If you weren’t around in the late 1800s and the early part of the twentieth century, you’re most likely to remember Hartford, the farm, for the exploits of its famous racehorses. In 1939, the late Raymond Ellis and his family acquired the property as a country retreat, a refuge from their beachfront hotels and property holdings in Durban.Read More
Filtering by Tag: Ellis Family
We were lucky with the people that went before us at Summerhill and Hartford. Like us, they loved these properties, the climate and the people of the neighbourhood. Besides their immense contributions to the politics and the business affairs of the day, their signatures are everywhere to be seen in the architecture, the sculptures, the trees and the personalities of the farms.Read More
Hartford House Emtonjeni Suite 12
(Photos : Sally Chance)
Emtonjeni Suite 12
We are blessed on our farms with an abundance of water, with numerous underground springs spread across the length and breadth of the property. The word Emtonjeni means "at the springs" in Zulu, and this suite takes its name from its proximity to the swimming pool, and the springs. "The Springs" was also the name of the farm in East Griqualand on which Pat Goss snr founded his renowned racehorse breeding enterprise in the 1930's.
This suite fronts onto an old bathing pavilion (now the Wellness Centre), which dates back to the foundation of the Manor House, in 1875. The Moors, who were the first occupants of Hartford as we know it, initiated a habit of giving to each other, a plant or a piece of garden statuary or ornamentation on wedding anniversaries, and the bathing pavillion was one of the first of these. Since then, the Ellises and the Gosses have perpetuated this rather quaint habit, and most of what you see in the garden today came about as a result.
Emanzini Suite 11
We are blessed on our farms with an abundance of water, with numerous underground springs spread across the length and breadth of the property. The word Emanzini means "at the waterside" in Zulu, and this suite takes its name from its proximity to the swimming pool, the Wellness Centre and the springs. "The Springs" was also the name of the farm in East Griqualand on which Pat Goss Snr founded his renowned racehorse breeding enterprise in the 1930's.
Emanzini was one of the first exercises in building with bricks and mortar for our previously unskilled Zulus, who in our opinion, made an excellent job of what seemed like an impossible task when we first set out.
This suite fronts onto the old wisteria pergola, which dates back to the foundation of the Manor House, in 1875. The Moors, who were the first occupants of Hartford as we know it, initiated a habit of giving to each other a plant or a piece of garden statuary or ornamentation on wedding anniversaries, and the pergola was one of the first of these. Since then, the Ellises and the Gosses have perpetuated this rather quaint habit, and most of what you see in the garden today came about as a result.
Hartford House Alyssum Suite 9
(Photos : Sally Chance)
Alyssum Suite 9
Originally known as the Garden suite, Alyssum and its neighbour were the first attempt by our previously unskilled Zulus at building with bricks and mortar. A fine effort, we're sure you'll concede.
Now named Alyssum, for the flower of course, the name also remembers one of the greatest of all Hartford racehorses. Alyssum (the horse,) excelled against the best of his generation at distances ranging from five furlongs (the human equivalent of a 100 metres sprint at the Olympics) to ten furlongs (the equivalent of the mile to humans), which exemplified not only his versatility, but also his abiding class.
Alyssum was one of the mainstays of the famous Ellis string of the 1950's, when the Hartford colours swept all before them on the racetracks of South Africa. Indeed, in owner-breeder terms, the Ellises have no parallels in South African racing history, and it was the great thoroughbred author, Sir Mordaunt Milner, who described their achievements in the same breath as those of Lord Derby, the Aga Khan and the Sheikhs Maktoum in the United Kingdom, the great European breeders, Boussac and Tesio, and the famous American stables of Phipps and the Hancocks.
There was a time when their supremacy was such that if there was a horse in the green and black silks on its way to the post, it was as good as money in the bank!
The furnishings in these suites are drawn from such diverse places as India and Morocco, while the teak flooring was part of the original dining room in the fabled Edward Hotel on Durban's Golden Mile.
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!
Hartford House Preston Pan Suite 7
(Photos : Sally Chance)
Preston Pan Suite 7
The Ellis family founded their famous racing dynasty at Hartford in 1940 and, among several unique installations of their time, at the foot of the farm they built the longest herringbone-drained racetrack in the world, from whence they trained the winners of every major race on the South African calendar.
In the same year, they acquired their first two fillies, the most significant of which was Preston Pan, who went on to become not only one of the most accomplished race fillies of all time, but also one of the matriarchs of South African Thoroughbred breeding. Preston Pan spent her first night at Hartford in what then was the stables, (in this very suite) together with a companion, whom she terrorised through the night, not only inflicting bodily harm on her unfortunate stablemate, but also on the stable itself.
She was trained henceforth from the paddock which is today known as Chapel One (alongside the Chapel), and Preston Pan holds the distinction of being the only two-year-old filly ever invited to participate in Africa's greatest horserace, the Durban July Handicap.
Whatever her exploits at the races, Preston Pan was twice that as a broodmare, and a visit to the old flower pots that line the main driveway into Hartford, reveals the names of 48 national champions, among them no fewer than a dozen descending from this legend of the turf.
While they went about the renovation of Hartford when they first moved here in 1990, Mick and Cheryl Goss occupied this suite for about two years. By the time of their arrival, it had been part of the original Hartford House Hotel, founded by the Ellises some seven or eight years before. Whether it has anything to do with its connectivity with Preston Pan, the room is reputed to induce great fertility!
Sentinel Suite 6
This suite is named after one of the greatest racehorses in South African history, Sentinel. In an age when six to ten victories would often be sufficient to proclaim a champion, Sentinel won 30 races, carrying welter burdens to victory against some of the most famous horses in South African history. He is remembered principally for his rivalry with the immortal In Full Flight, and his dead heat with this revered animal in the Cape of Good Hope Guineas (Gr.1).
Sentinel was a spectacularly imposing specimen, who towered majestically over the hallowed turf of South Africa's principal racecourses, Greyville, Turffontein and Kenilworth, and there were great expectations of him as a stallion when he returned to Hartford at the end of his career. Alas, Sentinel produced just one foal as he struggled with fertility issues, and this turn of events was probably the first portent of the decline of one of the greatest racing dynasties in African history. The Ellis family'sHartford Stud had reigned supreme for almost four decades over the national racing scene, and their exploits are ranked in Thoroughbred lore alongside the famous international racing stables of the Aga Khan, Lord Derby, the Sheikhs Maktoum, Coolmore, Marcel Boussac, Senor Tesio, the Phippses, the Hancocks and the Inghams of the Untied Kingdom, France, Italy, the USA and Australia respectively.
Hartford House St Pauls Suite 5
(Photos : Sally Chance)
St Pauls Suite 5
Named for St Paul's Cathedral in London shortly after the Battle of Britain, the diminutive equine version, St Pauls, remains the smallest winner of Africa's most famous horserace, the Durban July Handicap. He was the property of Pat Goss snr, grandfather of Mick Goss, whose family is the current custodian of Hartford House and its rich legacy.
St Pauls remains etched in the memory of many South African racing fans, winning the 50th edition of this grand event in 1946 from the outside draw in record time, and his exploits lent impetus to the development by Pat Goss of his well known private breeding establishment at The Springs in East Griqualand. St Pauls was the first of several Durban July Handicap winners produced by the Goss and Ellis families (the latter the founder of a storied racing and breeding enterprise of the 40's, 50's and 60's), their involvement with Thoroughbreds dating back to the 1930's.
Hartford House Ellis Suite 4
(Photos : Sally Chance)
Ellis Suite 4
This suite is named for the Ellis family, who occupied the Hartford property from 1939 to 1990, when they exchanged the property with the Goss family for their home in Hillcrest near Durban. Raymond Ellis snr. was a property developer in Durban, and owned much of what is now known as Durban North. He was also a prominent hotelier, remembered for his proprietorship of the Fairhaven and Rydal Mount Hotels on Durban's Golden Mile, as well as being the founder of what is today South Africa's biggest brick-making business, Corobrick. Hartford was the Ellis country retreat, and they started breeding racehorses here in 1941.
The racing achievements of the Ellises, who proceeded to develop one of the greatest racehorse-breeding dynasties in history, were described by the famous author Sir Mordaunt Milner as ranking alongside those of Lord Derby, the Aga Khan, Coolmore and the Sheikhs Maktoum in the United Kingdom, Marcel Boussac in France, Senor Tesio in Italy, the Hancocks and the Phippses in the United States, and the Inghams in Australia.
From these historic pastures, they bred, raised and trained the winners of every major race on the South African racing calendar, and in their era, they were indomitable.
Once the sleeping quarters of Mick and Cheryl Goss' daughter Bronwyn, in more recent times, Ellis has accommodated 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.
Its artworks include an example by one of the greatest of South African artists, the late Errol Boyley, who is remembered here by the painting of a horse and his groom after a thunderstorm at Summerhill Stud (the main farm). Errol, who was a great friend of Summerhill and Hartford, has several other major works adorning the walls of the manor house.
This suite is often reserved by travellers who knew Hartford while it was still a private home, and its popularity has survived the subtle but extensive developmental changes to the other accommodation which have taken place at Hartford in the past decade, aimed at the increasing comfort of our treasured guests.