The Houw Hoek Inn.

Hello all FB followers. A lovely piece of Cape History which was
sent to me, and unfortunately with no one to thank for the
content. Great bit of reading, so read right to the bottom.

“The Cape of Good Hope was occupied by British forces in 1775.

Cape Town was young, dry streets swirling with dust from horses’
hooves, carriage wheels and sweeping skirts. The inhabitants were
a mottled crew of gentry, slaves, English government officials
and soldiers, burghers, tradesmen, Koi or Hottentot natives.

Anne Lindsay was born in Scotland in December 1750. She moved to
London, where she met and married Andrew Barnard in 1793, 12
years her junior. Lady Anne Barnard obtained an appointment for
her husband from Henry Dundas, who would later be made the first
Viscount Melville, as colonial secretary in Cape Town at the Cape
of Good Hope to Lord McCartney. The Barnards travelled there in
March 1797.

On May 5 1798, accompanied by wagons and eight horses, the
Barnards set off on a month’s leave into the wilds of Swellendam.
It took them five hours over the sandy Cape Flats to reach
Meerlust, near Fourie, the farm of Mynheer Myburgh, and a further
four hours to De Bos, the farm of Captain Morkel. Here the party
spent the night.

The following morning, after an hour’s travel, they reached the
foot of the Hottentots Holland mountains. A team of badly abused
oxen took the wagon over the mountains along the tracks left by
other travellers. The tracks led through the Steenbras and
Palmiet rivers to the site of the Houw Hoek Inn at the foot of
the Houw Hoek mountains, where a Dutch East Indian Company
tollgate had been erected.

The party spent the night on the farm Arieskraal, at the house
of Arie Jacob Joubert and his Dutch wife.

They shared their evening meal and had “boiled chicken fit for
an emperor!” This was the humble beginnings of the Houw Hoek Inn.

Over the years, the Houw Hoek Inn remained a favourite overnight
stop and watering hole. The existing ground floor was erected in
1779, no doubt with slave labour as slaves were only emancipated
in 1833. The inn was situated on the High Road to Grahamstown,
which became of crucial importance from 1820 when the British
settlers arrived on the Eastern Frontier.

The “new” Sir Lowry’s Pass was opened in 1830, built at a cost
of £7011 by Major Mitchell. Houw Hoek Pass was also upgraded.
Travel was sped up and the inn had to compete with Somerset West
Village – 100 souls and six canteens. The inn was licensed in
1834, making it the oldest licensed inn in South Africa.

The upper storey was added in 1860, and in 1861 Lady Duff Gordon
slept there en route to the Caledon Spa.

The proprietor then, and at least since 1848, was an
ex-missionary, Mr Beyers. Their visit is detailed in the
following extract from Letters from the Cape by Lady Duff Gordon,
published in 1864:

“We got to Houw Hoek, a pretty valley at the entrance of a
mountain gorge, about half past five and drove up to a mud
cottage, half inn, half farm, kept by a German and his wife. It
looked mightily queer but Choslullah (the coachman) said that the
host was a good old man, and all clean – no louses! So we cheered
up and asked for food.

While the neat old woman was cooking it, up galloped five fine
lads and two pretty flaxen-haired girls, with real German faces,
on wild little horses; and one girl tucked up her habit, and
waited at the table, while another waved a green bough to drive
off the swarms of flies. The chops were excellent, ditto bread
and butter, and the tea tolerable.

The parlour was a tiny room with a mud floor, half-thatch door
into the front, and the two bedrooms still tinier and darker,
each with two huge beds which filled them entirely. But
Choslullah was right; they were perfectly clean, with heaps of
beautiful pillows: and not only had none of the creatures of
which he had spoken with infinite terror, but not even fleas!
The man was delighted to talk to me. His wife had almost
forgotten German, and the children didn’t know a word of it, but
spoke Dutch and English. A fine, healthy, happy family. It was
a pretty picture of emigrant life. Cattle, pigs, sheep, and
poultry and pigeons innumerable, all picked up their own living
and cost nothing; and vegetables and fruit grown in rank
abundance where there is water. I asked for a book in the
evening, and the man gave me a volume of Schiffer. A good
breakfast and we paid nine pence for all.”

In 1848, Mrs Beyers gave birth to a daughter, Maria Gertrude, and
Mr Beyers planted a bluegum tree to commemorate the birth. The
tree is now 11,2m in circumference and still guards the entrance
to the inn.

Maria Beyers married a Scotsman, Walter McFarlane III, who became
co-owner of the inn. He later started the hotel business in
Hermanus. His grandson, Valentine McFarlane, still lives in
Stanford, bright as a button at 85.

There is the story of a young lad who, on his way abroad, left
his visiting card, a bank note, on the ceiling in the bar so that
on his return – possibly broke – he could again enjoy the
delights of the cellar. Others followed his example and there is
now an impressive collection behind glass.

In 1902, the railway to Caledon was opened. The train stopped
briefly at the Houw Hoek Inn and meals were served to the
passengers on the platform. It is a well-known fact that the
inn’s owners made handsome profits by serving the soup so hot
that diners could not finish their meal in time for the train’s
departure.

Various owners made changes to the inn, such as converting the
old stables into “The Barn”, a conference centre.

Several of the staff have been there for many years. Barman
Wallis Shumba is a marvellous source of information. he has been
listening to and regaling others with tales for 17 years. The
receptionist was conceived in room 11, since demolished.

Henry the ghost has been around Houw Hoek Inn for the past 40
years and has been seen many times downstairs around reception;
in rooms three and four, which are now used as store rooms; and
in the passage on the first floor. He has given several
night-duty porters a few frights.

Strange things happened in the early days. At night, the sound
of footsteps and doors opening were heard coming from the first
floor although no one was booked into these rooms. Later, when
telephones were installed in the rooms, a call would come in from
one of the rooms upstairs or the telephone would ring in the room
with no calls going through the switchboard. When TVs were
introduced, they would switch on and off on their own.

The last person to have seen Henry the ghost was Ronnie, the
manager between 1988 and 1992, who died about 10 years ago.

Henry was seen in the passage upstairs. Another story goes that,
in the late ’70s, a lady sitting in the lounge started sketching
a man standing close to her – then the man vanished. When the
drawing was shown to the owner’s wife, Mrs McEntyre, she
immediately recognised farmer Henry, a regular who had killed
himself on his way home from the inn one night.

The last event is recalled by Sakhumzi “Sakkie” Ndondo, who still
works at the inn as a waiter. About six years ago, it was his
first night duty. He locked the back door to the verandah and
went and sat by the fire in the lounge.

He heard a door opening and footsteps on the wooden staircase.
On investigating, he found the back door wide open!

About three months later, he was on duty. He walked out of
reception to the bar next to the staircase. The lights in the
staircase and the passage upstairs went off. As the only
light-switch was upstairs, he went up to investigate and switched
the lights on again.

On hearing noises coming from one of the rooms – which was not
occupied – he went to look. As he walked down the passage, the
lights in the communal bathroom went on and off again. Upon
reaching the room where the noises were coming from he found the
door open and the TV and lights on. He switched off the lights
and the TV, and the passage lights went off. Poor Sakkie was so
scared he ran outside to the parking lot to wait for morning.
That was his last night duty!

The bar used to have one big brass bell that hung from the old
wooden creaky ceiling. Above it was room three, the honeymoon
suite. When the bell rang, all patrons in the bar would clap and
cheer.

History, ghosts and beautiful scenery – a visit to the inn will
have you transported back to the 18th century, to the whisperings
of visitors, the laughter and clinking of glasses in times gone
by. Not only that, but today’s inn has lovely bedrooms with great
cuisine, wonderful staff and lives beyond its three-star grading,
nestling in the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere, 90km from Cape
Town on the N2.

Blogger Barry: Back in the day, Julie, my guide dog, myself and
a number of Killarney mates would make a weekend of it at the Hou
Hoek Inn to celebrate the Start of the Grand Prix season with a
great meal and dancing on the Saturday night, and then stay awake
to gather in the bar, under the honeymoon suite, to watch the
first Formula 1 race of the season in the wee hours of the Sunday
morning. Really fabulous times!

Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed.

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