The History of Haldon House
The farm Haldon, a total of 50 morgen according to the deed of transfer, was purchased in 1892 by Colonel Alfred Mason Templar and his ‘old maid’ sister, Anne Georgina Templar for a total of 200 pounds. The old English Herbert Baker style house was built shortly afterwards. According to an advertisement in ”The Friend” (27 may 1895), “The Little Laundry” was run at Haldon by two misses called Little.
On the 24 June 1895, Colonel Templar died, Haldon was then jointly registered in the name of Colonel Templar’s sister, Anne Georgina and Lord Ion Basil Blackwood. Lord Blackwood was a bachelor and Assistant Colonial Secretary of the Orange River Colony. According to documents and letters he was transferred back to England in 1918 and all his antique furniture in the house and other moveable property was sold by public auction for a total of £129,60. He died during the 1st World War. The immovable property remained in the house and an inventory document valued it then at £1250.
On 7 November 1918, Senator Donald David Coghill Murray D.S.O. J.P. (Born at Castletown Caithnesshire, Scotland on 29 January 1874) purchased Haldon for £1940. He and his wife Susan had no children. Senator Murray was the chairman of the Caledonian society.
During this time and according to the author, Karel Schoeman, in his book on Bloemfontein “Die Ontstaan van ‘n Stad”, several prominent people were entertained at Haldon. The Earl of Clarendon while he was Governor General, Lord and Lady Selborne, Earl and Countess Haig and Mr Hirts, a well-known economist and his wife Mrs Hirts. Many British sports teams were documented to have spent delightful afternoons at Haldon and several garden parties were held here too.
Mrs Susan Murray, wife to the senator, was a prominent figure in the Educational, Political, Social and Philanthropic fields in Bloemfontein from 1896. She arrived in the 1880’s as a teacher in the ladies Institute (now Eunice girl’s school). She was prominent in the National Council of Women, started the Red Cross Society in the Free State and was Honorary Organising Secretary to the Orange Free State Victoria League Relief Committee from 1914 till 1921 and did magnificent work during the first World War, for which she was awarded the M.B.E (Member of the British Empire). After her husband’s death in 1947, Mrs Murray lived alone at Haldon with seven Alsatian dogs and a chauffeur. She became a small, neglected little figure and was found dead by her chauffeur in her chair in the lounge in 1960.
On 8 may 1960, Antonie Joseph Nader purchased the farm for R4750. He was a renowned race horse trainer and even had his own jockeys. A race track was established for training next to the lower (Northern) border fence of the property and stretched the entire border from East to West. The Nader family plastered the sand stone walls and painted the walls cream. Mr Nader became inactive due to ill health and died at the age of 56.
On 2 October 1963, Pieter du Plessis purchased Haldon for R20 000 on behalf of a Johannesburg brick firm which had plans to build a “brick works” plant on the farm. Pieter du Plessis retained the option of repurchasing the property, should the plant not be realised. During this period, about 8 years, the house was divided into two dwellings and let out to two individual families. The once impressive symmetrical garden became totally neglected and the Oregon Pine fire places and woodwork inside the house were painted all the colours of the rainbow. Tramps and other loafers made fires in the fire places and slept in the house. Fortunately the built in wooden monks bench and fire places were not damaged.
On 21 august 1972 Pieter and Mini du Plessis became the new official owners of Haldon and the immense task of restoring the house to its original beauty began. Emphasis on maintaining the traditional style of the house was applied during most of the alterations and extensions in order to create unity between the old and the new. The plaster was removed from the sand stone.
Several out buildings were build i.e. garages, servant’s rooms, store rooms, stables for horses and a dairy, as well as a shed for farm implements. New houses were built for the farm workers and their families. The swimming pool was built under the indigenous Wit Olien (Buddlia Saligna) and Karee (Rhus Lancea) trees and the garden was landscaped by Mrs Mini du Plessis.
The garden at Haldon consist of +_ 700 shrubs and was planned to be 75% evergreen, one of the main reasons why it is so protected from the extreme climate changed renowned for the Free State Province, namely the severe frosts in winter and the warm to hot westerly winds in summer. Shrubs, perennials and ground covers were carefully chosen by Mini du Plessis for all four seasons resulting in a beautiful garden the whole year round.
Mini du Plessis is a professional garden landscaper. She gave several gardening courses at the Bloemfontein Technical College, has held talks on the radio in rural areas, and was a judge for several garden competitions in the Free State and Northern Cape. Several garden functions and meetings have been held at Haldon.
Haldon House Guest House was established in July 1996 when The Haldon Family Trust altered the main building by dividing the main bedroom into two en suite rooms and the out buildings into guest suites.
These changes were completed in order to allow visitors and tourists the ultimate pleasure of enjoying a leisurely atmosphere and delicious South African farm style cuisine while surrounded by a tranquil beautiful garden, abundant with bird life.
In 2001 Pieter and Mini du Plessis sold Haldon to a Doctor Bester. Haldon was purchased by the second du Plessis family, the current owners, in 2005 to insure that it would remain in the du Plessis family for generations to come and to manage Haldon as the glorious guest house that Pieter and Mini always dreamt it would be.
Bird Sound Recordings
Listen to actual recorded bird sounds from the main garden at Haldon Estate