A rich history...
Situated on the historic farm of "The Knoll" in Hilton, Natal Midlands, the Knoll has a rich history of hospitality. It has catered for early transport riders, passing troops and even Jan Smuts. Since 1850 the knoll has variously been a farm, hunting lodge, hotel, school, country estate and family home.The views from the Guesthouse are stunning, looking over rolling farmlands and forests.
In January 1850 John Philip Zietsman was granted a large area of land in what was known as Groene Kloof. He was the first Landrost of Pietermaritzburg and stayed behind when the Voor-Trekkers returned to the Orange Free State and Transvaal. He lived in a small cottage on the property but incurred a debt of £250 with a Cape Town transport firm called J.Seawright and Co. He offered a small part of his property in payment – 250 acres in extent which became Sub Lot 2 and known as Bloomfield Height.
J. Seawright and Co. Had the property for 10 years until 1860 and used it as a trading post cum hotel for the first pull up out of Pietermaritzburg for the transport wagons. They stopped for the night before continuing on to the Witwatersrand. Portions of the old hotel and barn remain with a turning area at the front for wagons. Remnants of the wagon tracks can still be seen at the back of the property.
Bloomfield Height was then bought by John Ireland a famous wagon maker. He was born in Ipswich, England in 1835 and married in Pietermaritzburg in 1860. He used the house mainly as a country residence. During his occupancy the foundations of the famous Himalayan azalea garden was laid and also a typical Cape Dutch oak tree avenue was planted which is still in existence today. John Ireland died in 1898.
The next owner was a Mrs Augusta Boden who also had it for 30 years until 1925. During this time (1915-1918) a small private school for boys was established called St. Peters, but it only lasted for about four years. Mrs Boden and her daughter Gwen ran the farm. Gwen was a tall strapping young woman who usually wore riding clothes. The farm at this time was now known as The Knoll. When Gwen married, she and her mother went to England.
Then came the more recent and well known owners in 1925 - the Hendries. David Hendrie was born in Inverness, Scotland and immigrated to Natal in 1902. On the 8th January 1903 he became locomotive superintendant in Durban. He was commissioned to design the first separate tender engine which was introduced in 1904 of which 25 were ordered by Natal Government Railways.