Agency Chambers, Main Street, Bulawayo.
Research notes, internet correspondence etc. A work in progress.
-----Original Message-----
Sent: 21 November 2009
Subject:  Early 1900s - Name Rance - Family History
Hi all,
I am wondering if anyone doing research around the early 1900s could keep an
eye out for the name John Rance.
He was a builder and was the contractor on the Agency Chambers in Bulawayo
(possibly built around 1906) and I understand he also had something to do
with building the bridge at the Falls and possibly Victoria Falls Hotel. His
son also worked on the Victoria Falls Hotel and his son (my grandfather)
remembers having to go and change the points on the railway track, so I
think they may have been working on the later build of the chapel.
I am trying to find out when exactly John first went to Rhodesia as he is
missing from the 1901 census in UK and I have my suspicions he went out as
volunteer in Boer War, but I can't prove it.
So if anyone comes across anything I would be most grateful to have info!
kind regards
-----Original Message-----
From:  On Behalf Of Cindy Armstrong
Sent: 18 January 2010 
Subject: Agency Chambers Bulawayo + E Squadron 1899
Could somebody please help me out with a bit of a mystery regarding Agency
Chambers in Bulawayo?
I have been sent a photo from the Kransdorffs who used to own Agency
Chambers, which you can see at¤t=age
ncy1.jpg (click on thumbnail to enlarge picture)
There is a discrepancy on dates vis it being Matabele Rebellion as stated.
If indeed it is 1899 then my assumption would be that the E Squadron
mentioned is Boer War contingent from NSW, Australia. Any thoughts on that?
But also - can anyone verify for me that that is indeed Agency Chambers on
the left? If it is then dates for my great great grandfather being in
Bulawayo change as I know he was the contractor for the Chambers, but
according to a 1960's newspaper clip it was built around 1906.
Please do not take a copy of this photo. It has been sent to me in good
faith by the Kransdorffs and I would consider it being under copyright to
Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
Kind regards
From: Robin Griffiths
Subject: Re: [TPS] Agency Chambers Bulawayo + E Squadron 1899 
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 2010 
Hi Cindy
Yes, that is Agency Chambers. I worked at the radio broadcasting studios
within the Post Office in the adjacent city block in the early 1960's.
During one of my night shifts the Chambers caught fire and I was astonished
to see the beautifully laid face bricks in the tower become semi-transparent
due to the extreme heat of the fire. I have a picture of the area taken
circa 1967 and the building is demolished.
27 May 2010  
Dear Robin Griffiths and Cindy Armstrong,
Have come across your correspondence on the subject of Agency Chambers 
when attempting to find its date of construction. 
I have an interest in the matter as my grandfather was probably the first tenant 
of the top floor of the building. It had the offices of Fletcher & Espin, land surveyors. 
I have early photographs taken from the southern turret at the top, looking both 
north and south down Main Street. 
I would be interested to talk to you about this and other Rhodesiana.
Best wishes.
Neil Fletcher
Western Australia. 
Hi Ian
Thanks for emailing! Do you know what date your grandfather took up tenancy?
I have managed to contact previous owners of agency chambers who sent me 
the attached picture. In a newspaper article about the death of my great grandfather 
(and a fire that swept through Agency Chambers on the day he was buried)
 Agency Chambers was stated as being built in 1906, but this photo is dated 1899 
and is shows volunteers for the 2nd Boer War. I have been unable to find out anything
 else about the date it was built, but I would definetely be intersted to hear 
more about the offices your grandfather occupied!
Kind regards
27 May 2010 
Dear Cindy
Many thanks for your letter. That is a most beautiful and interesting photo. 
Can you tell me more about it - where it came from etc? My grandfather was a captain
under Colonel Napier and was present at the relief of Mafeking, but I do not know much 
about that particular bit of history, or what role E Squadron played. Do you have any 
information about them?
I should imagine my grandfather moved into Agency Chambers when it opened, more or
less. He came to Bulawayo with the Pioneer Column in November 1893, and began laying 
out the town of Bulawayo on the 4th January 1894. He used a thatched Kaffir hut as an office 
to start with, and then moved into a corrugated iron shed, not far north of where
Agency Chambers came to be built. Do you have a book called Bulawayo - Historic
Battleground of Rhodesia, by Oliver Ransford.? There is much about my grandfather in
that, although romanticised somewhat. He was called Pat Fletcher. It is possible his
company were tenants of A.C. till 1926 or so. .......
For a number of years I have been engaged on an internet family archive which contains 
a considerable amount of Rhodesiana. I would be interested to know about your connection
 with A.C. and so on. Might I ask where you live now?
With best wishes
Neil Fletcher. 
Thank you for getting back to me. I too shall be away until next week but I would very much 
like to hear more about your family, and see the photos! As an amateur historian I am very 
interested in the early days of Bulawayo (which is where I was born). I know the book you 
refer to, but have been unable to get hold of a copy (although I have built up quite an 
extensive library over the years!). My interest lies very much in the "ordinary" people who 
built and lived in early Bulawayo. My great great grandfather's life in Bulawayo is still a bit 
of a mystery to me with the Agency Chambers being about the only link I have to when he 
may have first gone over. He never actually settled there as I have him listed in later UK 
census reports and various shipping registers that may be him (no full name given) going 
backwards and forwards. My great grandfather was the one who finally settled in Bulawayo, 
in the early 1920s. I remember my grandfather mentioning something about him applying 
for membership of the Pioneers and Early Settlers Society, but being refused on account 
of the year. He always said that we were "one year out", which would fit with the date of the 
agency chambers picture (1899). The photograph was sent to me by a member of the 
Kransdorff family who owned Agency Chambers, but unfortunately no other records of the 
chambers held by them survive.
My conneciton with Agency Chambers is its actual building. My great great grandfather, 
John Rance, was the contractor, so would surely have worked with the surveyors! 
His son, my great grandfather, Albert, also worked on the building with him. 
The day my great grandfather was buried there was a fire at the chambers and the link 
was reported in the Chronicle I don't have a copy here at work - but I can send you one 
next week if you are interested. According to my mother when my great grandmother was 
dying they closed off the street where they lived so she couldn't be disturbed, but I can't 
vouch for the truth of that!
Both John and Albert also worked on the Vic Falls Hotel and my grandfather remembers 
being there when they were working on it becuase he had to keep running out and changing 
the points (I think that's what they are called!) for the train, so working on dates I should 
imagine that was the later chapel build. My grandfather also always claimed that my 
great great grandfather worked on the Vic Falls bridge, but I have found nothing to prove 
that yet.
As for E Squadron - I have not been able to find any information on them yet, but fully admit 
that since receiving the photo I have not had the time to dedicate to proper research 
(my research is pretty much a winter thing to keep me going through the long dark days 
[now resident in UK]).
Kind regards
RE: Agency Chambers, BulawayoThursday, 27 May, 2010

Hi Neil
I would be very happy to discuss these subjects with you.  
I've just returned to Durban after my first visit to Perth.  I was visiting three of my children, 
their spouses and my seven grandchildren and a sister and two nieces who live there.
Robin Griffiths

Sent: 27 May 2010 
Subject: RE: Agency Chambers, Bulawayo
Hello Robin
Many thanks for your reply. I am off to Perth for a few days and will get in
touch soon after I return.
What is your connection with Bulawayo, if I may ask?. 
My family went there in 1893. I had to leave in 2003. 
Best wishes
Neil Fletcher
RE: Agency Chambers, Bulawayo, 
27 May, 2010 
My maternal grandfather started a farrier/wheelwright and farming business
in Bulawayo in 1902.  He had come over from New Zealand as a 
Sergeant Farrier to participate in the Anglo-Boer War and stayed.  My maternal 
ancestors arrived in Swan River (Perth) in 1829, didn't find it suitable for farming 
and moved to Tasmania in 1832 and Dunedin, New Zealand in 1863. 
It is quite weird that three of my children ended up in Perth, thus going full circle. 
My British born paternal grandfather was employed by Smart & Copley Chemists, 
in Bulawayo, as a professional photographer in 1907.  My mother was born there in 
1916 and my father in 1912.  Six of my seven children were born there in the 1960's 
but I was born in Grahamstown.  I went to both Milton Schools between 1949 and 1956 
and worked for the FBC, SRBC, RBC, ZRBC and ZBC in Salisbury and Bulawayo 
between 1960 and 1981 and served in the BSAP Radio Workshops in Bulawayo during 
the troubles.

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"E Squadron on the march from Bulawayo to Tuli - 1899" [?]

Main St. Bulawayo, looking North. From top of Agency Chambers (PF 2nd Office)

Agency Chambers

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