Walking along the Main Road, St James (a coastal suburb of Cape Town) one will see properties that still have, in their design, suggestions of an earlier building period. One may walk pass one of these and not pay too much attention to what one observes. Yet look a little more closely, ask a few questions and small nuggets of an interesting history will be unveiled.
Like many people when money became available and personal position had been achieved, there was an itch to own a seaside home. Beaufort Cottage is an example of such a desire. It became the holiday home of Sir John Molteno who had become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony under Responsible Government in 1872. Molteno’s family who had been British citizens for generations, were descendants of the Moltenos of Lombardy, Italy.
When John Molteno arrived in Cape Town he worked as an assistant in the South African Library, today known as the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town campus. Later he became involved in the wine exporting industry, then in sheep farming acquiring huge areas of land in the Beaufort West district where he also became a successful banker. At one time he even issued his own notes payable in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Mossel Bay. He died in Cape Town in 1886 – his home is now part of the Greenfield Girls Primary School, Claremont.