Timour Hall - A Brief History


In the beginning...

            To begin the official history of the land that would become Timour Hall Estate, one has to start with Johan Georg Lochner.   Born in Mannheim, Germany, he came to the Cape in 1765 aboard the ship NOORD NIEUWLAND as a soldier and later worked as a waggoner and tailor before becoming a citizen of the Cape in 1771.  He was fortunate for by 1790 he had obtained land along the Black River, Rondebosch and would become a well-to-do man. 

On 16 June 1767 he married a widow, Johanna Geetruyda Verbeck.  Following her death he married another widow, Jannetje Mostert, on 10 July 1789.  He fathered fourteen children by these two women. 

It is interesting to note that one of his many descendants was Helene Johanna Francina Lochner, who became a writer and illustrator of Afrikaans stories for children.  However life changed for Johan Lochner and in 1794 he was declared bankrupt.

To survive and enable him to provide for his family, Lochner applied to the authorities for more land.  This was granted along the Diep River, in what is today the suburb of Plumstead, and he set about trying to re-establish himself.  He was eventually given the freehold title on 19 October 1804 to 9 morgen 534 square roods 120 square feet. 

There is evidence of an early dwelling erected on the site (from 1796), with indications that travellers passing through at the time would have been provided accommodation if it was needed.  Lochner died in 1806 and the land changed hands. 

Following Lochners death, the land changed hands and size repeatedly and many names begin to appear on deeds.  On 15 October 1813, in addition to the land granted by freehold title to Lochner, a piece of * quitrent land 17 morgen 566 square roods 24 square feet was granted to J B Hoffman and on 1 April 1833 another piece of quitrent land 36 morgen 221 square roods was granted to E George.   Further owners include C. Napier, P.M. Dreyer and J.C. Fitzpatrick.

James Coleman Fitzpatrick, an Irishman, became a judge of the Cape Supreme Court in 1861, worked in the eastern Cape for a while and was then transferred to the Cape bench in 1869.   In 1873 he bought two portions of land of what would later become Timour Hall Estate.  

On 16 February 1875, Judge Fitzpatrick placed an advertisement in the Cape Argus, offering his property for rent, furnished or unfurnished.  The important aspect of this advertisement is that the property was advertised as Timour Hall the earliest written use of the name.  

A prospective tenant would have enjoyed the following: The residence of the judge with adjoining lands.  The house consisted of parlour, dining and drawing rooms, ten bedrooms, kitchen, pantry, dairy, storeroom, bathrooms and closets as well as coach house, extensive stabling and water. 

The land was stated to be approximately 70 morgen in extent, consisting of 35,000 vine stocks, extensive pasture and tillage, garden ground on either side of the Diep River, a perennial stream.  

As a matter of interest, Judge Fitzpatrick was the father of Percy Fitzpatrick (later Sir) a politician and author of the book Jock of The Bushveld.   The young Percy was a keen tennis player and it was not long before a tennis court was built on the property.

Shortly thereafter the Judge began selling off portions of the land.   By 1881 64 morgen of the estate was owned by Mrs Aletta Jacoba Smith, descendant of a prominent Cape family, the Duckitts, who owned various farms in both Constantia and Darling.

Slowly the Estate lost more of its surrounding land.  By 1898 Jacobus Stephanus Marais became the owner of slightly more than 20 morgen and remained so until 1936.   It was he who probably built the existing portico.  

With suburban development on the increase, the demand for land for housing overtook the increasingly economically marginal agricultural land.   In 1936, 4 morgen were sold to a Mrs BT Townsend, wife of Walter Townsend of what was Oak Farm in Constantia, part of which now houses Herzlia Junior School.

More Timour Hall land was sold off and in 1952 the remaining 5.2093 morgen became the property of Dr D. Pfieffer.   Dr Pfeiffer qualified as a medical doctor at the University of Cape Town and according to the Medical and Dental Council, Pretoria; he worked between 1928 and 1931 at the Municipal Health Department in Bloemfontein.   While living at Timour Hall he advertised as a medical practitioner. 

His widow, Mrs Marianne Edweline Pfeiffer, was the last private owner of the much diminished Timour Hall and interestingly, Mrs Pfeiffer (born Ruperti), had family connections with the abovementioned Duckitt family.   She sold the remaining 5.2 morgen to the Cape Provincial Administration (CPA) in 1960.

At first the CPA had thought of building a school on the land, but instead it became a nursery and the house was declared a National Monument in 1977.  The old building deteriorated and in time a great deal of restoration had to take place.   This was done under the direction and guidance of well-known architect, Mr. Gawie Fagan.

In the book The Old Buildings of the Cape, by Dr Hans Fransen and Mary Alexander Cook, the authors state: 

Timour Hall This is the name given in 1878 by a later owner, Mrs Aletta Jacoba Smith (a granddaughter of William Duckitt), to a property on the banks of the Diep River.  The present impressive homestead is entirely Victorian in appearance with a Cape Dutch gable surmounting a portico which covers part of the elevated stoep reached by an impressive flight of stairs.  The voor- en agterhuis now houses a fine divided staircase, with a bay-window at the back.  The refashionings probably took place during the ownership of Aletta Jacoba Smith.  The house almost certainly incorporates a late 18th century building.  Behind it is an irregularly shaped farmyard bounded by outbuildings, one of which, at right angles to the house, is a fine ballroom.” (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

At present, Timour Hall is leased to the International Police Association who are utilising it as a self-catering Guesthouse.        

 

“quitrent” land: rent paid by freeholder or copyholder in lieu of service

 

The Duckitts

In September 1800, William Duckitt together with a party of sixteen, arrived in Simon’s Bay aboard the Wellesley.  Duckitt had been sent to the Cape "for the purpose of improving the state of local agriculture”.  Not long after his arrival, this capable man had, together with Sebastian and Jacob van Reenen (well known Constantia Land owners), been awarded a contract to supply meat to the troops. 

By 1806, Duckitt had become a man of some substance, owning the farm of Newlands.  Under pressure from the governor, he exchanged it for the farms Wittebomen and Baas Harmans Kraal. 

The Agricultural hall in Darling portrays the history of farming in the area which gained impetus in 1800 when William Duckitt and his family were brought out from Surrey, England to improve local farming methods.

His granddaughter, Hildegonda Duckitt was a cook and hostess of renown who wrote various cookery books and "The Diary of a Cape Housekeeper" in which she describes the activities on the farm for each month of the year.  Her books are highly sought after Africana.

Sir James Percy FitzPatrick

Politician, author and pioneer of the fruit industry, he was the eldest son of James Coleman FitzPatrick, judge of the Supreme Court of the Cape Colony, and Jenny FitzGerald, both from Ireland. 

Educated at Downside Abbey, near Bath (England), and later at St. Aidan's College, Grahamstown, he left college in 1880 to support his mother and her family following his father’s death.

In 1884 he went to the Eastern Transvaal goldfields. His adventures during the pioneering days in the Bushveld are vividly described in Jock of the Bushveld, now a South African classic, which has been translated into several different languages, among them Afrikaans, Dutch, French, Xhosa and Zulu.