Lord Delamere was interestingly an indirect descendant of the first ever Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Robert Walpole. His family owned the Vale Royal Abbey which is a magnificent estate with some rich history of its own in Cheshire, UK. I tried to find out whether where the young Hugh Cholmondeley grew up had any impact on him but I’m yet to find that out. It seems he was less concerned with his own personal comfort and more with the affairs of both the settlers and the natives.
Getting pictures or architectural information about the Soysambu ranch is difficult but I won’t give up just yet…Being extensively wealthy and the owner of huge chunks of land, it’s not surprising that he was known as the Cecil Rhodes of Kenya. Its believed that British settlers followed him both spiritually and politically. Such was his influence that he became president of the Colonists’ Association and a member in the Legislative council. Historians believe he genuinely was fond of Africans and particularly the Maasai. The Lord even entertained the British Under-Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill, on his maiden visit to Kenya. Well, I think thats as far as I will go about Lord Delamere.
A city of its size, Nairobi has a number of suburbs and areas. The colonials seem to have influenced, to this day, both the diversity and segregation of our suburbs as they are today. The British preferred the leafier western sections of Kileleshwa, Lavington, Highridge, Parklands, Gigiri and Runda although Kangemi and Dagoretti were exceptions, possibly workers who served the colonials were allowed to settle here. Picture this, if you were to look at say, Google Earth, viewing Nairobi, the West of the city happens to be much greener than the East! Try it… The colonials loved trees and wide picturesque avenues.
Meanwhile the Africans were handed settlements and estates in places to the east such as Dandora, Huruma, Pumwani, Kariobangi, Kariokor and Embakasi. Interesting to note, The East African Women’s League took it upon themselves to construct a Maternity facility for African women. They turned to the wife of the new Governor, Lady Grigg who formed a child welfare and maternity league and helped raise around Shs.17,000 for the Lady Grigg Maternity Home at Pumwani (now Pumwani Maternity Hospital) in 1928. This happens to be the reason why you may come across predominant industrial and mass market British architecture here.
The Asians ‘coolies’ who were brought to help construct the railway, mostly settled around what is today Starehe constituency, harbouring suburbs such as Southlands, parts of Parklands and Ngara. If you take a look at the architectural influence in these areas, you will see numerous oriental and ornate gables, intricately designed mosques, fabulous temples and a few shrines…
Much of what is today Lavington area initially belonged to the French Holy Ghost Fathers and was known as St Austins mission. Now you know why there are numerous schools or missionary-themed ammenities in the leafy suburb: Strathmore, St. Mary’s School, St. Austin’s School and Loreto Convent but to mention a few. The neighbourhood was quiet with a single shopping centre, Lavington Green, serving the entire area. The British settlers would commune there regularly over chat and brunch and the properties were modestly sized and characteristically renaissance themed Anglo Saxon brick structures with brown tiled roofs.
Danish author Karen Blixen migrated to Kenya in the 1910s and took on coffee farming. This was primarily towards the section of the city that is now Karen-Langata. There wasn’t much infrastructural development in that area, mainly because of the agricultural encroachment up until just after the second world war when the land was sub divided into 5 to 40 acre parcels of land and distributed to colonial government workers and ex-British forces. The Nairobi Urban District Council (now the City Council of Nairobi) attempted to impose building by laws in the area but they were aggressively opposed by residents who did not want to be told how to utilize their large tracts of land. After independence however, the newly formed CCN extended the boundaries of the city and Karen-Langata area came under by-law control. Nairobi begun growing at a rapid rate towards the 70s and 80s though, but this particular part of the city was experiencing slow development because of the large tracts of land residents owned: it also proved difficult and expensive to supply services over such huge distances. In order to spur growth, the City Council further subdivided the land making it more affordable for middle income Kenyans and increase its service charges.
The Central Business District of Nairobi arguably went through some of the most dynamic of changes. There’s usually a tussle about which was the most important of streets at the onset, but it seems Station Road (later to be Government Road) takes precedence, as the name suggests. Nairobi’s 3rd Avenue was another important street as it became the main artery way into the capital but was renamed Delamere Avenue in honour of one of the greatest of the Englishmen to settle in Kenya and even chair the Legislative council. An 8-foot bronze statue in his image was even erected at the avenue’s head, as his 2nd wife, Lady Gwladys became the first woman Mayor of Nairobi.
There is also the notion that the entire city is centered around the ‘City Square’ which is basically enclosed all round by the Holy Family Basilica, the Nairobi Law Courts, City Hall, the Parliament Buildings and KICC. Did you know that what is currently the Bank or Baroda building right next to the ICEA building on Kenyatta Avenue used to be the Library for the East African Women’s League? The EAWL was led by Lady MacMillan. In the course of the research I undertook to begin the series, I discovered there is more and more that I would like to encompass and therefore in my next post I will cover Nairobi CBD solely, almost building by building…tell me what you think…