FRUIT DIRECTLY FROM FARMS – Dr Dawn Gould

Constantia once had a connection, indirectly that is, with Cecil John Rhodes.  This came about when, having resigned as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony after the debacle of the Jameson Raid, he decided to enter the fruit growing business.  For that he needed the actual land and knowledgeable men to turn his decision into fact.  One of the men who would help in this new

H. E..V Pickstone (The Argus) SESA 8

venture was Harry Ernest Victor Pickstone born in Britain in 1865 and died in 1939 on his farm Lekkerwijn, Groot Drakenstein.

Pickstone had left his home in Lancashire travelled to Bechuanaland (now Botswana) as part of Sir Charles Warren’s expedition there 1884-1885, had also been to Canada but in 1888 he left for California to seek his fortune.   He worked on fruit farms and began to learn the nursery and horticultural trade.  Fortune though was not quick in coming his way so he moved to the Cape of Good Hope to see if he could develop a fruit industry.

He was fortunate in having been given an introductory letter to C D Rudd a business partner of Rhodes and soon met the man himself.  The result was that Rhodes helped financially to set up a nursery in the Stellenbosch district.  Those running it were Pickstone, Seabstian van Reenen  ( a descendant of the well known and successful Constantia landowners) and Lionel Baker, brother of Herbert Baker who, later, would become a well known architect in South Africa.  The partnership was eventually dissolved and Pickstone began his own nursery in 1894 in Wellington with branches at in the Hex River area and Constantia.  He was also employed by the Cape Government to teach and advise local farmers on how to plant and prune fruit trees.

The specific part of Constantia where he set up his nursery was the present Klein Constantia farm. He actually rented land, in 1894 from the then owner W A van der Byl.   Although he did not stay very long in the area the significance of his involvement in the fruit industry (and in the small part played in Constantia) was that he helped develop the fruit industry into a major export.

Braemar Castle an early ship that transported fruit to England SESA 5