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Papers of the Rev. Will Freshwater and A. (Nancy) Freshwater

 Fonds — Multiple Containers
Identifier: Coll-1059

Scope and Contents

The collection - E2005.13 - is composed of typescript and manuscript material in the form of off-prints, articles, reports, notebooks, letters, postcards, and diary. There are also photographs.

Within the typescript material and collection of letters, there is: correspondence with users of the collection covering period 1980-1985; a copy of Manners and customs of the Ba-Bemba, collected by W. Freshwater, Mbereshi, 1906; manuscript postcard notes, and typescript notes by A. Freshwater (Nancy), 1908-1920; manuscript and typescript letters to A. Freshwater, 1936-1958; manuscript and typescript material being offprints, reports, draft reports, memoranda, and notes, 1900s-1930s; manuscript and some typescript letters to W. Freshwater, 1900s-1930s.

There is/are: a box photographic negatives; a copy of the Bemba New Testament, published in 1916, with an inscription dedicated to Will Freshwater; a copy of the Bemba Service Book and Hymn Book, published in 1932; a notebook of sermon notes; a notebook of names and addresses, 1907-1933; a notebook containing observations about the local people and related sermon notes; a notebook on local customs, history, and statistics; small cashbook/notebook containing pencil notes on various topics of African life; Greek language notes, dated 11 February 1901; notes on Bemba customs and sayings, notes on evangelising, and notes on Chibembe; notes on the Babemba, their manners and customs; notes dated 1908-1912; lecture notes on Surgery and Dispensary taken while at Livingstone College, 1902; lecture notes on Anatomy and Physiology taken while at Livingstone college, 1902; lecture notes on Medicine, Diagnosis, and Elements of Diagnosis taken while at Livingstone College, 1902; and, a copy of More of the Copper Belt, by Hugh Theobald.

There are also: photographs of mission houses; visitors book; photographs of local activity and items of furniture made in mission workshops; photographs of local modes of transport; photographs of church building and of local activities; Amapinda Mwa Kubelenga Abaichye, a book of childrens stories by W. Freshwater; Umwa Kubelenga Ifintu Fya Mu Cipingo Ca Kale, a book of bible stories; and, circa 200 envelopes sent from Central Africa to the UK with the original postage stamps and the franking of African postal stations.

Finally, there is a diary (Will Freshwater) covering the period 30 April to 5 June 1902 and a journal (also Will Freshwater) covering the period March 1903-December 1905 with notes on the Bemba people.

In addition - at E2011.03 - there is a copy of the Bible in the Bemba language, Baibele wa Mushilo uwabamo Icipingo ca Kale ne Cipingo Cipya (1956), a copy of the Bemba-English vocabulary (1926), and an edition of the Pilgrim's progress in the Bemba language, Ulwendo lwa Mwina-Klistu nga mu Chiloto (1926).


  • Creation: 1901-1985

Language of Materials

English Bemba

Conditions Governing Access

Most of this material is open for consultation, except for a small number of files which are closed in line with Data Protection legislation.

Biographical / Historical

Will Freshwater was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, England, on 1 November 1872. He attended school locally and then was apprenticed to a local cabinet maker at the age of 14. Freshwater became a Sunday school teacher and began accompanying preachers from the town's Independent Chapel into some of the villages in the area. He also became interested in evangelical work at this time.

On the completion of his apprenticeship, he went to Birmingham becoming a member of the city's Westminster Road Congregational Church in December 1894. He continued with Sunday school work and evangelised in lodging houses open-air meetings, and grew interested in the Church's missionary work which was fostered by the minister, the Rev. Charles Deeble. After discussing his ambition with Deeble, in 1899 Freshwater decided to become a full-time missionary, and in September 1899 he was admitted to Harley College, the headquarters of the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions, in Bow, London.

His training continued until January 1902 when he passed the examination of the London Missionary Society, and then he transferred to Livingstone College for a course in tropical medicine. Freshwater left London on 30 April 1902 bound for Africa aboard the 'S.S. Matabele' and to a tour of duty at Mbereshi Mission Station, 1902-1907 (Mbereshi being in modern Zambia).

In 1908, during a brief return to England, Freshwater married Nancy (Annie) Swingler, a schoolteacher in Market Harborough. After a honeymoon in Edinburgh, he and his new wife returned to Africa and were stationed in Mporokoso, also in Zambia (then Northern Rodesia), and a first child - Bernard Bruce - was born at Kambole on 28 February 1909. During this tour of duty he was in charge of the Mission Station and was on the District Committee and the Translation Committee. After a brief return to Britain, the family was posted to Kambole in 1913 but when war broke out in 1914 they returned to Mbereshi which was further away from the border with German East Africa (territories which include modern Burundi, Rwanda, and mainland Tanzania) and any hostilities.

Freshwater studied the local language - Chibembe - and contributed to the development of Central Africa through the fields of linguistic studies, language and translation, carrying out much work between 1920 and 1925. He participated in the translation of the New Testament into Chibembe. Between 1925 and 1932, he was in charge of the Mission Station at Kafulwe in the Lake Mweru district.

After a brief spell in Britain again in 1932-1933, a period of ill-health followed his return to Africa and he collapsed in 1934 after a journey to Capetown. On recovery in Bulawayo, he was placed at Fort Rosebery where he continued with translation work on the Old Testament. However, he had to return to Capetown for an operation and in March 1936 he wrote his last few lines home to relations in Britain from the Andres Murray Missionary Home in Capetown. Will Freshwater died on 25 April 1936 and was buried in the Woltemade No.1 Cemetery, Capetown, South Africa. Nancy Freshwater returned to England in 1938 and died in 1959.


3 boxes

2 folders

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession nos: E2005.13; and E2011.03.

Papers of Will Freshwater (1872-1936), and Mrs. A. (Nancy) Freshwater (1874-1959). L.M.S. Missionaries in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia)
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379