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Archive of the Colenbrander family


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The material has been arranged as follows:

  1. Box 1: Papers of J.W.Colenbrander
  2. Box 2: Papers of J.C.A.L. Colenbrander
  3. Boxes 3-5: Transcripts of archive material, correspondence etc. made by J.C.A.L. Colenbrander
  4. Boxes 6-7/3: Photographs
  5. Boxes 7/4-10: Annotated books and other printed material


  • Creation: 1870-1995


1.5 Linear metres (10 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 2330/1, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 2330/1-7

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 1285


Papers of Johan William Colenbrander (1856-1918), his son, J.C.A.L. Colenbrander (1913-99) and other papers collected on J.W. Colenbrander's life.

Biographical / Historical

Biographical history compiled with reference to the Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume IV.

Johan William Colenbrander was born in Pinetown, Natal on 1 November 1856 to a Dutch family who had settled there in 1849. He led a varied and renowned life, participating in key events of the time such as the Zulu War, the visit of Lobengula's indunas to Queen Victoria, Rhodes' expansion into Mashonaland, the Ndebele Rebellion and the Anglo-Boer War. During the latter he raised and commanded a unit named 'Kitchener's Fighting Scouts'.

Various business ventures were started by Colenbrander in the periods between his military expeditions, including a big game hunting expedition targetted at Americans, but none of these proved successful. He tried hard to gain permission to raise a force during the First World War, but was denied the opportunity. In 1917 he obtained employment with I.W. Schlesinger's film company, helping to organise labour for the filming of 'The Symbol of Sacrifice'. He also played the part of Lord Chelmsford and was drowned as he tried to cross the Klip River on horseback on 10 February 1918.

Colenbrander was married three times: to Mollie Mullens in 1883 (she died in 1900), to Yvonne Nunn in 1902 (died 1904) with whom he had a daughter, Geraldine, and lastly to Catherine (Kathleen) Gloster in 1911, with whom he had a son, called Johan.

For a more detailed biography, please see the Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume IV.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received in several accessions from the early 1980s. Johan Colenbrander's son, J.C.A.L. Colenbrander, gathered a large amount of material on his father's life, much in preparation for a biography which was to have been written by the Marquis del Moral in the 1950s. The Marquis died in 1955 and the work was taken up by Tom V. Bulpin, who published The White Whirlwind in 1961. J.C.A.L. Colenbrander sent material to the Killie Campbell Library in Natal and to the Zimbabwe National Archives as well as the Bodleian. Many of the papers are photocopies of research notes and correspondence between J.C.A.L. Colenbrander and the various biographers, but there is a significant amount of original material relating to J.W. Colenbrander, particularly in the way of photographs. Some of this early material is in a fragile state as a result of a house fire in 1968. J.C.A.L. Colenbrander rescued the documents, but many are singed.

Related Materials

J.C.A.L. Colenbrander sent photocopies of material relating to his father to the Killie Campbell Library in Natal, South Africa, the Zimbabwean National Archives, and Yale Library, U.S.A. Yale Library also received some original photographs. Some artefacts relating to J.W. Colenbrander were housed at the Rhodes Memorial Museum, Bishops Stortford. A collection of love letters between J.C.A.L. Colenbrander's parents were retained by the family estate.

Archive of the Colenbrander family
Finding aid prepared by Amanda Hill, Lucy McCann and Marion Lowman
2010, EAD version 2018
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom