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Richmond has an amazing history! First established as a town in 1843, the townspeople wanted to honour the new Governor of the Cape, Sir Peregrine Maitland. He declined their gracious offer, and suggested naming the new town after his father-in-law, the Duke of Richmond.
Unlike many farming towns, Richmond is not built around the NG Kerk as its central point. Interestingly, Richmond straddles a river, and this could be why we have such a strange street grid in town. The centre of Richmond is actually the Market Gardens, where in the Anglo Boer War, British soldiers were shot and killed by the Boers who had advanced on the town from Hanover. These soldiers are buried in the "English" cemetery. The English blockhouse is still visible from our hotel dining room window, on the koppie where the flags fly.
At one stage, Richmond was the wealthiest town per capita in the region, but today survives on tourism and the extensive farming community. Some of these farms have been handed down over 8 generations.
When we moved into the hotel to start renovating it on 1 March 2019, the hotel had stood empty for over 20 years. We have managed to trace a few of the owners of the hotel over the years, from its original iteration as The Masonic Hotel, to when it was renamed The Hotel Belsana in the 1960's when Mr & Mrs Matthee bought it. We have decided to give it another name change, and we're very proud to welcome our guests to The Richmond Karoo Small Hotel.
From our research, it seems the hotel was built shortly after the town was established. When pulling satellite cables in the roof, we came across pages from "The Young Woman's Journal" of 1887, so we're pretty sure it is from around the 1860's.
It is unclear (at this point...) who the original owner of the hotel was, but in the early 1900's it was owned by a Freemason, Mr Thomas George Makepeace. He then sold it to Mr J A Allam, who at one stage owned the Allam's Private Hotel in nearby Hanover. This was in the 1930's, and when Mr Allam sold, it was bought by the Pizer family - also Freemasons.
It seems Mr Allam extended the hotel, adding two wings to the back of the hotel and creating a central courtyard at the rear of the hotel, with rooms looking onto the courtyard. Mr & Mrs Pizer, when they purchased the hotel, then enclosed the courtyard to create the Billiard Room, which is today our dining room. You are still able to see the remnants of what were originally rooms that were remodelled to install the staircase. We have references to say that the original staircase was on the exterior of the building. The Pizer's renovation also included removing the wooden sash windows and taking down the Victorian balcony on the Pienaar street facade.
One of the plumbers who helped us with the renovation, Gilbert, is now in his 60's. He fondly remembers working at the hotel employed by Mr J A Matthee ("Oom Bokkie") who owned the hotel (along with the Richmond Hotel, having purchased both hotels from Mr Schietekat) and starting up the diesel "donkey" at 04:00 each morning to heat the water for the shared bathrooms. There were also no modern conveniences such as kettles in the rooms, so he would have to take trays to each occupied room with tea and coffee. He reminisced about the beautiful oregon and yellowwood wainscotting and panelling in the hotel, as well as the beautiful staircase - sadly these were removed at a later stage.
This old building still has many stories to tell... and we can't wait to share them with you.