Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses.

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

Filtering by Category: BATTLEFIELDS

Unveiling of South African “Horse Memorial”

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British War Horse Hospital
(Illustration : Fortunino Matania)

A memorial to horses, mules and other animals killed in service during human conflicts and particularly the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, is to be unveiled at Weston Agricultural College near Mooi River in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, on 31 May 2009. The memorial is apparently one of only four in the world: the others are located in Port Elizabeth, Argentina and Britain.

Weston Farm and Weston Common were the site of the British Army’s Number 7 Remount Depot, in service from 1899-1913 and used during the South African War of 1899 -1902. It also served during the 1906 Bhambatha Rebellion. An estimated 30 000 horses and mules are believed to have been buried on the farmlands in the area, with thousands of these graves located on the farm where Weston Agricultural College, one of the area’s leading high schools, is situated.

Weston College farm manager Warren Loader, a military history enthusiast, and Jeannine Tait, history teacher and museum curator, believed that it would be fitting for military – and public – recognition to be given to animals lost in battles fought in this and other regions.

The Horses

“The memorial is not only in recognition of the thousands of British Army horses who arrived at Weston Remount Depot to be broken in and/or recover from the weeks-long sea and train journeys that brought them here, but also pays tribute to the thousands of Boer horses who served loyally alongside their masters during the Anglo-Boer,” says Paul Tait, Weston’s Principal.

Mounts for the British Army were brought to South Africa from Argentina, and suffered terribly during the sea voyage, with an estimated 13 000 dying before they even landed in Durban. Mules also paid a vital part in the war, and were imported for military purposes from America for the first time, also suffering terrible losses. Of 150 000 mules purchased, some 50 000 perished. Animals injured during battle were brought to Weston to recover from their wounds.

Boer mounts were hardy non-Thoroughbreds that could live off meagre grazing and travel for many miles a day. An assessment of the Boer ponies by an English source, concluded, “He is a hardy, in some essential respects a disease-proof, animal; his life has been largely spent in the open. Limited fare has rendered him both economical in use and an excellent forager...He is docile, hardy and wary, but small and frequently plain; he is light in both body and limbs, which leaves the impression that he is not up to the weight of the British soldier, although he mostly carries a man whose body weight is greater than that of the average mounted British soldier.”

The Memorial

Evidence of Weston’s history can be found daily, with horseshoes, buckles, bottles and other artefacts being unearthed all the time. The memorial has been designed in a horseshoe shape, mounted by an obelisk-shaped monument created out of old horseshoes found on the farm. The inverted horseshoes of this centrepiece are in keeping with the tradition at a cavalryman’s funeral, where his boots are reversed in the stirrups on his horse. The structure is topped with a specially crafted bronze statue of a horse that is the work of Weston old boy and acclaimed Midlands artist, Kim Goodwin. The monument is backed by a Wall of Remembrance where plaques commemorating the animals lost in the battle will be mounted. A box containing some bones of horses buried on the farm will be placed within the Wall of Remembrance.

The entire monument will be surrounded by shells donated by the Natal Mounted Rifles, one of the regiments to be present at the unveiling, which takes place on Sunday 31 May at 2.10pm. This is the exact time when the ceasefire between Boer and British was signed in 1902, when the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was agreed.

Weston College will host the consecration ceremony, assisted by the Cavalry Association, representing traditional mounted regiments, and the Natal Mounted Rifles (NMR) and Umvoti Mounted Rifles (UMR). Regiments have been invited to display their Colours and flags of the day will be flown at half-mast. A mounted Guard of Honour will be in attendance.

Fun Day

The unveiling of the memorial will be the highlight of a public open day at Weston, starting at 9am, with various horse-related activities such as dressage and carriage-driving displays, tent-pegging by the UMR team, battle re-enactments by the Dundee Diehards, pony club demonstrations, talks by battlefields' tour guides and historians Ken Gillings and Maureen Richards, tours of the College (including its museum and significant heritage sites on the property), plus static displays by the Society for Preservation of Militaria and others. A commemorative booklet will be on sale on the day.

Weston’s Long History

In the 1800s, the town of Mooi River as we know it today did not exist. Instead, the village of Weston, laid out in 1866 and named after Martin West, the first Governor of Natal, was the centre of human settlement, with a store, a post office, a pound and a hotel.

At the end of 1898, mounted troops from Pietermaritzburg were sent to Weston to protect their horses from the deadly horse sickness that flourished in warm, wet conditions. In mid-1899, the 18th Hussars, the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, and a brigade of the RFA from Ladysmith were sent to camp at Weston to avoid the enteric fever that was rife in Ladysmith. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in the latter part of that year, the Imperial authorities established a Remount Depot on the thousands of hectares of commonage near Weston, with the land being leased to the War Department.

Many of the original wood and iron buildings built for the remount depot remain in use. Three are provincial heritage sites – the officers’ mess, the commanding officer’s house, and a house built for doctors and nursing quarters for staff at Mooi River’s 600-bed, tented hospital. A 200-horse stable block, panelled stables for officer’s horses, old feed sheds and the original toll-house/post office (built in 1854 and today the farm stall), are in daily use. Some of the original red-brick College buildings were built in 1914.

Weston Agricultural College, its museum and the Horse Memorial are on the Midlands Meander tourist route, and as such are open to the public.

Weston Agricultural College

The College has a long-standing reputation as a learning establishment, with pupils combining an excellent academic education with hands-on farming experience in a genuine, sustained agricultural setting. As an operating farm, Weston is entirely self-sufficient and there are numerous farming enterprises underway on its 1200 hectare extent, set within a region with a rich farming heritage (dairy farming, cattle, potatoes, mealies, and world-class equine stud farms are just some of the agricultural enterprises that the area is known for). Surrounded by such a strong sense of history, many pupils become keen military history enthusiasts and trips to nearby battlefields are enjoyed. Horsemanship, too, continues to play a leading role, with the school producing many polo players of note.

A Memorial Ball will be held on Saturday 30 May at the college. The gate-fee for Sunday’s entertainment and the unveiling of the memorial is R5 per person.

Should you require further information, contact the school on +27 (033) 263-1328.

FORT DURNFORD, ESTCOURT

Major Anthony William Durnford / Fort Durnford (p)

Major Anthony William Durnford / Fort Durnford (p)

Strategically positioned atop a dominant stand overlooking the old military post at the Bushman’s River drift, the allegedly “haunted” Fort Durnford is a must visit for Hartford House guests exploring the Estcourt region.

The position was first occupied in 1847 but following the Langalibalele Rebellion of 1873 and the resultant fear that abounded within the British outposts, was later fortified. Fort Durnford, as it stands today, was constructed in 1874 by Major Anthony William Durnford of the British Colonial Engineers in order to protect the Estcourt townspeople from possible Zulu attack. Today it houses the Estcourt Museum.

Fort Durnford was designed as a substantial stronghold, built in a rectangular shape from local sandstone. The walls are two feet thick and rise approximately thirty feet in height with two square towers and heavily barred windows throughout. The windows were originally fitted with heavy iron shutters, turning on hinges spiked to the walls.

Upon entering the Fort, a stone paved hall gives way to the heart of this bastion, with guard rooms, barracks and storerooms. Leading from a side passage which was used for the movement of prisoners and was originally closed by a grille, there are doors to a vaulted powder-magazine and offices.

An underground water tank lies buried beneath the paving of one of the rooms, and two "secret" tunnels lead from the remains of a pit hidden beneath the ground floor of the North-West tower. It is believed that one tunnel heads North-West towards the military post at the drift and the other North-East, exiting from the hillside. These tunnels would have been vital for the safe movement of supplies and for stealthy escapes.

The Fort Durnford museum has many interesting artifacts on display including fossils, Iron Age and Stone Age relics, old wagons and models depicting the historic Natal battles. The museum also showcases one of the largest birds’ egg collections.

Fort Durnford is open from Monday to Sunday, 09h00 - 12h00 and 13h00 - 16h00 and entrance is free, although there is a “donation box” which aims to assist in the maintenance of this significant monument of South African interest.

If you plan to set off early, the Hartford kitchen will gladly prepare a delicious picnic basket for your day's adventures.

Duncan Hay lands fine Rainbow Trout

Duncan Hay with his 3.0kg Rainbow Trout

Duncan Hay with his 3.0kg Rainbow Trout

We are often blessed at Hartford House with the visitation of very interesting guests. This week was no exception as Duncan Hay and his lovely wife Vicki joined us for a few days.

Duncan is a researcher from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) with expertise including; biodiversity and conservation, community based natural resource management, integrated catchment management, project and programme planning as well as rural community development.

Duncan is also a keen fisherman, as can be seen by the photo above. He caught this healthy Rainbow Trout, weighing in at 3.0kg, early on Wednesday morning in our main trout dam, Preston Pan. His tool of the trade was a "Black Leaded Woolly Hopper".

An interesting note is that Duncan was a friend of David Rattray from university, and they would spend time exploring Fugitives' Drift where survivors escaping the Battle of Isandlwana crossed the Buffalo River, where Lieutenants Melvill and Coghill lost their lives saving the Queen's Colour of the 24th Regiment and where David Rattray later established the world-renowned Fugitives' Drift Lodge.

(Photo kindly supplied by Duncan Hay)

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www.landoflegends.co.za

The truth is incontrovertible: The Best Value in the World.

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The Hartford Zulu Dance Troupe
(Hartford House)

paula_mackenzie

One thing you’ll always notice about the change of seasons in the Drakensberg area, is that each season has a distinct character, and this year Spring has been as spectacular as ever.

It’s not only the birds that are singing: undoubtedly the best boy’s choir in the world, the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, is situated just up the road from us and they’re preparing for their Summer and Christmas seasons. If you’re in the vicinity of Hartford House, be sure to let us arrange a visit for you to one of life’s most outstanding choral experiences. We can even pack you a delicious picnic lunch and direct you via South Africa’s art capital, Clarens, all in the same morning.

Besides a burst of greenery and the profusion of young buds, they’re foaling “royalty” at South Africa’s champion racehorse breeding establishment, Summerhill Stud. This weekend also witnessed the departure of more than 100 bouncing two-year-olds to the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale in Johannesburg, on their way to racing glory no doubt.

Most of these youngsters have never set foot on a moving vehicle in their lives, and it’s a joy to watch the skills of our young Zulu horsemen coaxing them aboard to the encouraging serenades of school children, wives and "gogos" (or grandmothers) at the loading ramps.

You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to get among the trophy trout on this property. Just a few weekends back, two of our young guests availed themselves of our "master-class fly casting lessons", and each came away with prize trout of between six and seven pounds.

Another couple, whilst enjoying a “bomb-proof” horse ride in the direction of the Boathouse and Magic Mirror lake, were thrilled by a sudden stampede of startled Reedbuck and the sighting of the endangered Oribi.

We continue to be surprised, (but oh so pleasantly) at the pilgrimage of foreigners who travel from so far to visit with us at Hartford.

While we’ve always enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of Brits and Europeans, and a throng from the horse-loving countries to the west and east of us, we appear to have new devotees from the United States and Australia. People are supposedly rediscovering their roots, and it seems this area (Hartford House and Summerhill in particular) offers one of the warmest, most hospitable and genuinely authentic experiences on the planet.

There are others who delight in the entertainment of our Zulu dance troupe, and it’s a source of considerable pride to tell you that in a couple of weeks, they'll be winging their way to their third World Traditional Dance Championships to be held in the United States. The troupe have already achieved 2nd and 3rd in Tokyo and Hong Kong respectively and believe they now know how it’s done, and we’re confident they’ll return home the best Traditional Dance troupe in the world.

We know we don’t have to ask you to join us in wishing them well on their way. It’s the visits of our Guests that have encouraged and uplifted our people to such a degree, and we’re forever grateful for the contributions you make.

We sincerely hope this note finds you in the “pink”. If you aren’t already on your way to us, please visit us on our website at www.hartford.co.za for the latest in what’s up at Hartford. There’s just a tiny chance we might be able to lure you back before too long!

With the Rand at unprecedented levels against the major currencies, South Africans will be staying at home more than ever, and our foreign friends will find us the best value in the world, by a country mile.

Warmest regards,

PAULA MACKENZIE
HARTFORD HOUSE

Hartford House scoops another Platinum Award

Fine Wines / Hartford House (p)

Fine Wines / Hartford House (p)

While the culinary world continues to hail Hartford’s reputation as one of the best eateries in South Africa, we often forget that good food should always be accompanied by a fine bottle of wine.

Hartford House has long prided itself on its excellent wine list and this morning it achieved something of a record for an establishment of its sort, with its seventh consecutive platinum award.  In the end, great restaurants are a combination of ambience, imaginative cuisine, authentic service and the very best of wines, and Hartford has long ticked every one of these boxes.

Hartford House is also participating in the Food and Wine Show currently on at the Durban Exhibition Centre.

Nhlanhla Suite 16 at Hartford House

Nhlanhla Bathroom / Hartford House (p)

Nhlanhla Bathroom / Hartford House (p)

Nhlanhla is one of the Zulu language’s most wonderful words. It really means “good luck”, but it also conjures good fortune, happiness, largesse and all the warm feelings we get when life is kind to us. Dubbed Nhlanhla by the Zulus who brighten our lives every day at Hartford, the name recalls the feelings of our team when they first saw Nhlanhla in its finished form. The suite radiates nature, the colours of our environment, warmth and originality, and as much as anything is a signal example of what the creative spirit can achieve from modest, locally sourced materials. The majority of the materials used in the erection of Nhlanhla were harvested off the greater Summerhill and Hartford estates, and where this was not possible, from our immediate environs.

This suite was the most recent of four comprising the Ezulweni (“in the heavens”) eco extension to Hartford House’s colonial origins. The intention in juxtaposing the original Hartford homestead with Ezulweni, is to provide travellers with an insight, when they are in the manor house, of our region’s colonial past, and then to transport them through an intimate glimpse of what’s possible with a touch of imagination from our Zulu staff, whose creative hands are strikingly apparent in the finishes to Nhlanhla.

In contrast to the rustic materials used in the development of the suite, the fine mahogany wardrobe housing the television and mini-bar, was imported to South Africa in the 1820’s and was acquired from a village in the Eastern Free State. The teak floors were rescued from the renovation of Durban’s “grand old dame”, the Edward Hotel, while the Indian front door was imported by Cheryl Goss when she was overseeing the renovation of what is now Lynton Hall. Internationally acclaimed for her work at Lynton Hall, Cheryl’s introduction of Indian antique furniture to that property recalls its association with the arrival of Indian indentured labour in Colonial Natal.

The copper bath is a creation of a customer of the racehorse stud, Summerhill, while the beds are from an altogether different age, featuring a hydraulically adjusted touch button (just below the mattress on either side), enabling guests to position themselves as their souls demand, after another “tough” day in Africa!

Nhlanhla has become the suite of choice of His Majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho, ruling monarch of the Mountain Kingdom, during his visits to Summerhill Stud, where he keeps several horses which feed his and his nation’s passion for the equine species.

DAVID RATTRAY : Co-founder of Land Of Legends Honoured

David Rattray / Fugitives' Drift Lodge (p)

David Rattray / Fugitives' Drift Lodge (p)

Those that know us, know too, that friends count. Ten years ago, in an attempt (and a very successful one at that) to develop an awareness that, as a tourist destination, the best places in KZN provided travelers with as enchanting and diverse an experience as anything in the world, we started the Land Of Legends with our great mate, David Rattray.

It’s a matter of great pride to us that he should be posthumously honoured by the University of Natal. We salute you, Doctor!! The Star reported:

World-renowned historian David Rattray has been posthumously made an honorary graduate of the University of KwaZulu Natal.

His father, Dr Peter Rattray, accepted the doctorate in social science at a graduation ceremony held at the Royal Agricultural Society showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg yesterday. Dr Rattray said he was honoured to accept the degree on behalf of his son, who was murdered on January 26 last year at his Fugitives' Drift Lodge, near Dundee, during a botched robbery. He said his son's death had shocked the country, and messages had been received from far and wide, including from Britain's Prince Charles.

"David had lived among Zulu people most of his life and was steeped inZulu history and could speak the language."

Dr Rattray said the degree was one of the best tributes to a man "who loved South Africa unreservedly".

Presenting the honorary degree, vice-chancellor Professor Dasarath Chetty said David Rattray had been a brilliant and extraordinary orator who shared his deep love and passion for the environment, Zulu culture and the country through his work. "The University of KwaZulu Natal is privileged and takes immense pride in honouring this unique individual, whose work symbolised the very essence of African scholarship."

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www.landoflegends.co.za