Weston Agricultural College

Weston Agricultural College

THE HISTORY OF WESTON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE

On 17 August 1914, the Weston Agricultural and Allied Trades School opened on its present site at Weston, with five pupils. Two weeks previously, World War One had broken out and immediately the growth of the new school was affected. After three years, numbers had increased to sixty and in 1925 the name was changed to Weston Farm Training School. At this time a two year course was introduced with an emphasis on practical agriculture.

In an old note book written by John Kirby, who came to the Mooi River area in 1851, he speaks of teeming herds of game, amongst which were buffalo and lion. As time went by, the land slowly became occupied and the road to the North was developed. Originally, Weston was a village laid out at the junction of the road to the North and the Mooi River. This area was the cen+re for transport riders with their ox wagons. Wet weather often delayed transport and at such times there were large gatherings of travellers, wagons, oxen, mules and servants. A post office was set up in 1854 and later the Lake Hotel. By 1866 there was sufficient demand for a bridge to be built across the Mooi River and Helen Bridge, still standing, was named after the daughter of Natal's Governor and Commander of the Imperial Troops, General J.J. Bissett. Helen, who was noted for her beauty, married a son of Sir Theophilus Shepstone. Near the Helen Bridge are the ruins of the Lake Hotel which was destroyed by fire.

helen bridge sepia

 

 

 

St John's Church

St John's Church was built in 1872 and during the Zulu War of 1879 , it was enclosed by a laager. The church's first minister was the Rev. George Smith, one of the heroes of Rorke's Drift. It is said that the bricks for the church were made locally in a spruit below the church, towards the river, and that the wood was brought frorn Shaw's bush on the Karkloof. The wood used in the roof and the pews, is yellowwood. The doors were made by H.E. Kirby, son of John Kirby.

st johns church sepia

 

Weston was the centre of the farming district before the railway line arrived, which was laid out to the west of the Weston Village. Three other villages, namely, New Weston, Grantleigh and Lawrenceville, sprang up near the station sited on Mr Lawrence's farm. These villages increased in' iportance with the expanding railway traffic, and "Old Weston" declined, until today it is hardly recognisable as a village. The three villages around the railway station united under the name Mooi River, in 1924.

 

Remount Depot

During the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 the farm that Weston Agricultural College now stands on, was used as a remount depot where thousands of horses were kept. A large military hospital of tents, with 1500 beds, was set up by the British army. On a hill bordering the present faun is a military cemetery which provided a burial ground for the soldiers who succumbed to wounds or disease. 

During the period immediately preceding the war, the British Army made use of horses for the various cavalry regiments and also for the artillery. Argentina was the source of supply for South Africa. In about the middle of 1899 when it seemed that war was imminent, commissions for purchasing horses were established in the United States, Spain, Italy and Australia. To accommodate the cavalry and artillery, as far as Natal was concerned, it had been the custom just before and after the outbreak of war, to encamp mounted units at Weston, because of the good grazing and absence of horse sickness. Houses were erected for the officers, barracks for the other ranks and corrugated iron shelters for the horses (± 5000). The officers' private horses were accommodated in proper well equipped stables with windows that closed. Some of the original buildings are still standing and the three houses, two of which are national monuments, are still in use by the College today. The British army left many artifacts e.g. Coins, buttons, - bottles and other interesting findings which have been collected by staff pupils over the years and are now housed in the school museum, with other old implements, machinery, photographs and books.

 

 

Commanding Officer's House

 

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Doctor's Quarters

 

 doctors quarters sepia

 

 

Nurse's Quarters

 

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After long train journeys and sea voyages the horses were often in very poor condition, exhausted and in a very frightened state. 13 000 horses died at sea and an unknown, but very large number, on the trains. The horses were also not acclimatised to South African conditions, and many died shortly after arrival. At the depots they were supposed to be acclimatised, brought into good condition and trained for the use for which they were to be put. Not all depots were run efficiently and there was such a great demand for horses that they were often released before they were fit, acclimatised or properly trained. Weston was regarded as a healthy environment for horses, on account of its near-immunity from horse sickness. But unfortunately there were other diseases and an epidemic of glanders cut down hundreds of fine animals. Even today horse shoes are often dug up during ploughing operations all over the farm.

There is a legend that two soldiers buried a cartload of gold sovereigns in ammunition boxes somewhere on the farm, and that soon afterwards they were both killed in action. Needless to say, students through the years have lived in hope of finding the treasure.

The Union Government sold the remount camp to the NPA, which converted it into an Agricultural and Allied Trades School. The purchase price for 3000 acres (1200 hectares) was R 6,848, slightly more than R2 per acre!!

 

dairy building sepia

 

Smyth House and Charlton House are named after the first headmaster and farm manager respectively. The original school block was built in 1926 and this was added to in 1968. The next hostels built were Shorten and Paterson. In 1987 a Science laboratory, Media centre and two more classrooms were built. Parker House, a new hostel built to accommodate fifty students was opened in 199.g In 1991 the school introduced Stds 6 & 7. Today there are ten classrooms, a media centre, a geography classroom, a biology lab., an audio visual room and a computer room a vast improvement on the original wood and iron classrooms.


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The Info Booklet below will answer most of your questions.  Please contact our school should you have any further enquiries.