Archiver > SOUTH-AFRICA > 2004-09 > 1095156939

From: "sha.redfern" <>
Subject: Henley-on-Klip
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 2004 12:15:39 +0200

Taken from ‘The South Entertainment, Shopping and Leisure Guide’ September
2004, Issue No. 59


The blockhouse is visible from the R59 highway, close to the Engen garage.
Now declared an official national monument, it broods over a vast landscape
steeped in history.

When the Anglo Boer War broke out in 1899, Johannesburg itself saw no
fighting, but there were some skirmishes along the Klip River. During the
war, the railroad from the north, Johannesburg, to the Cape, belonged to a
British Company that had blockhouses built all along its length to protect
the trains and passenger from the marauding Boer commandos.

A story is told of how the Boers derailed a bullion train one night and that
the gold had never been found. The then owner of the house used by the
British troops apparently awakened to find large holes dug in his front
lawn. This is the Paymaster’s Cottage in Ewelme Road, which was also a
cider factory run by a nursing sister at one stage.

Another colourful character from this period of Henley-on-Klip’s past was
Fenning Kidson, after whom the Kidson weir is named. The grandson of an
1820 settler, Fenning was educated in England, but returned to South Africa
as a young man and became a transport rider, a contemporary of Sir Percy
Fitzpatrick. Soon after the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, news came to
Kidson that a commando was on his way to his farm to arrest him. Under the
noses of the Boers he escaped, riding sidesaddle, his burly frame crammed
into his wife’s riding habit. He finally made his way to Natal, but
returned to the Transvaal after the war, settling in Henley-on-Klip with his
wife, Edith. The family home was named Tilham, which is the manor house on
the river at the corner of Regatta and Shillingford Roads.

Another family from this period was the Pretorius family who owned
Slagfontein farm. The only street in Henley-on-Klip, with an Afrikaans
name, is named after them. The graveyards at St Paul Anglican Church bears
silent testimony to this period, with its neglected tombstones revealing the
names of woman and children who died in the concentration camps during the
Boer War.

This was also the burial ground of the Pretorius family. It was speculated
ht the pulpit in St Paul’s is the original donated by Advocate Horace Kent.
The larger-than-life figure of Kent dominates what can be termed the ‘modern
’ history of Henley-on-Klip. He was both a daydreamer and a man of action,
and lived before his time. Born 1855 in Henley-on-Thames in England, he
came to South Africa in 1898 at the age of 43, practising at he Johannesburg

Professional colleagues described him as a humorist and a pedant, with a
wonderful command of the English language. He was also said to be “not very
busy” at the bar and was assisted in his work by Ephraim Gluckman, with whom
he got into debt, on account of the township of Henley-on-Klip. It is clear
that Kent immediately feel in love with the area that was eventually to
become the Village. It reminded him of his hometown in England,
Henley-on-Thames, and he was determined to recreate its particular charm in
dry and dusty South Africa. He had a vision of wide carriageways, apple
orchards, huge oaks, regattas, and trolley bus lines from the station to the
weir. In conjunction with the Small Farms Company (SFC), Kent proceeded to
buy up the land that ultimately comprised Henley-on-Klip, SFC was
established to assist Lord Milner, British High Commissioner and the first
administrator of the Transvaal, in his work of land settlement. About 400
morgen was bought from Mr van der Westhuizen for the princely sum of £5
000.00, comprising part of the farm Slagfontein on the east side of the Klip
River and known as Bloemhok.

Auret Pritchard, the government surveyor, was instructed to survey the land
into smallholdings from 1 acre to 80 acres. In 1905, a general plan of
Henley-on-Klip was presented by the surveying firm Bell and Orpen, almost
identical to today’s plan.

In 1904, SFC decided to dam the Klip with the construction of a weir so as
to create an area suitable for regattas. It was many years later that the
Rebstein Bridge would be built, linking the two halves of the village. Ken’
s dream of recreating his hometown on the banks of the Klip was taking shape
step by step. The Henley Hotel opened its door to the public in 1905 and a
train service known as the fisherman’s Special was laid on from Johannesburg
for prospective visitors, who were greeted at the station by coach.

The present railway station only came into existence in 1945, with the
preceding one known colloquially as the ‘The Halt’. It was said of the
time, which was a stone building near to Kent’s own house, a prefabricated
structure imported in kit form from England and re-erected here. Much later
this became the home of the Smal family for quite some time, where after it
was transformed into the Belvedere Hotel and more recently the gay club
destinations, reflecting the changing demographics of the village.

In 1905, Empire Day was celebrated in grand style at the newly completed
weir, and in that year the SFC also signed an agreement with the Henley
Lighting and Water Board. SFC was liquidated in 1910 and Henley Township
Limited assumed control of the settlement project. The exact reasons for
this turn of events are unclear but complicated legal technicalities were

Transcribed by

Sha Redfern

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