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: KwaZulu Natal Midlands Events

The Royal Show

With a rich history dating back to the mid 1800’s, Pietermaritzburg’s Royal Show, staged annually in late May, is the biggest event on the KwaZulu-Natal calendar and a must visit for any guest to our magnificent province.
— Hartford House

Initiated in 1851, The Royal Show at Pietermaritzburg's Royal Agricultural Showgrounds was already growing rapidly before the main Witwatersrand trunk line was being built and before electricity and transistor radios appeared in homes throughout the South Africa. Cattle, sheep, horses and pigs at that time were walked from the Railway Station at the top end of Church Street, down Commercial Road to the Showgrounds straddling the Dorpspruit River on the then city outskirts.

Major George Iwanowski riding one of his Lipizzaners to the Royal Show / Royal Agricultural Society (p)

Throughout its history, 'The Royal' has had the privilege of hosting merchants and businessmen who recognised the benefits of interacting with one another, the agricultural sector and the general public.

The opening of the 1925 Royal Show by the Prince of Wales. Flanking the Prince are Leonard Line and William Drysdale / Royal Agricultural Society (p)

Today the Royal Show is the largest mixed exhibition incorporating a fully-fledged agricultural component on the continent of Africa. Not only does this include the exposition of some of the country's finest livestock and agricultural equipment but also a range of ancillary activities and displays covering the industrial, commercial and service sectors within the province.

Included in the mix is the 2100 sqm Food Hall, where exhibits and demonstrations showcase the entire food chain; from farm field to dining table.

The century old Crafts and Home Industries Hall / Royal Agricultural Society (p)

Similarly, the recently refurbished - century old - Crafts and Home Industries Hall affords young and old with eclectic displays and inter-active demonstrations of extraordinary talent. These include embroidery, needlework, tapestries, knitting, painting, photography, beading and wood sculpting. Whilst the emphasis is focused on the non-commercial competitive sections; the 'purist' component is today complemented in the adjacent hall with a mix of displays of modern crafts, many of which are available to purchase.

Other dedicated halls include those relating to business, home improvements and safety and security, together with a further 4000 sqm under cover devoted to a broad mix of general displays.

Open site stands cater for a mix of exhibits ranging from swimming pools and building requisites through to a vast array of tractors, agricultural implements and the latest motor vehicles and trucks / Royal Agricultural Society (p)

Open site stands likewise cater for a mix of exhibits ranging from swimming pools and building requisites through to a vast array of tractors, agricultural implements and the latest motor vehicles and trucks. Recently 'The Royal' has seen a significant increase in the presence of materials handling and construction equipment all indicating that 'The Royal' affords incredible value from a corporate marketing and branding perspective in respect of capital items of note.

Full of contrasts, 'The Royal', with its unique ambience abutting the City and the Dorpspruit stream still running through its centre, is all about old friends, new introductions, long established traditions and stimulating fresh ideas.


Private Race Meeting at Hartford
(Photos : Leigh Willson)


Hartford did what no other hotel in the world can do on the weekend. It celebrated a personal milestone by staging a private race meeting with trainers, jockeys, bookmakers, a commentator, and proper racehorses on Summerhill's private racecourse, which in the Ellis era, sent forth the winners of every major race on the South Africa racing calendar. That we can do it, lends credence to our claim as "the only world class hotel on a world class stud farm in the world!"

Among the attendees were several of South Africa's leading business, financial and political figures, and the racehorses included two multi-millionaires, the country's winningmost racehorse of all time, a Group-placed colt and Stakes-winning filly, all of which have retired to our paddocks, and for one reason or another are no longer active as racehorses or at stud.

While we've staged these events for some of the big names in the corporate world in the past, this was a "first" for a private party, and you should've been here in the past couple of weeks to witness the frenetic activity that went into "prepping" the horses for their big day. You'd have sworn it was the Durban July, and when the volume went up as the horses entered the last furlong, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were attending the Melbourne Cup!


garden and leisure show


The Gardner Magazine writes that the 34th Sunday Tribune Garden & Leisure Show, presented by The Royal Agricultural Society of Natal, will take place at the Royal Showgrounds, Pietermaritzburg, from 25 to 27 September 2009.

Gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country will be privy to the latest landscaping techniques, new plants and magnificent feature gardens, many of which are sponsored by corporate and municipal role players.

With the 2009 theme being Hip and Happening, the garden designs are expected to range from the practical to the surreal and, without exception, to be inspiring and elicit that “wow” response from the audience.

The show also affords garden clubs and schools with an opportunity to display – by way of mini gardens – the extraordinary talent and technique of both the enthused and amateur eye, with the Chelsea-mentored judges of recent years frequently expressing their amazement at the sheer brilliance of our youngsters.

Only 45 minutes from greater Durban and Mooi River, and a leisurely four and a half hour drive from Gauteng, the show is conveniently located in the heart of the scenic midlands, in KwaZulu-Natal’s capital, Pietermaritzburg, and just  one kilometer off the N3.