‘Masongola’ The Old Residency



The Old Residency [1] is called Masongola by locals because of its hexagonal towers with window slits at either end of the super structure.


Completed in 1888, it was the residence and office for the first Commissioner and Consul General, Sir Harry Johnson, epitomising the formal establishment of colonial government in the then Nyasaland Protectorate.


Its dining room once served as a chamber for the Nyasaland Legislative Council.

The building was commissioned in 1886 by Nyasaland’s second Consul, Captain Hawes and built by Zomba’s first European entrepreneur John Buchanan for £600.


Its design was influenced by the need for protection from slave traders, its walls were constructed with locally burnt bricks and its first roof was made out of dried grass – later changed by Johnson in 1889 to corrugated iron sheets.


Johnston also collaborated with Dr Whyte, the botanist, to lay the gardens at the residency, and these are now known as the Zomba botanical gardens.


Over the years, the building’s uses have evolved from state residency to government hostel and now to privately owned hotel.


[1] Material largely drawn from Mell, A.H (1960) History of The Old Residency and Government House Zomba, Zomba: Government Printer

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