorted. Great play was then made of the savagery and cruelty of the 'despot' Cetshwayo. At a meeting called on December 11 1878 beside the drift on the Lower Tugela (see Y3058A/30), John Wesley Shepstone read out the results of the Boundary Commission: this, despite Frere's amendments, largely satisfied the Zulus. A further document however struck at the heart of Zulu autonomy and was clearly designed as a pretext for invasion (plans for which were already well advanced). The document, drafted by Frere on his own authority and without informing his superiors, demanded, as well as reparations and fines for what would previously have been considered minor boundary infringements, extensive changes in the whole system of Zulu social and military life and the installing of a British resident to oversee these changes.

This quite explicit attempt to break Zulu power was bound to be repudiated, although Cetshwayo did in fact attempt to meet the fines demanded (600 head of cattle). Frere however would give no extension of his time limit for the animals to be collected and on January 11 1879 the invasion began. The plan was straightforward and sound: three columns would enter Zululand from three points along the border converging on to the King's Kraal at Ulundi and supporting each other as the advance progressed. The reality was different: the main force of the central column was massacred at Isandhlwana on January 22 (see Y3058A/34-44); Pearson's eastern column (see Y3058A/26-30) was besieged at Eshowe, while Woods' western column suffered a defeat at Hlobane (March 28) before inflicting heavy casualties on the Zulu force at Kambula (March 29). Chelmsford's relief column entered the successful action at Gingindlovu (April 2) before relieving Pearson and returning to Natal. Cetshwayo now attempted to sue for peace but his power over his own people was such that he was unable to meet British demands (one of which was the token surrender of a Zulu regiment).

Chelmsford invaded Zululand for the second time in May 1879, his force attacking Ullundi in a large square: the battle (July 4) lasted 30 minutes and represented the final breaking of Zulu military power: the British lost 10 men to well over 1000 Zulus. Cetshwayo, who had foreseen the defeat, had already prudently retired, but was captured by the end of August. With Wolseley's later dismemberment of the Zulu State and Cetshwayo's death in 1884, Zulu power was finally broken.

The album contains photographs by (?William Laws) Caney (4, 8, 10, 16, 19 and 21), James Lloyd (32, 35, 37, 41-44), Benjamin Kisch (14, 36, 12), and J.R. Mee (28): unattributed prints are also probably by one or other of these photographers.

William Laws Caney. Photographs in the album signed 'Caney' are presumed to be the work of this man who was advertising his studio in New Rush in 1872. However, several members of the family were also active commercial photographers and it is difficult to disentangle their relationship. William Laws Caney appears to have operated from the jewellery business trading in Durban under the name B.W. Caney. In 1887 a specifically photographic business was opened by William Harry Caney at 15 Church Street, Pietermaritzburg, but this firm seems to have moved back to Durban the following year. In the 1890s D. Edmund Caney was also active in Johannesburg.

James Lloyd. According to Bensusan (1966, p. 20), Lloyd, together with F. Hodgson, was active as early as 1860 photographing the opening of the Durban railway in June of that year. He is listed in 'The Natal Almanac' as a professional photographer in Smith Street, Durban from 1872-99.

Benjamin Kisch was born in 1842 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. By 1863 he had emigrated to Natal, where he first worked as a grocer and general dealer as well as a photographer. By 1870 he had established his own photographic studio in Durban, and between 1872 and 1875, he worked in partnership with his brother Henry. Kisch did extensive coverage of the Zulu War of 1879. He died in Pretoria on 16 Feb. 1889.

J.R. Mee. Active c.1879-91 in Durban, Kimberley and Wynberg.


  • Creation: 1879 - 1880


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

The album was compiled by Charles Lewis Redwood, a goldmining and railway engineer and executive, resident in Durban in 1879. For portraits of Redwood see Y3058A/7 and 9.


0.03 cubic metre(s) (51 images in 1 album)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The album itself is coming apart, and the pages themselves have mostly come unbound. The photographs are in fair condition.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The album was presented in 1965 with the following dedication: 'Presented to the Royal Commonwealth Society in memory of Charles Lewis Redwood and Olivia Elizabeth Redwood (née Lys), Pioneers of Natal and Johannesburg by their daughters Gwendolyn Mary Redwood and Zoë Olivia Mellor Evans'.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Africa, fiche number 181-82.


For a more detailed listing of the dates and locations of the photographers see: Bensusan, A.D. (1963), '19th Century Photographers in South Africa', Africana Notes and News, volume 15, no. 6, pp. 219-52. Further information can also be found in: Bensusan, A.D. (1966), Silver images: history of photography in Africa, Cape Town: H. Timmins. For a biography of Benjamin Kisch's second cousin Tiberias Kisch see: Bull, Marjorie, and Denfield, Joseph (1970), Secure the shadow: the story of Cape photography from its beginnings to the end of 1870, Cape Town: T. McNally.


This item level description was entered by SG using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Includes index.
2003-12-01 12:06:05+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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