Umtali

Rhodesia’s most beautifully situated city.

Umtali in Rhodesia's beautiful Eastern Highlands
Main Street, Umtali in Rhodesia’s beautiful Eastern Highlands

 

Umtali vies with Gwelo as Rhodesia’s third city.  It moved to its present (third) location so as to be adjacent to the main Beira – Salisbury railway which reached here in 1898. It is an important manufacturing centre producing furniture and paper products from local timber and processing tea, coffee and fruit from estates throughout the Eastern Highlands.

The population in 1975 was about 60 000 of which about 10 000 were Europeans.

Main Street, Umtali, viewed from the Club in 1904
Main Street, Umtali, viewed from the Club in 1904 – This is the same view as the first picture, except 60 years earlier.

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Christmas Pass on the approach to Umtali, 1970s
Christmas Pass on the approach to Umtali, 1970s

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A Merry Christmas to you.

Christmas Past – Christmas Pass 1974

And a Merry Christmas to you Madam.

(Photo by Sebastian Winch)

Seasonal goodwill exhibited by a local resident in giving a policeman a lift up Christmas Pass (a cyclist’s nightmare to haunt the slumbers of Umtali policemen in Rhodesia’s eastern highlands and thus much appreciated by this African constable of the BSAP).

The pass, by which the main road from Salisbury leads through the hills immediately to the west of Umtali, was so named by a small party of pioneers who camped at the foot of the pass on Christmas Day 1890.

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Just to the south of Umtali lie the wonderful Vumba Mountains. This painting by Marguerite Elizabeth (Daisy) Halford from 1932 titled “Vumba Road, Umtali” well conveys the lush nature of the Vumba: The Mountains of the Mist.

This is one of my favourite parts of the country and you can see a number of my own photos of the Vumba on my Gallery page.

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Cecil Hotel, Umtali c 1909
Cecil Hotel, Umtali c 1909

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Umtali's Olympic-size swimming pool
Umtali’s Olympic-size swimming pool

 

 Looking North over Greenside, Umtali, from Cross Kopje
Looking North over Greenside, Umtali, from Cross Kopje

 

Umtali from Christmas Pass by AW Baylis c 1935
Umtali from Christmas Pass by A.W. Baylis c 1935

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Crossing Christmas Pass, Umtali, 1936
Crossing Christmas Pass, Umtali, 1936

 

The same view 40 years on …

Umtali from Christmas Pass 1976
Umtali from Christmas Pass 1976

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Umtali from above Christmas Pass
Umtali from above Christmas Pass 1976

 

On another page, is an account of Coach Riding through Rhodesia in the 1890s. Nick Baalbergen, who is writing a history of Umtali, has kindly pointed out an error in the author’s description of his first photograph as showing the Post Office.  Nick writes: “This is in fact the Umtali Stock Exchange building completed in 1897, located adjacent to the government buildings and just down the street from the Cecil Hotel. It survived into the late 60s / early 70s, as the Govt Veterinary Dept building.”

Nick has kindly made available the following pictures of early Umtali (which are also shown on the Coaching page).

The Government Buildings & Stock Exchange Building. Main Street & Victory Avenue, Umtali c 1897
The Government Buildings & Stock Exchange Building. Main Street & Victory Avenue, Umtali c 1897

 

Umtali Post Office (Postcard post marked 1919)
Umtali Post Office (Postcard post marked 1919)