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Norris, Robert Provo, d. 1851.

Robert Provo Norris Collection, 1846-1854.

Physical Description:
2.0 linear feet (1 box)
Rare Books and Manuscripts
MSS 11
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
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View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
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Robert Provo Norris was born ca. 1825 at Broome in Norfolk, England, the eldest son of Reverend D.G. (Dennis George) Norris, a Church of England parson who was Vicar of St. Edmund Church, Kessingland, Suffolk for 35 years.
On 9 June 1846, Norris joined the 6th Regiment in Kessingland and was stationed there for approximately two months. By 30 July 1846, he had left Kessingland and travelled to Cork, Ireland, where he remained for over one month. In early September 1846, Norris and the rest of his regiment were sent to the Cape of Good Hope. For much of the 19th century, the British were engaged in many frontier wars in South Africa, including but not limited to the Seventh Frontier War or the War of the Axe (1846-1847), the Xhosa/"Kaffir" Wars (1850-1853 and 1877-1878), and the Anglo-Zulu War (1879).
Although he spent over five years in South Africa, Norris was not involved in all of the Cape's numerous frontier wars. When sent to South Africa in 1846, he was first stationed at Fort Peddie, a camp situated between the Fish and Keiskamma Rivers, approximately 20 miles from the Indian Ocean. Norris and other members of the 6th Regiment were subsequently sent to Cape Town, thereby avoiding the skirmishes of the War of the Axe from 1846 to 1847. In addition, Norris spent some time at Fort Cox and approximately seven months at Fort White, where, in 1848, he was promoted to Lieutenant in the 6th Regiment.
While in Cape Town, however, Norris prepared for the forthcoming military campaigns and enjoyed weekly socializing with fellow soldiers and other British citizens living on the Cape of Good Hope. He also occupied his time by concentrating on his artwork, making watercolors and drawings of local scenes and people. Norris' diaries and art reflect his observations of life in South Africa, and his writings trace the development of a friendship and romantic relationship with a young woman named Annie de Smidt. Annie was a member of the well-established de Smidt family, of Dutch origin, who had settled in Cape Town in the early years of the nineteenth century. In June, 1850, Norris' regiment was moved to the eastern frontier and involved in skirmishes during the early days of the Xhosa ("Kaffir") War.
In October 1851, members of the South African Xhosa people, then known to Britons as "Kaffirs," were gathering in great numbers near the Amatola Mountains and the town of Waterkloof, close to the Kroomie Mountains. Norris's 6th Regiment, consisting of approximately 611 soldiers and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Michell, was ordered to march toward the Kroomie Mountains and attack the stronghold of the Xhosa chief, Maqomo. During the early morning of October 14, 1851, while pursuing the Xhosa into the depths of the Kroomie mountain range, Norris was shot trough the abdomen as he lead his men into battle near the edge of a deep ravine; he died in his sleep later that same day. His body was taken to a nearby military post and buried by a clergyman of the English Church, Reverend J. Wilson.
The collection comprises personal diaries, watercolors, and drawings by Robert Provo Norris, most of which were created while he was a soldier stationed on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa during the Frontier ("Kaffir") Wars of the 1840s and 1850s. It also includes letters written by other correspondents and miscellaneous manuscripts about his life and death. The bulk of the collection represents the years 1846-1851.
The collection is arranged into four series: I. Diaries; II. Correspondence and Writings; III. Sketchbook; IV. Watercolors and Drawings.
Subject Terms:
British -- South Africa -- History -- 19th century.
Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) -- Description and travel.
Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) -- History -- 1795-1872.
De Smidt, Annie, 19th cent.
Great Britain -- Colonies -- Africa -- History -- 19th century.
Great Britain. Army. -- Military life.
Great Britain. Army. Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Hall, Morris, Captain -- Correspondence.
Mansergh, John Craven -- Correspondene.
Michell, John, Sir, 1781-1866 -- Correspondence.
Norris, Dennis George, b. 1798 or 9 -- Correspondence.
Norris, Robert Provo, d. 1851 -- Diaries.
Norris, Robert Provo, d. 1851.
South Africa -- Description and travel.
South Africa -- History -- Frontier Wars, 1811-1878.
South Africa. Army. Imperial Cape Mounted Riflemen.
Xhosa (African people)
Xhosa (African people) -- Colonization -- South Africa -- Cape of Good Hope.
Ethnic stereotypes.
Graphite drawings.
Landscape drawings -- South Africa.
Travel sketches -- South Africa.
Views -- South Africa.
Hall, Morris, Captain.
Mansergh, John Craven.
Michell, John, Sir, 1781-1866.

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