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DURNFORD, Anthony William, (Lt.-Col)

Born: 1830 05 24
Died: 1879 01 22


A son of General EW Durnford, RE Durnford entered the ROYAL ENGINEERS Corps and after service in Ceylon and elsewhere, was appointed Acting Colonial Engineer in command of the Royal Engineers, commandant of Police and commandant of Volunteers in Natal in November 1873. He was Acting Colonial Engineer between the retirement of Peter PATERSON and the appointment, in 1875, of Captain AH HIME, RE Durnford quickly became unpopular with the Natal colonists when he struck up a friendship with the highly controversial Bishop JW COLENSO, with whom he shared a concern about the fair treatment of the native in Natal. Durnford was principally, and successfully, concerned with road-making in Natal. He reputedly designed several forts and block-houses, and signed the plans for the Natal Mounted Police fort at Estcourt. This fort was built after the Langalibalele incident at Bushman's Pass in November 1873, an affair which added to his unpopularity. Despite a severe elbow wound he was back at work within a few days, designing fortifications for Pietermaritzburg. He returned to England after his dismissal but came back within a few months to fight in the Zulu War. He was killed in battle of Isandlwana in 1879.

The attack of his character during the first period of his time in Natal was such that his brother, E Durnford, felt compelled to write an account of his life (A Soldier's Life, (1882)) shortly after his death.

According to Kearney (1973:39) the blockhouse in Estcourt was named after him but other sources claim it to be named after his uncle George Durnford, of the 24th the first magistrate in Pietersmaritzburg.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Blockhouse, Fort Durnford: 1874. Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal - Architect

Books citing DURNFORD

Durnford, Edward. 1882. A soldier's life and work in South Africa, 1872 to 1879 : a memoir of the late Colonel A.W. Durnford. London: S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington. pp All

HSRC. 1977. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume III. Pretoria: Tafelberg for The Human Sciences Research Council. pp 249-250

Kearney, Brian. 1973. Architecture in Natal from 1824 1893. Cape Town: Balkema. pp 39