William Henry Newdigate

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About William Henry Newdigate



In June 1847 young William Henry Newdigate, third son of Francis Newdigate and his wife, Lady Barbara Maria Legge, daughter of the third Earl of Dartmouth, arrived to put down his roots in the green Piesang Valley, Plettenberg Bay. A scion of one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Britain, he could trace his ancestry back on the paternal side through a long line of noble Newdigates - among whom titles abounded - to the 15th century. The Newdigate ancestral seat was - and still is today - Arbury Hall, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. William and two of his brothers were born at Astley Castle, the seat of his maternal grandfather, the Earl. William and his brother, George, had already spent ten months in South Africa, staying with the Hon. Henry Barrington on his estate, Portland, near Knysna, while looking for a farm to buy in the vicinity. They eventually purchased seven-eighths of Roodefontein, a farm of about 1 500 hectares in the Piesang Valley, from Hendrick Lodewyk Pio for £600. William modified the name Roodefontein to Redbourn, called a second portion of the farm Ladywood and a third Buccleugh. In time he also acquired Astley and Jackal's Kraal, adjoining his original purchase. Here he farmed industriously for 16 years and became the leading figure in the small local community.

On Redbourn he built, in 1850, a little wooden church, St. Andrew's, out of yellow-wood cut on his own lands. This tiny building is the oldest church in the Diocese of George and was proclaimed an historical monument in 1963. From Redbourn, too, he married on 17th June 1851, Caroline, eldest daughter of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie and his wife, Caroline (born Rex) of Belvidere. In the substantial house which he built for his bride on Redbourn, the first six of his and Caroline's large family were born - three sons and three daughters - and thrived happily.

In 1862 William's father died at his handsome home, Dartmouth House, Blackheath, Kent, and it was probably as a result of the bequest which he received that William bought in the following year 1 620 well-wooded hectares at Bowers Park - now known as The Crags. Here he built a spacious home to his own design - Forest Hall. According to a letter written by Caroline Newdigate in August 1863, mentioning that the brick-work of their new house was progressing well, they probably moved into Forest Hall before the end of 1863. Here they lived a self-contained life, modelled on that of a squire and his lady in the English countryside of the last century. They entertained Bishops and other dignitaries of the Church, important men such as Dr Guybon Atherstone and Thomas Bain (of mountain passes fame), officials of the Forestry and Roads Departments and visitors from overseas. Three of William's brothers came out to stay with them at various times - the eldest, who became Lt Colonel Francis William Newdigate of the Coldstream Guards; a younger brother who became Lt General Sir Edward Newdigate, Governor of the Bermudas after a distinguished military career, and the youngest surviving brother, Albert, a graduate of Christ Church, Oxford. The names of all these and many more are to be found in the Forest Hall visitors' book, still in use today.

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William Henry Newdigate's Timeline

May 16, 1824
Warwick, Warwickshire, England UK
December 10, 1853
Age 29
Plettenberg Bay, South Cape DC, Western Cape, South Africa
Age 29
November 26, 1856
Age 32
Knysna, South Cape DC, Western Cape, South Africa
April 11, 1859
Age 34
November 21, 1860
Age 36
Knysna, South Cape DC, Western Cape, South Africa
March 23, 1863
Age 38
January 30, 1865
Age 40
October 4, 1866
Age 42