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Kuilfontein’s History

Kuilfontein was originally built in 1818. It was a simple platdak house with skins over the doors and windows (this is before the 1820 Settlers and the Great Trek of 1836). In 1828 the owner, Mr G du Toit, during a serious drought trekked his stock to better grazing and on his return was severely mauled by a lioness, which had cubs in the present sitting room and considered the house hers! A servant came to his aid and managed to kill the lioness.

In 1849, the famous hunter, Gordon Cummings visited the farm when a Mrs Van Blerk was the owner. He wrote in his books of springbuck feeding close to the homestead and 9 wagons in front of the farmhouse loaded with skins and ivory being taken to Algoa Bay. We still have the original herd on the farm.

In 1858 James Murray bought Kuilfontein and set up a steam mill and wool washer where he charged one pence a pound for cleaning fleeces. In 1865 he began to farm ostriches, remains of the stone walls built to mark camps can still be seen. Because he was making so much money, Murray decided to build on a lavish house to complement the old “platdak” one. This was completed in 1870 but all the building material had to be brought up from Algoa Bay and it cost so much money that he went broke. In 1870, Thomas Plewman, the great-grandfather of the present owner, Leigh Southey, bought the farm of 7 800 morgen (about 16 000 acres) for two thousand pounds.

During the Anglo-Boer war (1899- 1902), the Plewman family, being Irish, did not want to fight so they trekked from the farm to Hanover as the Boers advanced and in November 1899 Piet de Wet’s commando took over the homestead and wrote OVS on the walls. Various skirmishes took place with the farm being recaptured by the British (one battle cost the lives of 40 men) and the roof and windows of the house were damaged through shelling. The farm passed back to the Boers again and in a fight against an Australian regiment two more men were killed and six captured. In 1909 a herdsman found the decomposed bodies of two men (one was identified as Captain Wallis).

In 1965 two French scientists discovered fossils believed to be 200 000 years old on the farm. These are now in the Paris museum. The Karoo was virtually an inland lake and one can find mussel shells and petrified wood all over the farm as well as Boer War relics.