Ingenuity at Work

Edgar Whitehead decided to make the most of the Rhodesia’s raw materials in the building of Witchwood. He employed his oxen to move the local stone, sand and timber. He had delivered the thatching grass from a neighboring farm.

Ingenuity at Work
Finishing up Witchwood's ingenious kitchen chimney.

With the roof going on it was time to think about the interior. Beautiful hardwood timbers salvaged from the haunted forest’s windfalls would be used for the beams, skirting boards, picture rails, eaves, and half timbering the gable over the front door and, most importantly, a ten-foot-long six-foot-high built-in bookcase which, when stocked, would be his pride and joy.

The bulk of the furniture he would make on the farm, but he had sent out from England a chest of drawers, a wash-hand stand, chairs, dressing-table and writing table. Looking for an immediate income, he thought of selling Witchwood’s fine hardwood timber in the neighborhood but at seven shillings per cubic-foot for small lots it was hardly worth it. He began to search for a market in the furniture industry in England.

He designed the drawing room fireplace to throw out as little heat as possible but keep the house dry during the rainy season.  This too, would dry out the bedrooms behind. The kitchen chimney would double as an outside furnace for heating the bathwater. Two forty-four-gallon drums in the lower part of the chimney would hold hot water. The stone masonry would keep the water hot for hours.

Incubating season was upon him.  He couldn’t leave the chickens for more than three hours at a time. He needed to keep pace with construction of pens, boxes and food and drinking troughs to house and feed the new chicks. There was never a dull moment.

From England, his brother Hugh sent out grass seed, Redwood and deciduous Cypress, rhododendron, azaleas and camellias to experiment with in his pleasure garden.

And, once he settled in, he had plans for a dam…he knew just the spot, visualizing it to be about 250 yards long and 100 yards wide.  In it he would season his hardwoods and drive a power saw off the outlet pipe. He looked forward to the luxury of a bathing place in the hot weather and a bit of duck shooting for sport. He would stock it with blue gill. He estimated construction would cost £60.

From his experimental orchard he decided to focus on cherry and planted 3000 trees. But while waiting seven years for them to bear fruit he needed another source of income.

Umzimtuti Series

Check out both books on Amazon


The historical novel Whitewashed Jacarandas and its sequel Full of Possibilities are both available on Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks.

These books are inspired by Diana's family's experiences in small town Southern Rhodesia after WWII.

Dr. Sunny Rubenstein and his Gentile wife, Mavourneen, along with various town characters lay bare the racial arrogance of the times, paternalistic idealism, Zionist fervor and anti-Semitism, the proper place of a wife, modernization versus hard-won ways of doing things, and treatment of endemic disease versus investment in public health. They are a roller coaster read.


  • Material excerpted from Full of Possibilities. By permission, originally sourced from Sir Edgar Whitehead's Unpublished Memoirs, Rhodes House, Bodleian Library, Oxford University.
  • Photo credit: By permission Sir Edgar Whitehead's Unpublished Photograph Albums, Rhodes House, Bodleian Library, Oxford University.