Fort Ingwenya and Cemetery

National Monument No.: 
67
Why Visit?: 

 

  • This fort was built in September or early October 1896 under the supervision of Lieut-Col. (later Lord) Baden-Powell and is still in excellent condition.
  • The fort may not have been typical as the dry-stone walls appear to enclose a larger area than most rebellion forts.  It was usual to have outside, but under cover of the fort, a double line of pole and dhaka huts which would house the garrison of probably about 25 men. Wagons, mess huts, telegraphist and hospital were usually outside the fort as it was never expected that the forts themselves would ever have to resist prolonged attack as the battles of Shangani River and Bembezi had shown the Matabele the futility of trying to attack laagers protected by Maxim guns.
  • A fort represented a show of force, a stronghold only occupied as a last resort. Collapsed dry-stone walling outside the Ingwenya fort may have been cattle kraals for keeping cattle confiscated from the Ndebele. 

How to get here: 

From the main Harare Bulawayo national road (A5) pass through Redcliffe. Distances are from Hunters Road Station. Just before the national road crosses the railway track turn right and head south for 1.3 KM and then turn west, 5.4 KM turn left, 13.4 KM turn left heading south, 13.7 KM turn right heading west, 17.5 KM continue straight heading south west, 23.7 KM reach Fort Ingwenya on the left side between the Hunters Road and the Ingwenya River. The fort is on the south east end of a hill with excellent views to the east and south.

The old Hunters Road sweeps around the west side of the hill on which Fort Ingwenya is sited and then goes due south to cross the old Ingwenya River Bridge. The cemetery is 240 metres down the old track which was the original Hunters Road and about 100 metres west. The cemetery has the remains of seven civilians killed in the district at the outbreak of the Rebellion. Harbord’s Store foundations are visible west of the present day Matobo Road.

Note Hunters Road is in poor condition and the easier route, although longer, is via the Matobo Road from Gweru to Silobela described below

To return to the A5 return to the modern road and continue on 300 metres to the intersection with the Matobo Road and turn left shortly after crossing the Ingwenya River bridge and continue on the Matobo Road which is mostly narrow tar in good condition for 42.6 KM before reaching Gweru.

This is an area of intensive artisanal gold mining (diggings can be seen on Google Earth) and the area is full of unmarked shafts with miners living in make-shift shelters and any visitors need to exercise care. A local miner, Maramwidze, guided me to the fort and cemetery which I probably would not have otherwise found! Close to the cemetery on the old Hunters Road are the remains of a blue pick-up that detonated a land-mine in the 1970’s.

GPS reference for Fort: 19⁰10′51.23″S 29⁰36′04.77″E

GPS reference for the cemetery: 19⁰10′43.51″S 29⁰35′50.40″E

GPS reference for Harbord’s Store: 19⁰10′52.89″S 29⁰35′35.63″E

 

Fort Ingwenya (either from Ngwena (chiShona for crocodile) or Ingwenya (isiNdebele for hippo) – most likely the latter) was built at the end of the 1896 Rebellion, or First Umvukela and is on a hill 330 metres in a north east direction from the old Ingwenya River Bridge where the Hunter's road cut by Thomas Baines crossed the river and then ran around the foot of the hill.

Harbord’s store site is on the northwest side of the new Ingwenya River Bridge and was a stopping place for coach travellers going to Fort Salisbury (Harare) on the Hunter's road. The foundations of the store are still visible as indicated on the sketch below. Fort Ingwenya became one of a chain of forts which included Tuli, Fort Victoria, Fort Gibbs, Gwelo Laager and Kopje, KweKwe River Fort and Salisbury.

Ingwenya Fort occupies a good position overlooking the bridge site to the south-west and has steep slopes on three sides and a flat open space to the north. It is built of dry-stone walling and is roughly a square of 24 metres with round bastions, or turrets, at both the northern-west and south-east ends. The south-east bastion is larger with a radius of 5 – 6 metres and was probably designed for a Maxim gun. Peter Garlake states that they were only introduced into forts built after 1896. There is a fire step two feet wide and a foot high on the inside of each bastion and on part of the north-west, north-east and south-west walls. The single fort entrance faces north and had a fire wall on the inside where the defenders could defend the entrance. The fire-wall is just 4 metres long and self-supporting and has largely collapsed. The walls of the fort are three feet thick and five feet high. The whole structure is still in fairly good condition, the only walls which have collapsed being on the south-west and the entrance fire-wall.  Inside there was probably a sun-dried brick store roofed with corrugated iron. Horses might be stabled within the fort, or at the base of the wall and the whole was encircled by an outer thorn abattis.

I am a bit puzzled by the description in Ian Tomes’ article which says that in 1993 not much can be seen of the fort and that it is difficult to trace on the ground. He also states the location south of the cattle fence on the 1:50,000 map is incorrect and that it is 50-100 metres to the north of the fence. None of these facts applied in 2015. The fort is in good condition, the walls are easily traceable as the photos show and the site is south of the fence line! 

Nearby is a Pioneer cemetery containing six graves and a wooden memorial which has probably been destroyed in a veldt fire. Two strong patrols of the 7th Hussars under Lieut-Col. Baden-Powell and Lieut-Col. Ridley had entered the Somabhula forest area in September, six months after the start of outbreak of the Matabele Rebellion on 23rd March 1896 and recovered and buried the bodies of the men who had been killed at Harbord’s store close to where the Hunter’s Road crossed the Ingwenya River.  

In 2015 the metal cross markers are now clustered together as the photograph shows; although the cemetery was originally laid out as the above 1993 sketch shows when all six names were present. The metal cross markers which still include identifiable names are:

Farrar, Lower Gwelo, end March, a prospector with unknown companion.

Fitzpatrick, Thomas, Ingwenya, March 25, Surveyor, killed 100 yards north of Harbord's Store.

Harbord, Horace M., near Maven, end March, the owner of the store on this site.

St. Leger Grenfell, Pascoe from Inyati, while on his way to Bubi. He was manager of a company.

The two names now missing are:

Dupua, Wilhelm, 30th March, Lower Gwelo

Dixon, George W.B. Ingwenya, end of March

The last two are named in the BSA Company Reports on the Native Disturbances in Rhodesia, 1896-7, but not in Appendix A of FC Selous’ Sunshine and Storm in Rhodesia.   The cemented stone monument behind Fitzpatrick’s grave is now mostly destroyed and even in 1993 the name was missing.

The following are known to have been killed at Ingwenya Store;

Hartley, Joseph, end March, killed a 100 Yards north of Harbord's Store, Ingwenya with Fitzpatrick.

Stobie, James, en route to Bulawayo, March 25, Captain Pocock's Camp, killed with Hartley.

Others killed in the area included:

Ireland, killed on the road from Ingwenya to Gwelo, in early April

Wyllie, David, Gwelo, end March, Arizona Camp, near Ingwenya, worked for Warwick Colliers

 

 

Acknowledgements

R. Burrett. Gweru and its environs: A glimpse of the Matabele Uprising – First Umvukela, 1896. Heritage of Zimbabwe No 15, 1996 P37-56

I.J. Cross. Rebellion Forts in Matabeleland. Rhodesiana No 27, December 1972 1-28

P.S. Garlake. Pioneer Forts in Rhodesia 1890 – 1897. Rhodesiana No 12 September 1965.

I. Tomes. The Midlands in 1896, Heritage of Zimbabwe No 18, 1999 P59-75

 

 

When to visit: 
All year around
Fee: 
Entrance free
Category: 
Province: