A History of Kloof, by Adrian M. Rowe

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. He 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 £240. 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 10s.

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 oxwagon 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 oxwagons 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, and it was changed to Kloof on 3 July 1922. The station building was rebuilt in 1924 and after a number of alterations, 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 sort 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 on the Molweni River in what is now 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.

In 1942 a Town Board was formed to administer the requirements of the village, and on Ist January 1961 Kloof obtained Borough status. Kloof is now part of Durban’s eThekwini Municipality.

13 May 2003 (Copyright Adrian M. Rowe RSA 031-7644721)

Sources: Deeds Office, Pietermaritzburg.
Surveyor General, Pietermaritzburg.
Natal Archives Repository, Pietermaritzburg.
Cape Archives Repository, Cape Town.
Unpublished manuscript: “A History of Kloof, Natal” by Meredith Mary Shadwell.
“British Settlers in Natal 1824-1857” by Shelagh O’Byrne Spencer.