New additions to the RCS archive catalogue

16 new collections have been added to the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) archive catalogue over the past year. These range from single photograph albums and large collections of slides to diaries, family papers and business papers, representing around 12 linear metres of shelving. Collectively the material covers Ghana, Trinidad, Singapore, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Egypt and Malaysia. The subjects of the collections include motor-rally racing, oil drilling, social work, anthropology, farming, university architecture, tunnel-building and accounts of prisoners-of-war.

In this post, we highlight five of the recent additions:

Correspondence of Kenyan settlers, Robert Hall and Ione Minnie Hall (née Varley) (RCS/RCMS 413)

Robert Hall, a wounded WWI veteran, married Ione Minnie Varley in 1915. Ione was the daughter of Cromwell Oliver Varley and Minnie Varley. Cromwell Varley and his stepfather, Ion Hanford Perdicaris, were kidnapped in 1904 in Tangier, Morocco, in what was referred to as the ‘Perdicaris affair’. Robert and Ione Hall settled in Kenya in 1917 and, financed largely by the Varleys, purchased farms in Gilgil and Naivasha, including at least one property belonging to the author Karen Blixen. By the late 1920s, Robert and Ione’s marriage had started to disintegrate, and the couple started divorce proceedings which were much complicated by the issue of ownership of the properties in Kenya and the monies loaned by the Varleys. The collection comprises several hundred letters between the pair and the extended Varley family on the travails of farming, settler life in colonial Kenya, the disintegration of the couple’s marriage and interactions with Maasai peoples. There a small number of photographs.

Penelope ‘Pepe’ Roberts: papers on Ghana (RCS/RCMS 383)

Pepe Roberts read social anthropology at Newnham College, Cambridge, before accepting a post with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Ghana at Akrokerri Teacher Training College. She returned to Ghana to research the outcomes of teacher training courses and the experience of rural schoolteachers. She ran a rural development project in Nigeria in the 1970s and later held teaching positions at the Universities of Reading and Liverpool. In 1969-1970 Roberts spent a year living in a village in western Ghana, learning the Sehwi [Sefwi] language and carrying out interviews with rural schoolteachers and students. Roberts’ papers comprise a series of field notebooks recording her observations on life in Sefwi Wiawso. She was also interested in the traditional court system, particularly the destoolment charges brought against the king or paramount chief Nana Kwame Tano II. The collection includes research notes, articles, offprints, photograph albums and a collection of slides. The photographs and slides mostly document festivals, ceremonies and village life in Ghana.

Papers of Alison Izzett (RCS/RCMS 407)

Alison Izzett was appointed as the first female Social Welfare Officer in Lagos in 1946, part of the newly formed Colony Welfare Office (CWO) in Nigeria. Izzett’s remit at the CWO was to tackle the issue of juvenile prostitution in Lagos. Her research and observations led to changes in the law to raise the minimum age for female street trading (or ‘hawking’) and to prevent girls under the age of 16 from moving to Lagos unaccompanied. Izzett’s journals cover eight tours of service in Nigeria between 1947 and 1960, and illustrate both her professional and personal life with details of inspection tours, social outings, trips around the region, the work of the CWO and related welfare bodies, and an account of a conference for social anthropologists held at Makerere College in Uganda, which also afforded Izzett the opportunity to travel to Kenya and the Sudan.

Pages from the journal of Alison Izzett detailing a visit to Ado Ekiti (RCMS 407/1)

Photographs of William Joseph Ward (RCS/Y302P)

William Ward was a customs and excise officer in Rangoon [Yangon], Karachi and Calcutta [Kolkata]. During the First World War, Ward served in the Rangoon Volunteer Rifles, and in the 96th and 98th Berar Infantry, a regiment of the British Indian Army, which saw action in East Africa and Mesopotamia [Iraq]. This mostly photographic archive documents Ward’s military and civilian career between 1911 and c. 1938, with a particular focus on Calcutta and customs and excise buildings across the Indian subcontinent. Very little is known of William Ward, neither his dates of birth and death, nor the names of his wife and children. However, a small selection of personal ephemera, including invitations and event programmes, hint at an active social life revolving around the Royal Calcutta Golf Club and the Customs Recreation Club.

Photographs of Calcutta, early 1920s (RCS/Y302P/1/7)

Edward Enoch Jenkins and Muriel Alice Jenkins (née Ackermann): personal papers and photographs (RCS/RCMS 414)

Enoch Jenkins studied law at Cambridge and entered the Colonial Service in 1925. He rose to senior positions in the British colonial judiciary system, including Solicitor General in Northern Rhodesia [Zambia], Attorney General in Fiji, Chief Justice in Nyasaland [Malawi], and served as Justice of Appeal for the Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa. The bulk of this collection, however, centres on Enoch’s wife, Muriel Ackermann, with a series of photograph albums documenting her upbringing on a farm in Southern Rhodesia [Zimbabwe] before and during the First World War. Later albums depict the Jenkins family as they followed Enoch’s postings around the world. The Jenkins were in Lusaka in 1935 when the city was formally celebrated as the capital of Northern Rhodesia; the collection includes Enoch’s copy of a privately published book celebrating the establishment of the new capital.

Photographs of the Ackermann family in Sebackwe, Southern Rhodesia [Sebakwe, Zimabwe] (RCMS 414/2/5)

The RCS catalogue can be accessed via the online catalogue, ArchiveSearch, and the collections are available for consultation in the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For enquiries, please contact

Other collections added to ArchiveSearch over the last year:

  • Anduze Family Papers (Trinidad) (RCS/RCMS 395)
  • ‘The Whistle’: manuscript periodical produced in Changi Prisoner-of-War Camp (RCS/RCMS 396)
  • Diaries of Sir William Himbury relating to the work of the British Cotton Growing Association in West Africa (RCS/RCMS 404)
  • Diary of Kenneth Albert Watson, interned in Argyle Street Camp, Hong Kong (RCS/RCMS 406)
  • Archives of the Commonwealth Institute collected by former director Stephen Cox (RCS/RCMS 409)
  • Brian Mull Collection relating to the East Africa Safari Rally (RCS/RCMS 411)
  • Photographs of India and Egypt, some of which relate to the work of the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee (COVIC) (RCS/Y302N)
  • Journey to Cochin [Kochi] (RCS/Y302O)
  • Photographs of Wilfred Court, an architect who worked in Ghana and Nigeria (RCS/Y302Q)
  • Kuala Krai [Kuala Kerai] tunnel construction photographs (RCS/Y30325A)
  • Leonard Palmer: photographs of Rhodesia [Zimbabwe] (RCS/Y3052X)