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Old Africa books

Old Africa books are well-told stories in the same tradition as the shorter pieces

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Old Africa magazine seeks to tell the story of East Africa’s past through well-written stories and vintage photographs. Founded in October 2005, the first issue featured a story about the Royal Navy’s ill-fated attempt to launch a naval presence on Lake Rudolph (now Lake Turkana) and an account of the Kedong Massacre. Since then the magazine has published stories and photos from Kenya’s diverse ethnic groups – African, Asian and European – to preserve East Africa’s history. 


Who was Freddy Ward?

Who was Freddy Ward? The name Freddie or Freddy Ward crops up so repeatedly in the early land dealings of East African settlers that it is worth finding out about the man behind the name. Like many of the early white settlers, Hamilton Frederick Ward fought in the Boer War (in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Irish Guards, where he reached the rank of Major) straight after he left Eton, and developed a love for Africa. He came from a military family – his grandfather was Vice-Admiral James Hamilton Ward, from Viscount Bangor’s family, and his father Robert Frederick Ward was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy who died young, when Freddy was eleven (he was born on 3 September 1880). His mother Rose was left to care for Freddy and his younger sister Mabel, and in 1891 we find them living in a hotel in Bournemouth. As soon as the Boer War was over, Freddy Ward organised a shooting party to travel to East Africa in 1904. He made a second trip in 1905, and fell in love with the country. He managed to get himself seconded to the King’s African Rifles in April 1906, as a lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, from which he resigned in 1908. We first really hear of him in 1905 when he joined other colonists to protest against the death sentence of a white man for murder – Max Wehner, who had shot and killed a man he had hired as his guide to a hotel in Nakuru. Eventually the sentence was overturned by the Privy Council. Ward tired...

The Sandbach Bakers and Kenya’s First Dairy

The Sandbach Bakers and Kenya’s first Dairy One of the first white settlers to be given land in Nairobi was Frederick Baker. He was granted 1,600 acres in Muthaiga by John Ainsworth, the Sub-Commissioner, on condition that he supplied Nairobi with dairy products. Who was Baker and why had he come to East Africa? He was not a young man, having been born in in Bunbury, Cheshire, in December 1849 to Thomas Baker, a draper and grocer, and Eliza Sandbach, and he arrived in Nairobi in 1901 with his second (or, possibly, third) wife Marie Vera, usually known as Queenie. This lady may have been born in 1856, the daughter of George Salmon, a master butcher in Stoke on Trent, but that person is supposed to have died in 1897 and before that was known as Mary Maria. The wife who accompanied Frederick to East Africa in 1901 was Maria Vera and claimed she was twenty years younger than her husband, whereas if she had been born in 1856 she would have been only six years younger. It is possible that she was indeed Maria Salmon and added Vera to her name, and lied about her age to her new husband. Frederick’s first wife Alice Oliver had died in September 1887 and he had married Mary Maria Salmon in 1888. He had been a cotton cloth agent in Stretford, Lancashire (some said he went bankrupt). He took to East Africa with him his wife and his son Guy, a former shipping clerk (born in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, to his first wife Alice Oliver in October 1882). Marie was the...

Mombasa’s Law Courts

Mombasa’s Law Courts   On 30 August 1984 the new Law Courts were opened in Mombasa, but where had justice been dispensed beforehand? A British court, presided over by an English barrister, had been established in a godown near the old harbour in Mombasa in 1890, when the Imperial British East Africa Company was in charge of the area. In about 1898 the court moved into the old police headquarters opposite the entrance to Fort Jesus (where the curio market now is). Then magnificent new premises were built in Fort Jesus (now Nkrumah) Road. On 31 December 1902 a fine building to house the law courts, as shown below, was opened by the Commissioner, Sir Charles Eliot, and the High Court based in Zanzibar moved to Mombasa. To begin with the judiciary followed the practices of Bombay’s High Court and was staffed almost entirely by personnel trained in India. In 1911 the High Court was transferred from this building to Nairobi, and British Indian legal practices ceased to be observed. Instead, the practices of English law were substituted. Non-High Court cases were still heard in Mombasa.   The building material used was coral rag bound with lime mortar and faced with plaster. A deep arcaded veranda surrounded the building on the ground floor, supporting an open-air balcony above. It was more usual in this style of building for the upper balconies to be enclosed. Everywhere internally they used dark, solid, well-carpentered wood for doors, staircases, shutters, balconies and floors. Teak was the wood generally used, for it was almost impervious to white ants.   The Law Courts has a...