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Hilton Farmhouse
Makhanda (Grahamstown) district, Eastern Cape



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33°15'03.28" S 26°21'09.80" E Alt: 488m

This magnificent double-storey was erected for AG Cumming by Richard Gush. Was he the architect. Proclaimed: 17-08-1984.

[Richardson, D. 2001: 23]

At 'Hilton', near Grahamstown, George Cumming built the magnificent double-storeyed bow-fronted house which has survived to the present day. 'Hilton' was only one — the best preserved — of a number of bow-fronted farmhouses which once graced the immediate vicinity of Grahamstown. Other survivors are 'Belmont' (before 1826) and, probably also dating from this time, 'Fairlawn'.

'Hilton' is also remarkable for its complete disdain of attack, no attempt whatever having been made to protect it. The ground floor windows each have an area of glass nearly 10 feet (3.05m) high by more than four feet (1.22m) wide. There is not even an enclosed yard to afford shelter at the back of the house. It was begun in 1834, and was probably far advanced when the Xhosa attacked the district in December. (Although Hilton House shows no signs of fortification the adjacent barn is fortified).

Internally, 'Hilton' has a splendid oval entrance hall in the best classicist manner, with wall-niches for decorative sculpture or vases. The rooms are high and spacious, with fine fireplaces, and the staircase is one of the most gracious surviving in the country.

This house reveals the changing nature of the times. It looks forward optimistically to a life of security and grace on the frontier, a state of affairs that was not destined to be finally realized until after the war of 1851. At the same time it looks backward to the elegance of eighteenth century England 30 years and 6,000 miles (9,656km) away. It was an atypical kind of architecture which could not often be repeated, the last aristocratic swan-song of the old order before the new took its place—first the fortified house, and then, as memories of the war of 1835 faded, that broad, low, veranda-encircled Colonial building which to us is the epitome of the nineteenth century South African farm.

[Lewcock Ronald, 1963. Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp, 186-190.]

Attached is a scan of an article, "Visit to Table Hill Farm and Hilton", Annals of the Grahamstown Historical Society, v.2 no.3 1977, p.71-79. Read article
Sent to us by Sally Schramm
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See also St Peter's Anglican Church which is situated on Hilton Farm.

Books that reference Hilton Farmhouse

Lewcock, Ronald. 1963. Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa : a study of the interaction of two cultures, 1795-1837. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pg 186-190
Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pg 23