Hon. Sir James Liege Hulett

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Hon. Sir James Liege Hulett

Birthplace: Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Death: June 09, 1928 (90)
Durban, Natal
Immediate Family:

Son of James Liege Hulett and Mary Georgiana Hulett
Husband of Lady Mary Ann Balcomb
Father of Mary Annie Agnes Clayton; Albert Saxe Liege Hulett; George Herbert Hulett; William Arthur Hulett; James Inigo Balcomb Hulett and 3 others
Brother of Mary Georgiana Hulett; Sarah Jane Hulett and Harriett Churchill Kirkby

Occupation: Company Director
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Hon. Sir James Liege Hulett

One of the steerage class passengers, 19 year old James Liege Hulett, decided to pass the time by fishing. Another passenger, a Mrs. Schultz, had been impressed with the neat appearance of young Liege Hulett and had asked permission from the Captain for him to come up occasionally to the first class to talk to them, and this had been allowed, She decided to play a practical joke on the young fisherman and, obtaining a salted herring from the galley, reached through a porthole, wound up Liege's line and tied on the herring. She gave the line a tug and Liege reeled in with great joy, only to find that he had been hoaxed. He was not amused! There is no record of what young Liege Hulett thought about on the 114-day voyage while the 'Lady Shelbourne' kicked and bucked incessantly on the high seas. However, some of the other passengers are reported to have found "continual movement underfoot very trying!" During those long days, Liege Hulett must have wondered whether he had made the right decision, with his 19th birthday still 14 weeks away when he boarded the vessel on 7 February, 1857 with 25 pounds sterling borrowed from his uncle, in his pocket. The fare ate up 20 pounds, leaving him with 5 pounds when he landed in Durban almost four months later.

In 1864, James Liege Hulett, his wife, and their children, Mary and Albert, took up residence at Kearsney. James Liege Hulett was a local preacher in the Verulam Circuit of the Methodist Church and, as there was no place of worship for miles around, a family altar was erected in his home where friends and neighbours joined the family at their Sunday services. Among the number who attended this gathering were the father and mother of Mary Ann Hulett, Mr and Mrs Benjamin Balcomb, her three brothers Inigo, Horace and Benjamin, together with the Metcalf, Newcombe, Fuller, Peachie and Buckle families. By 1869, the number of families increased with the development of farming in the area, and it was felt that a church should be built to accommodate the growing congregation. Generous donations of money, material and labour were given and in 1870 the first small chapel, built of wood and iron, was erected. Among the congregation in the old chapel in 1870 were the families of Lyle, Thring, Ashwell, Hindson, Bull, Symmond, Spencer and Clayton. Kearsney at that time was attached to the Verulam Circuit, and the Reverend Charles Robert was the first minister to attend this outlying station on a quarterly visit to administer the Sacrament. Under the supervision of the Reverend John Limon the church building was enlarged, and a new Chancel was added in1881.

By 1905 it again became necessary for a new church to be built once again to meet the needs of the expanding community. Plans were drawn by Messrs Scott and Kirby, Architects in Pietermaritzburg who presented these to the Trustees as their donation. It is interesting to note that the Trustees at that time were Sir J.L. Hulett, K.B., M.L.A.; Messrs Albert, William, James, Ted and Horace Hulett; Horace, Inigo, Ben, Ronald and Oswald Balcomb; the Hon. F.W. Clayton, M.L.A.; Mr A.E. Foss, J.P. and Mr W. Warren, J.P.; all well-known members of the Natal North Coast community. The cost of putting the building out to contract was estimated to be about £1 600. Mr A.S.L. Hulett, however, agreed to act as clerk of works, and through his efforts and the offers of help and donations from other friends, the estimated cost was greatly reduced. With preparations well underway for the holding of a bazaar as part of the fund raising efforts, the Bambata Rebellion of 1906 broke out and the Government immediately declared Kearsney House a laager. All men of the district were summoned there to establish a commando unit and the house became a place of refuge for the community. When hostilities ceased, the men of the unit received a small remuneration from the Government for their services as volunteers and, at the suggestion of Mr E.A. Hopkins, they donated this to the Chapel Building Fund, swelling it by about £80. A Durban firm of builders, Rorvick & Son, who also built the Stanger Methodist Church, started work on the new chapel in 1907, apparently building around the old chapel as far as was possible so as not to interrupt the regular services. After completing the new building, the old chapel was dismantled and removed piecemeal through the front door. The Dedication Service, conducted by the Reverend G. Sydney Barnes of Stanger, was held on the 23rd May 1908, with the sermon that day being delivered by the Reverend W.J. Hacker, Chairman of the Natal District. It is interesting to note that the marriage of Sir James Liege and Lady Hulett’s elder daughter, Mary, to the Hon. Walter Clayton, was the first to be solemnised in the old chapel, while the marriage of this latter couple’s eldest daughter, Maisie, to Egbert Hopkins, was the first performed in the new chapel.

For many years Sir James Liege Hulett had cherished the idea of one day founding a school in Natal. Kearsney House, the old family home, had been empty since his eldest son Albert vacated it in 1917 and he considered it ideally suited for this purpose. On the 29th November 1920 he signed over Kearsney House to the Wesleyan Church for the purpose of establishing Kearsney College and, from 1921, until Kearsney College moved to Botha’s Hill in 1939, the church was used as the School Chapel. Little used after 1950, the chapel fell into a state of disrepair. It was purchased by Huletts Corporation in 1970 and now stands almost fully restored. Fortunately, the lectern, together with the original pews and chairs were located, returned and refurbished. The copper spire, which was destroyed by hurricane force winds in 1954, has been replaced. The chapel was declared a National Monument in 1970 and it stands today, not only as a small country church in the heart of the Natal North Coast, but also as a memorial to the pioneer Methodist families who gave so much to create Natal and develop its beautiful landscape

Sir James Liege Hulett, Natal planter, industrialist and politician, was born in Kent, England and came to Durban, Natal, South Africa at the end of May 1857 at the age of 19 with only £5. Hulett pioneered the country's sugar industry when he founded the Hulett Company in 1892, which had extensive cane plantations and erected the first sugar mill in 1903.

He was also the first person in Natal to cultivate tea successfully. He personally raised money to extend the railway line between Verulam and Stanger, which became the first and only privately owned line in Natal. He represented Victoria County in the Natal legislative council for twenty-two years. In 1921, Hulett founded Kearsney College, a prestigious boys' school in Stanger, on the Natal north coast. Today, the Huletts Sugar Company is called Tongaat-Hulett, after it merged with the Tongaat sugar company, and is still one of the major sugar groups in the country.

James L Hulett
Sheffield, Yorkshire
Event Type Census
Name James L Hulett
Sex Male
Age 12
Event Date 1851
Event Place Gillingham, Kent, England
Registration District Medway
Birth Year (Estimated) 1839
Birthplace Sheffield, Yorkshire
Occupation Scholar
Relationship to Head of Household Son
Page Number 16
Piece/Folio 1611 / 646
Registration Number HO107

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Hon. Sir James Liege Hulett's Timeline

May 17, 1838
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
March 17, 1863
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
July 17, 1864
Verulam, Durban Metro, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
February 16, 1866
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
September 14, 1867
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
September 1869
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
June 9, 1928
Age 90
Durban, Natal
Kearsney, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa