History of Melton Wold

Melton Wold lies between Cape Town and Johannesburg at 1 295 metres above sea level.  Melton Wold is centrally located in the middle of the Great Karoo in a wide valley north of the Nuweveld Mountain range in the catchment area of the Brak River.

HISTORY OF THE AREA ~ The area had a strong fountain where game abounded, making it an ideal hunting area for Bushmen.  The area 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 palaeontologists.  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 to 1889 ~ The first deed regarding this property was made out in favour of the widow Nortje – on the property known as Boschduiwefontein, dated 1838 in the Magisterial District of Beaufort West.  The Nortje family joined the famous Hugo family who continued farming on Boschduiwefontein with cattle and goats.  Later the property was acquired by the Van Wyk family who settled to the west as neighbours.  At this stage the property was divided into two portions between the Van Wyk family.  A large stone kraal was constructed to the east of the ‘Kopie’ behind the homestead, to herd the livestock into each evening, for protection against predators such as jackals, snakes and caracal.  A large garden was laid out alongside the river below the fountain.  A stone wall enclosed both this and the more fertile portion of the valley.  This prevented cattle and other livestock from straying of the property.  

MELTON WOLD ~ From 1889 to 1910 ~ The Van Wyk family sold Boschduiwefontein in 1889 to Alfred Ebden whose family owned the Belmont Estate in Rondebosch.  Ebden immediately went about improving the property and stock.  He built a new house next to the Van Wyks old house, converting the older house into stables.  Here he kept beautifully groom horses.  He imported some of the best Merino sheep known to the Cape Colony and the Karoo.  These sheep originated from a famous stud farm called Melton Stud in Australia.  As his family had come from the Cotswolds, he combine the words and renamed the property ‘Melton Wold’.  He purchased more land, increasing the size of the property to 20 000 morgen (just over 10 000 hectare).  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. Farming was challenging and at times hazardous!  There was little demand for fresh produce and to make matters worse, the supposed Karoo rainfall of 241mm a year, was often non-existent.  There was also the occasional flood.  Once such flood claimed the lives of no less than 79 inhabitants from Victoria West in one night.  When the Anglo Boer War broke out, Melton Wold became a favourite with the Boer commando’s for the simple reason that the owner was an Englishman with good plump sheep, cattle and excellent houses where they could replenish their supplies.  After the continuous plundering had cease, Melton Wold was left ownerless until 1910.

MELTON WOLD FROM 1910 ~ 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 that they live in a warm and dry climate. After purchasing still more surrounding land, Mr Paley increased the size of the property to the size of an English county about of 36 000 hectare.  The Paley’s spent the Northern Hemisphere summer in England and the Southern Hemisphere summer at Melton Wold.  At the same time Mr Paley bought out many of his English servants – all of them highly skilled in their own fields.  One was a 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 this 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 set about building the large stone Manor House overlooking the Paley Dam.  Many more trees were planted, more lands established and grazing veld was fenced into separate camps.  The boundary was fenced with jackal-proof netting.  Bore holes were drilled and reservoirs were set up to water the now extensive flocks.  His wife’s health 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.  His sons also returned to England.  In 1930 Mr Paley sold Melton Wold to Mr WH Torr and returned to England.

THE TORR FAMILY FROM 1930 to 1988 ~ Mr Brian 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 and built 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 also greatly reduced.  A comprehensive soil conservation plan was started by Mr Torr which was intensified by his children.  Mr Torr restored much of the land to its original good quality.  In addition, new buildings were erected to house staff.  Additional kraals, sheds, smaller camps and better water supplies were also added.  Most important were the lush green pastures for the well known Merino stud sheep which 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 and as a consequence of this the Guest House was started in 1935.

THE VORSTER FAMILY FROM 1988 ~ The Torr family sold the farm in December 1987 to Mr JG Vorster who had previously farmed in the Carnarvon district.  In 1991 their son, Willem, joined the farming activities.  In 1994 he married Ronel Myburgh. They have two children, Jan and Anel.  

Today holiday accommodation is provided for families from cities of South Africa who wish to relax in the restful country atmosphere.  Melton Wold has its own Postal Agency, School and Church.  Visitors to Melton Wold will find interest in all the activities that occur on a well organised working sheep and game farm.  In 2006 the caravan park was completed close to the guest house.

FARMING ACTIVITIES
The following farming activities can be viewed at Melton Wold:
•    Dorper and Meatmaster farming
•    Game farming – game drives can be booked at the office   
•    Hunting    
•    Bossie walks
•    The Diamond Mine
•    The Bradysaurus Fossil

 

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