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 Tag: Nelson Mandela


Winston Churchill in Laurenco Marques

Winston Churchill looks pleased with himself - dressed  in civvies astride a horse. And, he probably has every right to be,  after making a daring escape from Pretoria to Lourenco Marques, now  Maputo, at the height of the Boer War.
(Photo : Sunday Times)

"A unique photograph of Churchill after he had escaped from Boer captivity, surfaced in the Sunday Times"

Farm tours at Summerhill Stud and Hartford House are popular items. Students of history, fans of racing and those who are mesmerized by the Midlands and the mystique of our sport, travel from as far afield as Johannesburg for the day, take in the tour and a bit of lunch at the nation's Number One restaurant, before they are back on the N3 northbound.

Others prefer to do it the leisurely way, and they check in for a couple of nights at Hartford. While we'd recommend the latter for its relaxation, we'd not want to deny you the pleasure, either way.

If you've done the tour, you'd know that in the summer of 1899, a young Winston Churchill was a visitor to the Moors of Hartford. We all know too, of his capture up the road from us, and his presence at the mother of all battles, Spioenkop. Remarkably, on Spioenkop that day (just 45 minutes from us,) and drawn together by dint of the peculiar attractions of our region, were five of the most influential people of the 20th century. Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of South Africa, (who together with Hartford'sSir Frederick Moor and his brother, John (the former a colonial Prime Minister, and the latter a senator in the first South African government, attended a class of just 10 students at Hermansburg Junior School;) Denys Reitz, former Deputy Prime Minister of South Africa and later a Field Marshall in the British army, he was there; our man, Jan Smuts, the man the world chose to write the charters for the League of Nations and the United Nations after the respective World Wars, and the man Churchill appointed as his successor in the war cabinet should anything have become of him, he was there. In the pantheon of great South Africans, you'd have Smuts up there with Nelson Mandela, who ironically was captured just to the south of us seventy two years later; Winston Churchill himself, later to become Prime Minster of England and arguably the greatest Englishman of all-time, he was on Spioenkop that day; and amazingly, the man who liberated India in 1947, Mahatma Ghandi, was there as a stretcher bearer.

Just recently, a unique photograph of Churchill after he had escaped from Boer captivity, surfaced in the Sunday Times. It's apparently coming up for auction in England shortly, and there's been a bit of a story about it. It turns out the picture was taken in our immediate vicinity, after Churchill's escape from Boer custody.

From 1896 to 1897 Churchill served as a soldier and journalist in India. In September 1898 he fought at the battle of Omdurman in Sudan, taking part in what is often described as one of the last true cavalry charges. In 1899, he resigned his commission, and was assigned to cover the Boer War for the London Morning Post.

In October that year he accompanied a scouting expedition in an armoured train near Ladysmith, in what was then Natal, but was captured by the Boers. Although he was a war correspondent, he was armed with a pistol when captured, so was treated as a prisoner of war and held in what had been the Staats Model Skool in central Pretoria.

Churchill managed to escape, and the Boers put a £25 price on his head. Travelling by foot and train - where he hid under coal sacks - he eventually reached safety, 480km away, in Portuguese-controlled Lourenço Marques. The escape made him a celebrity back in Britain and he was elected to parliament in 1900.

Reflections of Anna Trapido

anna trapido hunger for freedom

Anna Trapido
(Photo : Jacana/AP Photo)

"FURTHER GLORY from an inspired source"

Following inclusion in House & Leisure’s top five, Wine magazine’s dine top ten, one of Africa’s top food critics, Anna Trapido and her husband Richard graced us with a visit a few weeks ago. She is of course, among numerous other distinctions, the author of Hunger for Freedom: The Story of Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela. Anna’s note on departure was a telling testament of her experience here. Her reflections included a suggestion that the Hartford restaurant was not only a national treasure in its own right, but it was deserving of a place in the World’s Top Fifty. Now this is serious talk, as the world’s top fifty includes every eatery on the planet, and that runs to millions.

Of course, these things are always the product of one’s subjective judgment, but it’s a comforting thought that increasingly the critics beliefs are converging in a single direction.

Thank heavens for these mercies. Times like these call for moments like this.

World Cup rugby captain, Francois Pienaar, returns to horse country

Nerine and Francois Pienaar / Grant Norval (p)

Nerine and Francois Pienaar / Grant Norval (p)

Summerhill and Hartford are blessed in its visitations by famous names, and as celebrated as any among our friends is Francois Pienaar, captain of the 1995 World Cup winning Springbok rugby team who famously donated his No.6 rugby jersey to Nelson Mandela on that historic occasion. Francois first came to Summerhill courtesy of a friendship with one of our oldest customers, Bruce Gardner, and his lovely wife Jo, and they were back at the farm on a nostalgic visit on Friday. It used to be that the party included the coach of that great team, Kitch Christie, who has sadly passed on since then. But it is evident from the picture above, that Francois has lost none of his zest nor love of the competitve nature of the horseracing business.

At the height of his Springbok's seventeen consecutive victories, Summerhill introduced Francois to racing courtesy of a filly whose name was appropriately changed to Amabokoboko, as an acknowledgement to the achievements of his side. It was in his association with this filly that Francois rediscovered the meaning of humility, on an evening that he, his lovely wife Nerine and the Gosses were invited to join Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for supper on her gracious boat, Britannia. As we mounted the gangplank, he lamented the fact that Amabokoboko had finished 2nd on five consecutive occasions, only to be reminded by the Summerhill contingent that after 17 consecutive victories, it was time he learnt to lose!!

During the course of the evening, much of which Her Majesty spent talking horses with our party, which included cricketer Jonty Rhodes, Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey and former Natal andWestern Province sportsman and erstwhile “Star” editor Richard Steyn, the Queen enquired of Francois what the secret was to his and his fellow forwards great size.

In typical diplomatic Francois Pienaar fashion, the retort was short and to the point:

“Mielies, M’am!”.