Old Manager’s House Mandala
This is a national monument and perhaps more of a living museum. Built in 1882, from sun-dried grass and mud and bricks, the Old manager’s House in mandala is the oldest European building in Malawi. Early European settlers used the house and fortified yard as a laager in times of armed conflict from the Angoni days to the Chilembwe Uprising. Defensive walls and towers extended from the main building.
The company Mandala was founded in 1878 by the African Lakes Corporation following the settling of missionaries in Blantyre two years earlier by the African Lakes Corporation. Until the end of the 19th century the Old Manager’s House was the centre of commerce for the company African Lakes Corporation. The head Office of ALC was in Glasgow and Mandala was their chief office in Africa.
The company carried out their various enterprises and housed their staff on the 6,940 acres of land acquired between the Mudi and Naperi streams. mandala stores could be found countrywide and traded in many different goods such as arms and ammunition, hardware, furnishings, coffee, clothing and much more. Mandala had diverse interests and also owned boats transporting passengers and cargo form the Mozambican coast to and within what was then Nyasaland via the Zambezi river, lake Nyasa and the Shire river.
The first officers appointed to the position of General Manager of Mandala were brothers John and Frederick Moir. they used the top floor as living quarters and offices took up the ground floor. the company’s headquarters and trade name became known as Mandala, which means light reflecting off pools of water used by locals to describe the glasses worn by John Moir.
In 1883, the Old Manager’s house also became home to the Standard Bank: the first formal bank in the country as well as in the region. In 1895 the bank was also able to import and distribute English coins. Still present today is the original door to the vault. Manufactured by James Paterson & Son of Glasgow, the solid cast iron door can still be seen from the framing room. Eighteen layers of paint have been laboriously removed to reveal its original state.
Mandala remained in the hands of the ALC until recent years when the latter slowly began to sell of its agricultural and other business interests. In 2002 the company’s motor business were taken over by the French company CFAO, the end of an era and the beginning of another.
to be continued….