Until recently the history of Kloof appeared linked to a grant apparently made by the Colonial Government of the Cape to William Swan Field in 1851, ostensibly for his contribution to the Colony in Natal. This has been recorded in the research by Meridith Mary Shadwell, a former librarian at Kloof in her unpublished manuscript “A History of Kloof, Natal” held at Kloof Library.
More recently, in 1988, however, a document, discovered at the Deeds Office by local historian, Kerry Wheeler (now Muir), a history teacher at St Mary’s School, suggested a different beginning. Intensive follow-up and research by Adrian Rowe at the Deeds Offices in Pietermaritzburg confirmed a more accurate early history of Kloof. Adrian Rowe established that the Title Deed, a copy of which he had been given, was in fact a reproduction of the original and when he queried why there appeared to be 2 different Deeds, signed by Benjamin Pine and John Bird, he was informed that the original title deed was not available to the general public and that Deeds office staff had reproduced the Deed to protect the original! As a researcher he was allowed to see the original and discovered a number of documents attached to it which had not been copied and included with the reproduced Title Deed.
The notes below reflect the revised history as unravelled by Adrian Rowe.
Not much is known about the area now called Kloof prior to the 1800’s. The first documents relating to the area were recorded with the arrival of the early Voortrekker pioneers.
Records show that Kloof is situated on a farm originally called “Tafelberg”, which belonged to a pioneer, Andries van Tonderen.
According to a letter, found not long ago at the Deeds office in Pietermaritzburg, dated 15 February 1851, written by William Swan Field to Governor Benjamin Pine, on 11 July 1844 the farm was sold by van Tonderen to William Cowie for the sum of £225.
William Cowie came to Natal in late 1837 with the Voortrekker group led by J J Uys and his son Pieter, and was one of the party of six Voortrekkers, sent by K.P. Landman, to meet with the British at Port Natal on 18 April 1838 to negotiate their settlement in the area.
Cowie was the son of 1820 Settlers from Scotland. and was married to Magdalena Laas, the daughter of Andries Marthinus Laas, who became the owner of Salt River farm on which Pinetown is now located. Cowies Hill, known originally as Steilhoogte (steep heights), is named after him.
William Cowie had become a land speculator and sold Tafelberg, 13 months later, on 31 August 1845, to William Swan Field for the sum of £245. William Swan Field was the eldest son of William Field and Grace Coote and arrived with his parents and siblings in the Cape Colony in 1834 from Ireland, on his father’s appointment as Collector of Customs, Cape Town, and worked in his father’s department from 9 May 1838. He moved to Durban on his appointment as Acting Collector of Customs, and Surveyor and Landing Waiter at Port Natal, on 12 June 1844. He was later also appointed as the first Magistrate in Durban and also became a member of the Provincial Executive Council.
On 21 March 1845, a “Mr. & Mrs. Field and child” arrived in Durban on board the “Pilot” and it is thought that this was John Coote Field, a brother of William Swan Field, his wife Elizabeth Catrina (née Swart) and their daughter Susara Johanna, who was born on 11 July 1844 at Potberg near Swellendam in the Cape Colony.
When the Government Surveyor, Thomas Oakes and the local Field Cornet inspected Tafelberg on 20 July 1847, he wrote in his report that he found “A House and out houses, Garden and Ploughed land, occupied by Mr. John Field”, and therefore it is evident that he had lived on the farm for some time. It would appear likely that in about 1845 or 1846 William Swan Field had requested the Government to survey the farm so that he could obtain transfer, hence the visit by Thomas Oakes. By 1851 when he wrote to Governor Pine requesting assistance in obtaining transfer, he states that the original owner, Andries van Tonderen had left the Colony and transfer in the normal manner was not possible.
As a result of this “Memorial”, Governor Pine granted transfer of the farm to be known as “Richmond No. 999”, on 1 October 1851, in extent 5606 acres. William Swan Field never lived on the farm, but visited his brother and family periodically. William Swan Field died intestate on 14 April 1865 at the home of a family friend in Cape Town, where he was, by then, working. He had apparently made it known that his brother, John Coote Field, was to inherit Richmond farm, as it was transferred to him on 6 November 1867, and was valued at £1401 l0s.
The area covered by the farm Richmond included all of current day Kloof, part of Forest Hills, part of Wyebank, Padfield Park, Surprise Farm and Motala Farm. The farm was named Richmond probably in honour of the wife of Sir Peregrine Maitland, the then Governor and Commander-in-chief at the Cape of Good Hope. His wife, Lady Sarah Lennox was the daughter of Charles Lennox, the 4th Duke of Richmond, in Yorkshire, England. Charles Lennox had been the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1807 to 1813, and there is a strong probability that he knew the families of William Field and Grace Coote in Ireland, who were the parents of William Swan Field. It is also possible that the farm was named after Richmond in Surrey as there is no definite record of how the naming was decided. The Kloof Coat of Arms (see below), includes on a section of the shield, a part of the arms of Richmond in Yorkshire. This was done as a reminder that Kloof was part of a farm know as Richmond. This decision was however only made in 1961 when Kloof became a Borough and may not reflect the original intention of the name Richmond.
In the early days the only means of transport was by means of ox- wagon, on horseback or on foot. The nearest shop was at New Germany, and therefore to a great extent they had to be self-sufficient. Whenever a ship came into port the Field’s would send down butter in barrels, fresh meat, game and vegetables, and in exchange would receive soft goods, flour, farm machinery etc. The trip to Durban by ox-wagon took about three-quarters of a day.
An exciting event in their life on Richmond Farm was the arrival of the railway line, which opened through Krantz Kloof, as the area was known to the transport riders, by March 1879, and was officially opened to Pietermaritzburg on 1 December 1880. The nearest railway stations, at that stage, were at Pine Town and Gillitts. Owing to the steepness of the gradient (1:30) between Pinetown and Bothas Hill, the old Beyer & Peacock steam engines needed to take on extra water and John Coote Field (“Old Jack” as he was known affectionately) negotiated with the Natal Government Railway to supply water from a stream at Waterfall, halfway up Field’s Hill, in exchange for free passage for him and his family. Family legend has it that on one occasion Old Jack summoned the train to stop and the driver failed to do so. He immediately cut the water pipes to the tanks next to the line, thus forcing the locomotives to a halt. Only the intervention of the General Manager, David Hunter (later Sir David Hunter), who arrived in his personal carriage to negotiate with Old Jack, resolved the problem. It was agreed, henceforth, that all trains would stop at Field’s Hill halt, (next to the present Field’s Hill Garage) which was about 300 metres from the farm homestead, so that he and his family could alight. Despite an extensive search, no documentary proof of this story has yet been found.
Krantz Kloof Station, a wood and iron building next to the site of the present Kloof Station, was built and opened in 1890. It also served as the venue for the first Church services, and it was from here that one collected ones post, and was, in due course, where the telephone exchange was located.
On 1 February 1896 John Coote Field died and in his will, he left the farm to their eleven surviving children, and one grandchild, with his wife having the life use. Elizabeth Catrina Field died on 27 September 1901, and the twelve subdivisions were in due course transferred to the beneficiaries, most of the sons inheriting 561 acres and the daughters 400 acres. Some members of the family immediately began subdividing their inheritances, and by 1903 the village of Krantz Kloof was born. Esmé Stuart in her book “I remember…” writes that as a child of three and a half years in late 1904, she remembers the arrival of ox-wagons at Krantzkloof with their furniture from Durban.
Because of confusion caused by the similarity of the names of Krantzkloof and Kranskop, the Railways asked the locals and the Field family for permission to change the name of the station, and it was changed to Kloof on 3 July 1922. The station building was rebuilt in 1924 and after a number of changes, in recent years, now serves as a Pub and Restaurant.
The escarpment above Pinetown had a pleasant cooler climate, and in the early days, this made Kloof properties sought after as weekend and holiday retreats, away from the humidity of the coastal strip. After fifty signatures were obtained from residents by William Brady, electricity was brought up Field’s Hill in 1928. A dam was built in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, together with a purification works in Alamein Avenue and running water was piped to houses in 1950. The dam and purification works are still in use.
Residents of Indian origin also had a presence in Kloof mainly in the area then known as Klooflands. They were initially tenants of John Coote Field I and appear to have re-located in the 1950’s when the area was sold for development. Their dwellings occupied areas up to the old Civic offices and as far as Springdale Road. Anecdotal observations refer to an Indian cemetery in the vicinity of York Place and a Temple at 32 Klooflands Road. As late as the 1930’s there was a store on the corner of modern day Emolweni and Alamein Avenue which did good trade with the Indian residents and Black people who travelled to and from the Inanda area.
In 1942 a Town Board was formed to administer the requirements of the village, and on 1st January 1961 Kloof obtained Borough status. Kloof is now an integral part of Durban’s eThekwini Municipality.
When Kloof became a Borough in 1961 a decision was made to have a Coat of Arms with the motto:
A bonis ad meliora (From good things to better)
The leopard calls to mind the cliff-like and wooded nature of the country – the natural habitat of the leopard
The colours on the left-hand side of the shield – gold and green – are indicative of the the health-giving sun and the verdant hills of Kloof respectively. The wavy stripes – which are in blue and white – symbolise the water courses and waterfalls
The remainder of the shield contains part of the Arms of Richmond, Yorkshire (England). It is included as the name of the farm on which Kloof was built was at one time called Richmond (see above).
The Swan, comprising the crest, is symbolic not only of the other Richmond by the Thames in Surrey (England) but also of the quality of perfection.
Today the Coat of Arms has no legal or official status as Kloof is part of eThekwini Municipality
The bulk of the text above has been sourced from: Notes on a History of Kloof. Researched and written by Adrian M Rowe (unpublished) and conversations with current and past residents
Additional Notes: A History of Kloof, Natal by Meridith Mary Shadwell, 1984 Edited and printed in 1996 by Adrian M. Rowe – Kloof Public Library (unpublished)
For more information on the history of the Upper Highway area contact the Highway Heritage Society: