Papers of Sir George Farrar and family

Scope and Content

  • Photographs, correspondence, newspaper cuttings relating to mining activities in South Africa, 1871-1929
  • Telegrams, newspaper cuttings, photographs, etc. concerning the Jameson Raid, 1896
  • Maps, correspondence, etc. relating to the South African War, [1899-1906]
  • Correspondence, newspaper cuttings, cartoons, etc. relating to political career, 1903-1915
  • Visitors' book from Farrar's farm during the South African War, with cartoon sketches, postcards, etc., 1900-1902
  • Correspondence, newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to social and family activities, including accounts of a journey to the Victoria Falls, 1900-1919
  • Correspondence, photographs, telegraphs, newspaper cuttings, etc. concerning field of service in World War One and his subsequent death and funeral, including household inventory, will and related papers, 1909-1975
  • Biographical notebooks, c1915-1919
  • Personal and family photographs, c1864-1920
  • Newspaper cuttings concerning members of the Farrar family and Benoni, the township founded by Sir George Farrar, 1904-1982
  • Miscellaneous items, 1908-c1970

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir George Farrar (1859-1915) was educated at Bedford Modern School before entering his uncle's engineering firm (Howard, Farrar and Co.). In 1879 he travelled to South Africa to represent the firm in the Cape. The discovery of goldfields in the Transvaal led him to move to the Witwatersrand in 1886. Seven years later he established the East Rand Proprietary Mine (ERPM) company. In 1893 he married Ella Mabel Waylen, with whom he had six daughters

The lack of political representation in the Transvaal for 'uitlanders' (English settlers) caused Farrar to become a leading member of the Reform Committee. The organisation was implicated in the Uitlander Risings in Johannesburg (timed to co-ordinate with the Jameson Raids of 1896), after which he was sentenced to death, though the sentence was later commuted to fines and a three year ban on political participation.

During the South African War of 1899-1902 he was a major on the Colonial Division staff, responsible for intelligence-gathering. For his work during the conflict he was knighted and awarded the DSO. In 1902 he was elected President of the Transvaal Chamber of Mines, though he resigned the presidency in 1904 to return to a career in politics.

In 1905 he was elected president of the Transvaal Progressive Association and won the seat for Boksburg East in Transvaal's first general election, 1907. After his election he was appointed Leader of the Opposition to Botha's government. He campaigned for the unification of the South African colonies and later merged his Progressive Party with Jameson's Cape Unionists to form the Unionist Party. In 1910 he was elected member of Parliament for Georgetown (Johannesburg) in the first elections of the Union of South Africa. The following year he was created a baronet. He retired from politics in 1911 in order to deal with management problems at ERPM.

In World War One he was appointed Assistant Quarter-Master General for the campaign in German South West Africa, with responsibility for rebuilding the sabotaged railway line through the desert so that South African troops could advance. He died in 1915 from injuries sustained in an accident on the railway.

Conditions Governing Access

Bodleian reader's ticket required.


Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available in the library reading room.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Custodial History

The papers are listed as being stored in the muniment room of the Lowther (nr. Penrith) office of Lowther Estate Management Services in 1977, under the ownership of Lord Lonsdale, Farrar's grandson.


  • One folder of newspaper cuttings and photographs relating to Sir George Farrar, 8th June 1995
  • Two photographs of the jail at Pretoria in which the leaders of the Jameson Raids were imprisoned, October 1995
  • Three photograph albums (South Africa mining, 1878, Sir George Farrar's funeral, family photographs) and one album of obituaries for Sir George Farrar, 1915, January/February 1996
  • Fifteen photographs and five watercolour sketches of the Farrar family and their farm in South Africa, 7th March 1996

Related Material

Seven typewritten chapters of Farrar's memoirs, relating to the foundation of his family firm of mining engineers, his part in the Johannesburg Reform Movement and imprisonment after the Jameson Raid, with associated letters on South African politics, etc., 1893-1952 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1737).

Family Names