Richard Cranmer Dening - A life combining a passion for natural history with colonial life in Africa and travels to exotic places.

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Tales of Colonial Life in Northern Rhodesia

Richard (Tim) Dening lived and worked in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) as part of the Colonial Administration from 1947 until independence in 1964. He was a District Commissioner in Mwinilunga,   Mumbwa and Samfya Districts, later joining Central Government in Lusaka.

He was in charge of Districts which could be about the size of Wales (which has an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometres and is roughly equivalent to the size of the U.S. state of Massachusetts). The Districts contained small widely distributed populations and Tim would cover hundreds of miles visiting each village about twice a year (initially by bicycle!). He would hear appeals from the local courts, sort out complaints and land disputes, ensure the payment of tax to the local chiefly authorities, as well as a host of other tasks including maintaining bridges and roads.

Tim was ably assisted by his wife Elisabeth (Betty) who remembers life in the bush with something less than affection. However, their life in these isolated outposts threw up many fascinating tales to recount, some of which are included below. They are either written by Tim himself or reconstructed from stories told by Tim and Betty. There are also some excerpts from a local newsletter and a series of images of colonial life in the 1950s.





Tim kept an extraordinary assortment of papers from his days as a District Commissioner in Northern Rhodesia. These ranged from District tour reports, to prison records and all the minutiae of day to day administration.

These papers have been donated to the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, in Oxford, England. Anybody wishing to consult the papers should contact the library first for advice:

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and African Studies at Rhodes House, in Oxford, England. Anybody wishing to consult the papers d contact the library for advice


Gervas (Charles Robert) Clay

If you have enjoyed reading about Tim and Betty Dening's life in Northern Rhodesia, you may also enjoy visiting the fascinating memorial website of one of his colleagues in Northern Rhodesia, Gervas Clay.

Gervas lived to the ripe old age of 102. His website includes a wealth of personal papers relating to colonial life (with more being added by the day!).









Website: Copyright B.Corker 2008     Images: Copyright EGL Dening 2008