"Could you find me two or three acres here? I would like to put up a small cottage for Annie." a simple request made by a Gerneral to a Sir
To understand the origins of Botha House one not only needs to acknowledge the vision and determination of Sir Frank Reynolds, but equally the relationship he had with one of South Africa's most influential Anglo-Boer War Generals, a relationship which influenced the construction and completion of this majestic homestead.
General Louis Botha and Sir Frank Reynolds became friends in a time where South Africa was under-going a shift towards a new state. This time in the country's history, coupled with this unique relationship of these two men, is echoed in the structure and elegance of Botha House.
"Sir Frank's native name was Nkanyize - Morning Star, affectionately bestowed upon him with repect for his early rising habbits" an excerpt from the book Umdoni Park - Gift to the Nation
A Devonshire man by origin , Frank Umhlali Reynolds, and his brother Charles, were sent by their father in 1874 to assist in the running of the newly established Umzinto Sugar Estate, South of Durban. After loosing their uncle suddenly less then one year after their arrival and with the guidance of their father, the two brothers flourished vigorously and created an estate consisting of thousands of hectares of sugar cane and the still fully functional Sezela Sugar Mill. Their homestead Lynton Hall stands as a testament to Sir Franks unparalleled success, for not only is this homestead of sheer grandeur and class, but also as it sits majestically overlooking the Umdoni Park.
In 1918, Sir Franks complete love affair with the natural beauty of the Natal coastline was evidently displayed through the purchase of the land that denotes the present day Umdoni Park. Gaining inspiration from an equally influential Englishman, his prospect included the preservation of all naturally occurring fauna and flora within its boundaries. Today, this 220-hectare park is maintained inline with that vision, home to the Umdoni Park Golf Club and some of the most pristine and untouched coastal forests in the area.
"...got a telegram from General Botha to say that he and Mrs. Botha are coming down on Sunday." an entry from Sir Frank's Diary on the 24th June, 1918
Being an active Member of Parliament, Sir Frank had many friendly relations with dignitaries and parliamentary members alike. None is more striking than the friendship with General Louis Botha, the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. As there are no records of Sir Frank's intent to build the now formally known homestead of Botha House, one is only left to imagine whether he informed the General of his intentions. We can only assume that upon General Botha's request Sir Frank was immediately persuaded. And so, on the 24th of October 1918, preparation began for the construction of this majestic and awe-inspiring building. After 7 months of site clearing, architectural conception, the installation of a pump in the nearby golf course dam to provide water for the contractor and the arrival of building materials, June 1919 strikes a note in history.
"...and so the foundations have begun." Sir Frank's Diary notes on the 15 June 1919
The site upon which Botha House is located was one of the few elevated pieces of land found within the Umdoni Park. Sitting mere metres above the rocky shoreline below, the selection of this site ensured that the sound of the pounding surf would add to the coastal ambience, which Botha House was so renowned for amongst the people who used it. Sadly however, on the 27th of August 1919, less than 3 months after the beginning of the building process and when the walls were only a few feet high, came the news of General Bothas passing. There was most certainly a deep disappointment and a sense of loss, which Sir Frank would've suffered knowing that the house would not be seen by the person for whom it was intended.
Construction however never faltered. The wagons toiled laboriously on along the sand track to the nearby Pennington Station. After only 8 more months, and with the finishing touches being made to the house, the middle of April 1920 would've seen the major contractors leave site. All that was left to do was to furnish the interior. Arriving from Britain was the crockery from Harrods in London and the cutlery from Mappin and Webb, the teak furniture made to order in Durban and the carpets from Parker, Wood and Co. and, on the 16th of May 1920, the day after the arrival of Mrs. Annie Botha at Lynton Hall, an entry within Sir Franks diary states:
"We'll all go down to Botha House, and I present the house to Mrs. Botha for her life..." Botha House was ready to welcome its first resident.