Fort Victoria - Gateway to Rhodesia

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Fort Victoria, Rhodesia's oldest town founded in 1890

In 1890, after emerging from the lowveld onto the relative safety of the highveld,

the pioneer column halted to build a fort which was named after Queen Victoria.

The prefix was dropped in 1899 and the town became known simply as Victoria.

However in 1917 it reverted to its original name.

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.Fort Victoria in 1928 showing Old Watch Tower, Post Office and Government Offices

Fort Victoria in 1928 showing the Old Watch Tower, Post Office and Government Offices.

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Fort Victoria was founded in 1890 and was Rhodesia's first town.  In the early years it was also the first town reached by the visitor to Rhodesia, but was soon eclipsed by Bulawayo once the railway arrived there in 1897 and henceforth that city became the main point of entry to the country.  In practice the town is usually referred to as "Fort Vic" and, as it was not connected to the railway network until 1914 and even then only by a branch line, it became somewhat of a backwater in the development stakes compared with what might have been. It is the centre of a mining and agricultural district with cattle ranching being of some importance.

The town is the chief settlement of the Victoria District and lies at an altitude of 1 067 metres / 3,502 feet above sea level. 

The mean annual rainfall over 50 years is 621mm / 25.4 inches.

The mean maximum and minimum temperatures for the three seasons are:

July:  21,9C / 71.4F and 5,2C / 41.4F   October:  30,1C / 86.2F and 15,2C / 59.4F   January:  27,1C / 80.8F and 16,9C / 62.4F

The estimated population in various years (where known) was as follows:

Year
1911
1921
1926
1931
1936
1941
1946
1951
1958
1961
1964
1969
1977
European
119
222
259
364
321
441
796
1 500
2 400
2 528
2 600
African
8 500
18 000
Asiatic
153
200
Coloured
194
300
Total
11 375
21 000

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Allan Wilson Street, Fort Victoria, Rhodesia

Allan Wilson Street, Fort Victoria, c 1972

The view of the Bell Tower, seen in the centre on the far side of the road, may be compared with the similar view in 1928 shown in the previous picture.

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Hospital in Fort Victoria, 1910

The hospital in 1910                (photo by W.W. Bowley)

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Victoria Hospital 1911 - Sister Hughes is believed to be standing to the left.

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The new Hospital at Fort Victoria 1928

The new hospital 1928

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The Historic Bell Tower, Fort Victoria, Rhodesia

The Historic Bell Tower, Fort Victoria, Rhodesia

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The Great War Memorial, Fort Victoria, 1928

The Great War Memorial in 1928.

Compare this with the same 50 years later as below.

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View from Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Fort Victoria

Two views from Queen Elizabeth Gardens showing the Old Bell Tower and the Great War Memorial.

The Old Bell Tower from Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Fort Victoria

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Another view of Allan Wilson Street, 1960s

Another view of Allan Wilson Street, 1960s

 

Council Chamber, Fort Victoria

The Council Chamber, Fort Victoria

Victoria District Map showing Zimbabwe Ruins and Kyle Dam

Victoria District Map showing Zimbabwe Ruins and Kyle Dam

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Swimming Baths at Fort Victoria, 1970s

Swimming Baths at Fort Victoria, 1970s

Young Rhodesians at nursery school in Fort Victoria, 1970s

Young Rhodesians at nursery school in Fort Victoria, 1970s

 

High School, Fort Victoria

Part of the High School, Fort Victoria

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Progress at Clipsham Farm, Victoria District

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Clipsham Farm, South of Fort Victoria,1913

Clipsham Farm, South of Fort Victoria, 1913 with water supply

Clipsham Farm, South of Fort Victoria,1925

Clipsham Farm, South of Fort Victoria, 1925 with water laid on

 

.The Victoria Hotel at Fort Victoria in 1928

The Victoria Hotel at Fort Victoria in 1928

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The Road "Down South"

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Strip Road south of Fort Victoria, mid 1970s

The strip road heading south from Fort Victoria, mid 1970s.

This was the main road before the new double lane highway replaced it. For most of the route the old road was upgraded but about 30 km of the road, from just north of the Tokwe River to the Zimbabwe Ruins road just south of Fort Vic, was re-aligned to the west leaving this section as it had been since the mid 1930s.

Strip roads were a Rhodesian innovation from the 1930s and provided work during the depression as well as all weather roads at an economic price. This led to the best road network in Africa at a time when even South Africa had only gravel and dirt roads. In the event of meeting the occasional car the rule was to move to the left so that the offside wheels would run on the left hand strip and the others run on the gravel.

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Tokwe River Bridge c 1928

Tokwe Bridge c 1928

One of the key bridges on the road to South Africa and the first to be crossed after leaving Fort Victoria.

The main road to South Africa: Lundi River Bridge in the dry and rainy seasons

Lundi River Bridge in the dry season,1928

                                                                                                                    (photo by Mrs W Loades)

The Lundi River Bridge in the dry season, 1928 - taken from the Lundi Hotel.

From "Fort Vic", the Lundi is about a third of the way to the South African border across the Limpopo River which at this stage had still not been bridged; effectively confining the road journey to the dry season. Nevertheless the Tokwe, Nuanetsi and Bubye rivers had all been bridged and at this time of year it was possible to motor from Messina to Fort Victoria in one day.

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Lundi River Bridge after rains 1928

                                                                                                                                                                                          (photo by S. Rogers)

The recently constructed Lundi River Bridge photographed from a similar position in 1928 during the rainy season. 

This bridge enabled traffic to pass except during periods of very heavy rain.

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The Lundi River bridge and hotel, late 1920s

Most pictures of the Lundi River bridge are taken from the south to give the fine view of the granite hills.

Before the construction, much later, of the new high level bridge these photos were also conveniently taken from the grounds

of the Lundi Hotel.  Here is a less common photo from the late 1920s taken in the dry season by Lt.-Col. A.J Tomlinson.

Lundi Hotel.

And this is the Lundi Hotel, later known as the Rhino Hotel, right up to the end "lights out" was shortly after dinner when the generator was switched off.

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Lundi River Bridge in the 1950s

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Lundi River Bridge in the 1950s - the hotel is off the picture at bottom right.

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Road accross the Lundi River high level bridge, 1976

My own photo from the 1970s showing the fine double width highway across the Lundi River high level bridge.

-  not quite the sense of adventure which must have accompanied such a journey before World War II.

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Baobab tree on Beitbridge Road - 1930s

A grand old baobab tree on the road to Beit Bridge.

Compare this picture, taken looking south in the 1930s, with the photo below of the same tree taken looking north in 1974.

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The old baobab in 1974 at the restpoint between the Nuatetsi and Bubye Rivers.

The same even older baobab in 1974 at the restpoint between the Nuanetsi and Bubye Rivers

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Bubye River crossing showing low and high level bridges, mid 1970s

The last obstacle before reaching the Limpopo and South Africa: the Bubye River crossing showing low and high level bridges in the mid 1970s

The photo was taken from the grounds of the Lion and Elephant Motel.

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