Fort Victoria – Gateway to Rhodesia

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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 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. Never-the-less as road traffic increased after the opening of the Beit Bridge over the Limpopo it was usually the first town reached by visitors from down south who often used it as a base for visiting the Zimbabwe Ruins and, in later years, Lake Kyle. 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, 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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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 1928

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The Historic Bell Tower, Fort Victoria, Rhodesia

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The Great War Memorial in 1928.
Compare this with the same 50 years later as below.

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

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Another view of Allan Wilson Street, 1960s

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The Council Chamber, Fort Victoria

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Victoria District Map showing Zimbabwe Ruins and Kyle Dam

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Swimming Baths at Fort Victoria, 1970s

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Young Rhodesians at nursery school in Fort Victoria, 1970s

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Part of the High School, Fort Victoria

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Progress at Clipsham Farm, Victoria District

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

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

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The Victoria Hotel at Fort Victoria in 1928