The Oaklands Story: History of Estate in Drakensberg | Oaklands Country Manor

The Oaklands Story

Oaklands Country Manor and its surrounding estate in Central Drakensberg are steeped in a rich history that dates back to the years preceding the First Boer War. It has seen a series of devoted owners who enjoyed varying degrees of success as the property served as a game farm, family estate and guest house over the years.

Initially run as a game farm, Oaklands took its name from the oak forest that was planted nearby for the manufacture of duiselbooms – long poles used to hitch oxen to wagons.

History

Oaklands was bought in 1860 by English millionaire, Bob Hall as a gift for his wife. Initially run as a game farm, it took its name from the oak forest that was planted nearby for the manufacture of duiselbooms – the long poles used at the time to hitch oxen to wagons. Since then, the property has been owned and managed by a string of colourful characters, including a clairvoyant, who is believed to have hosted séances in the upstairs rooms of the manor, and a South African provincial cricket captain.

In Recent Years

In November 1995 Oaklands was bought by Sir Hervey James Hugh Bruce-Clifton, a former Major in the British Army. After serving 27 years in the Grenadier Guards, he decided to return to the country of his birth. Jamie, as he was fondly called by those who knew him, had spent the first six years of his life in Mooi River in the Natal Midlands and, while searching for property in the area, fell in love with Oaklands.

From the onset, Jamie worked tirelessly to realise his vision for his new home and within a few years Oaklands had established itself as a premier conference and polo venue in South Africa. Until his untimely death in February 2010, Jamie made a significant contribution to Oaklands and the surrounding community, leaving a legacy of warm hospitality and excellent service that still flourishes today.

The Tully family

Oaklands Country Manor is currently run by Jamie’s wife, Lady Caroline, together with her sisters Kathy Romer-Lee and Annie Barnard, and her brother Simon Tully. The business is thriving under the collective management of these Tully siblings, each of whom brings a wealth of experience in the hospitality and marketing industries – quite literally – to the table. This fun-loving family, who grew up in close-knit communities in Lesotho and then the eastern Free State, traces its heritage back to Irish fortune-seekers who settled in the Northern Cape during the early diamond-mining days in the area.

The Community

Caroline, Annie, Kathy and Simon’s long affiliation to the region and their strong sense of family values form the core of the Oaklands ethos, and it’s one that extends to the nearby community as well. A primary employer in the area, Oaklands is deeply committed to local skills development and providing opportunities for social and economic upliftment. Johnson Ndluvu used to spend his school holidays working in the gardens on the estate. After he expressed an interest in cooking, he joined the Oaklands kitchen – his dedication and talent paid off and he now holds the key position of chef.