Fonds BC281 - Batts Papers

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Batts Papers


  • 1873-1936 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

140 items

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Biographical history

Henry James Batts was born on 12th September 1856, near Lymington in Hampshire, England, one of seven children. His father was head gardener on the estate of Colonel and the Hon. Mrs. Clinton and H.J.B. learnt the three R's at the Village of Milton School, from the clerk of the parish church. When he was fourteen years old and had received some training from his father, he went to work at a plant nursery in Southampton, where his elder brother was also employed. The boys lived with a Mr Young, who took H.J.B. to the Carlton Baptist church "and that led to the alteration of my religious outlook and also of my life work and destiny"1At the Carlton Baptist Church, where he was greatly influenced by the Rev. Edwin Osborne, he became a Sunday School teacher and tried to improve himself academically, as he had had a very elementary education. His family had always considered the ministry an exclusive caste, but the Rev. Osborne persuaded H.J.B. to take instruction and he was given preaching engagements, until he was accepted at Spurgeon's College in London, when he was twenty years of age. After two years of study and more preaching experience he was unexpectedly approached by the President of the College, C.H. Spurgeon, to go to a church in Wale Street, Cape Town, South Africa, as a substitute minister for six months. Although he felt inadequately prepared for such responsible work in a new country, he sailed for South Africa in September 1878, not knowing that the whole of his ministerial life was to be spent in South Africa. During the next fifty eight years he also served in Port Elizabeth, Kingwilliamstown, Pretoria (during the Anglo Boer War), Claremont in the Cape, Durban, Grahamstown and finally back in the Cape. H.J.B. married Mary Georgina Pilkington Rawbone of Cape Town in 1881 and they had five daughters. He was the author of two books: 'A History of the Baptist Church in South Africa' and 'Pretoria from within ‑ during the War'. He died in Rondebosch, Cape Town in January 1937, aged 81.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The Rev. H.J. Batts Papers were presented to the University of Cape Town Libraries in 1961 by his granddaughter, Mrs. Aldyth Scott

Scope and content

56 diaries (1878‑1936), autobiographical notes, personal papers and correspondence.


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No restrictions apply

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Language of material

  • English

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Rev. Batts also wrote articles and sermons on many diverse subjects and there are newspaper clippings and photographs to illustrate his work in the Baptist Ministry and life in South Africa at the end of the 19th century, and during the first third of the 20th century. Besides biographical information, the collection is of special interest because of the Rev. Batts' involvement with the Baptist Church in South Africa for over fifty years and his first hand observations of the South African scene during and just prior to the Anglo Boer War. His two books ‑ "The History of the Baptist Church in South Africa, 1820‑1920" (BA 286 BATT ‑ 61/1645) and "Pretoria from Within during the War 1899‑1900" (BA 968.691 BATT ‑74/5223) are in the University library and available to researchers.

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  • English



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