Farm History

The Farm
We traced the history of the farm back to 1910 when the estate was owned by Edward E Downing.

We were fortunate in being able to obtain an original brochure promoting Sheltered Vale, which Downing (the first president of the Friesland Breed Society in South Africa) distributed to other top Friesland breeders, in 1910. Here are the first two paragraphs as they appeared in the brochure:

‘THE FARM SHELTERED VALE, owned by Mr EDWARD E. DOWNING, is situated on the Mooi River, four miles from Rosetta Station (Natal Main Line) on the Rosetta-Kamberg Road, a pleasant half-hour’s drive over a good road, with a fine view of the Drakensberg Mountains in the distance. The farm, which is just under 3,000 acres in extent, with a river frontage of five miles and an altitude of over 5,000 feet above sea level, is one of the best, in admittedly the best stock district in Natal.

Being a renowned breeder of dairy cattle in the country, Downing was known to import in order to achieve the best breed. In 1908 he imported a bull from the US. Below are two excerpts from the catalogue: Aaggie Cornucopia Johanna Lad Jr. 9th, No 70,229, H.F.H.B. (No. 13) born December 1st 1908, from Mr H. E. Cook, of Brandon, Vermont, U.S.A.

The sire of this bull is without doubt one of the greatest show animals of the breed. Space will not permit a list of all his prizes being given. For five years he won first prize at the New York State Fair, for two years out of the five he won Championship Prize, for three years he won first prize for his get; in 1910 one of his daughters won first prize as a three-year-old, and Champion and Grand Champion Prizes over all females of all ages; in 1910 he also won Champion and Grand Champion Prizes at the Brockton Fair, Massachusetts, under great competition.

The homestead
A photograph of the original homestead, situated in the valley adjacent to Homestead Dam, appeared in the above-mentioned brochure. While the brochure was being published the foundations for the new estate home based on architectural plans drawn up by Sir Herbert Baker (1862 – 1946), Knighthood architect, before leaving South Africa for his commission to India in 1913 – were being laid on the plateau area of the farm.

If you are interested in viewing the original photographs, prior to 1912, of the old homestead which was in the valley, and pictures of the current homestead, we have these in our records’ library.

Sir Herbert Baker’s international landmarks include – but are not limited to – the Union Presidential Buildings in Pretoria, Republic of South Africa; South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, London, UK; and the world-renowned Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, London, UK.

The year 1912 is etched in stone on the east-facing side of the home.
The main homestead has welcoming, rich decoration within, and we have carried this theme into the cottages.

International acclaim
We must also mention that in 2008 our estate was chosen as the location for the filming of an advertisement for UK supermarket chain, Waitrose.
The Waitrose Picnic (see Youtube) theme was a very big picnic on a huge picnic blanket, a patchwork quilt, woven in Scotland. It is the largest in the world to date, as recorded by Guinness World Records 2008 and was created especially for the advertisment. The five-day shoot included a crew and cast totalling 300.