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JONES, William Oliver

Born: c1776
Died: 1827 02 02


Considered a notorious figure, named Oliver the Spy, in England in 1817, when the Leeds Mercury disclosed that an instigator and informer of this name had been employed by the Government in order to discover the leaders of insurrections and riots in the industrial districts of England after a temporary suspension of civil rights in Yorkshire from 1812 to 1817 (See for instance Spartacus Educational and Wikipedia). He was among several well-known informers, many of whom were enabled to leave the country under Government protection. It was thought that Oliver the Spy had been given employment in South Africa, and when William Oliver Jones arrived at Cape Town in 1820 it was generally believed that he was the notorious agent. Here he operated as a builder and contractor in the Cape from 1820 to about 1825.

He was born in Pontesbury, Shropshire in England and apprenticed to a carpenter in Shropshire. Later he went to London in order to train as a land surveyor and was subsequently employed as an accountant to a carpenter and as a surveyor. He came to South Africa in 1820, recommended to Lord Charles Somerset by Goulburn of the Colonial Office in London as 'a builder but no architect'. His friendship with John MELVILL, Government Inspector of buildings, led Melvill to recommend him as his deputy in 1821. During 1821 he acted as surveyor at Newlands. He was commissioned to draw the first designs for an English Church, St George's, for the 1820 settlers in Grahamstown, completed in 1828 and passed for worship in 1830 (Lewcock, 1963:301). He succeeded Melvill on 5 January 1822 but in July 1825 was suspended owing to inadequate accounting, after which he was appointed government overseer of works. It is not known whether Jones designed all the works listed or if he merely acted as overseer of many of them. One of the buildings was Government House as there is a receipt written out to him by Herman SCHUTTE which reads "Cape Town 15 July 1825, Received from Mr William Jones! Three hundred and Twenty three Rix dollars - payment for Plasterwork done in Government House between 13 and 30 May 1825. Signed H Schutte."

(AB&E Mar 1920:19-20; DSAB 5; Fransen 1974, 1982; Greig 1971; Lewcock 1963; SESA 5:301, 6:235; 8:324)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Cathedral church of St Michael and St George: 1824 : 1874 : 1889-1892 : 1911. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Architect
Dockyard Church - Second, St George's Dockyard Church: 1820-1824 : 1898. Simonstown, Western Cape - Architect
Drostdy: 1822 - c1828. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Architect
Drostdy - Now Museum: 1824. Worcester, Western Cape - Architect
Marine Villa: 1823. Camps Bay, Western Cape - Architect
Old Gaol - Second: 1823. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Architect
Table Bay Harbour - Main Wharf, repaired: 1821. Cape Town, Western Cape - Architect

Books citing JONES

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 39, 47, 123, 220, 226

HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 392-393

Lewcock, Ronald. 1963. Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa : a study of the interaction of two cultures, 1795-1837. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 115-117, 120, 122, 125, 146, 260-261, 242-243, 376,

Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pp 77

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 5 For-Hun. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 301

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1972. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 6 Hun-Lit. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 235

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1973. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 8 Mus-Pop. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 324

Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp 26