Melton Wold guest farm between Loxton and Victoria West has a rich romantic history. Woven into the story is a Lady Chatterley-like tale which played itself out in 1910. This history of this farm dates back over 250-million years as a Bradysaurus fossil, preserved in situ, proves. In time a strong fountain attracted game, the San and Widow Nortje. She was given the title-deed to this farm by the Magistrate of Beaufort West in 1838. Little is known of this widow and how she ended up all alone on this forsaken farm which she named Boschduiwefontein. Nevertheless, she managed to eke out a living farming with cattle and goats in this snake and predator infested area. In time, a member of the Hugo family, who became very well-known in this part of the Karoo, is said to have “joined” her and taken over farming operations. There’s a hint of romance here, but the mists of time do not allow a peek.
A Van Wyk family then briefly step on to the stage. They sold to Alfred Ebden, whose family owned Belmont Estate in Rondebosch, in 1889. He had high hopes for this beautiful farm. He built a new house and converted the old Van Wyk home into stables, and there kept his exquisite horses, which were the envy of the district. To this spot he also brought “the best Merinos yet seen in the Colony.” They came from Melton Stud in Australia and, because his family hailed from the Cotswolds, in England, he changed the farm’s name to Melton Wold.
Farming, however, was far more hazardous than he’d imagined. Bands of San still roamed about stealing stock. Dreadful droughts gripped the land – at times only 23 mm of rain fell in a year. Serious floods followed and one claimed the lives of 79 Victoria West residents in a single night. The Anglo-Boer War then erupted and both the Boers and the British forces plundered his stock. By 1910 Alfred just gave up and Melton Wold was ownerless.
Then George Arthur Paley, a wealthy English landowner , arrived and bought Melton Wold for £2. He thought this far-flung spot would aid his ailing, consumptive wife. Her doctor had advised a warmer, drier climate and George had heard of the “miracle cures” being achieved in the clean, crisp Karoo air. Shortly after they arrived, George bought up surrounding land and soon had a farm the size of an English county. He threw himself into farming, changing the landscape with boreholes, windmills, reservoirs, dams, wheat and lucerne fields. He engaged the Cape’s top wool expert as well as many skilled men from Europe and a host of domestic servants for the magnificent mansion he had built for his beloved wife. It overlooked the new huge Paley Dam. He also hired a forester to plant thousands of trees to create a little forest. He and his wife then lived in eternal summer, they moved between England and South Africa. George thought life was perfect and that his wife had everything her heart could desire.
But, Mrs Paley, who by now had borne him two sons, was lonely. Ever mindful of her needs, George brought a Rolls Royce and chauffeur to the farm so as to allow her to “partake in local social activities.” Her mood improved and so did her health. In fact, she got so much better that she abandoned George and her sons and eloped with the chauffeur. George was devastated. In 1916 a “juicy” divorce case, which shook the area, followed and Mrs P vanished into history. After a while George met an exotic, captivating French woman, Laura Marie Gaffiot, at a party he had not wanted to attend. They fell in love and he married her, but for him the romance had gone out of the Karoo. Melton Wold no longer held any appeal and he had lost interest in farming. The couple left for England and never returned.