Melton Wold lies midway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, at 1295 meters above sea level. It is centrally situated in the middle of the Great Karoo in a wide valley north of the Nuweveld Mountains in the catchment area of the Brak River. The property is 10Km long.
History of the area
The area had a strong “fountain” where game abounded, making it an ideal hunting area for Bushmen. There are many signs of their presence here where Bushmen graves have been exposed. Many of their artifacts: beads, pottery and ostrich egg water containers have been discovered. Several primitive paintings also show evidence of their presence. The area however shows evidence of earlier habitation as there are many exposed fossil remains of prehistoric animals and plants.
One exposed fossil has been reconstructed in-situ by museum paleontologists-it has been identified as a bradysaurus, a large herbivorous reptile approximately 250 million years old. (The fossilized wood and plants in evidence are encouraging signs of extensive uranium deposits.)
Boschduiwefontein “From 1838 until 1889″
The first deed regarding this property was made out in favor of the “widow Nortje” – on the property known as Boschduiwefontein, dated 1838 in the Landrost area of Beaufort-West. The Nortje family became joined to the famous Hugo family who continued farming, these farmers settled to the west as neighbours. At this stage the property was divided into two portions between the van Wyk family. A large kraal was constructed to the east of the Kopje behind the homestead to herd the livestock into each evening for protection against predators (jackals, snakes and lynx).
A large garden was laid out alongside the river below the fountain and a stone wall enclosed both this and the more fertile portion of the valley – this prevented cattle and other livestock form entering the property.
“Melton World” from 1889 to 1910
The van Wyk family sold Boschduiwefontein in 1889 to Alfred Ebden whose family owned the Belmont Estate in Rondebosch. Ebden set about improving the property and stock at once. He built a new house next to the van Wyks old house, converting this to stables. Here he kept beautifully groomed horses. He imported some of the best Merino sheep known to the Cape Colony and the Karoo, from an important stud farm called Melton Stud in Australia. (As his family had come from the Cotswolds, he combined the words and renamed the property Melton Wold.) He purchased more land, increasing the size of the property to 20 000 morgen.
During this time, the district became well known for the quality of its grazing land and many families acquired properties in the district known as Victoria-West. Bushmen were a nuisance as they were being deprived of their favourite hunting ground; they consequently took to stealing livestock.
Farming was hazardous. There was little demand for the produce and to make matters worse, the supposed Karoo rainfall of 241mm (9 and a half inches) a year, was often non-existent. There was, however, the occasional flood. One such flood claimed the lives of no less than 79 inhabitants of Victoria-West in one night. When the Anglo Boer War broke out, Melton Wold became a “favourite” with the Boer commandos for the simple reason that the owner was an Englishman with good plump sheep and cattle and excellent horses to replenish their supplies. After the continued plundering had ceased, Melton Wold was left ownerless until 1910.
“Melton Wold” from 1910 to 1930
In 1910, George Arthur Paley, a wealthy English landowner, negotiated the purchase of Melton Wold. His wife was inclined to be consumptive and their doctor advised their living in a warm, dry climate. After purchasing still more surrounding land, Mr. Paley increased the size of the property to the size of an English county i.e. 90 000 acres. The Paleys spent the Northern Hemisphere summer in England and Southern Hemisphere summer at Melton Wold. At he same time, Mr. Paley brought out many of his English servants – all of them highly skilled in their own fields. One was forester’s son who set out planting thousands of trees. Three large irrigation dams were constructed and many fields sown with wheat and lucerne. To each sub-division of his property he allotted a manager. At that time, the top wool and sheep expert of the Cape Province was engaged. He was given the Ebden House in which to live. Mr. Paley then set about building the large stone Manor House overlooking the Paley Dam. Many more trees were planted, more land established and grazing field was fenced into separate camps. The boundary was fenced with jackal-proof netting. Boreholes were drilled and reservoirs were set up to water the now extensive flocks.
His wife improved so much that she decided to leave him and their two sons. They were divorced in 1916 and in 1917, Mr. Paley married Laure Gaffiot, a French woman, and his sons returned to England. In 1930 he sold Melton Wold to Mr. W.H Torr and returned to England.
The Torr family from 1930 to 1988
Mr. W.H Torr from the Eastern Province saw the possibilities that existed for farming Merino sheep on a large scale on the property. Purchasing Melton Wold, he at once reduced the large staff, building up an efficient unit producing high quality mutton and wool. He also tried his hand at other farming activities such as ostriches, goats and wheat farming. Because so many farmers had over-exploited the grazing and resources during former times, the quality of the once fertile valley was considerably impaired, consequently, the grazing capacity was greatly reduced. A comprehensive soil conservation plan was started by Mr. W.H Torr, which his children had intensified. Mr. Brian Torr had restored much of the land to its original good quality . In addition, new buildings have been erected to house staff, along with kraals, sheds, smaller camps and better water supplies and lucerne lands. Most important were the lush green pastures for the well known Merino stud sheep which had won many national championships. During the depression of the 1930’s friends of the Torr family were rendered homeless. They were invited to live in the old Ebden house. As a consequence of this the Guest House was started.
The Vorster family from 1988
The Torr family sold the farm in December 1987 to Mr J.G.Vorster, who had previously farmed in the Carnarvon district. From 1991 their son, Willem Vorster joined the farming. In 1994 he married Ronel Myburgh and they have 2 children, Jan and Anel. Today holiday accommodation is provided for families from the cities of South Africa who wish to relax in the restful country atmosphere. Melton Wold has its own Postal Agency, school and church. The visitor will find interest in all the activities that occur on a well organised working farm. There are shearing sheds, kraals, springbok camps, an old worked out diamond mine and, as mentioned earlier, a reconstructed fossil left where it has been lying for 250 million years.
Farming Activities Include:
Game farming – 25 species – game drives can be organized
Income from Guest House
Melton Wold is a game and working sheep farm and offers a complete holiday venue, away from the rush of big city life.