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Fordoun … country cordiality since 1850

Posted on: April 5, 2017, in News

For Fordoun farm hospitality is second nature … they have been doing it since 1850.

Fordoun was first registered in the early 1850 by Mr. William Taylor, after his land grant was successful. He named the land Fordoun, after his private parish in his native area Kindcardineshire in Scotland. William came out to Natal on the “Lidgett scheme”. So called after Mr Lidgett gave a glowing account in a local newspaper about the attractions of Natal as farming country “out in the colonies”. Mr. Lidgett, is whom Lidgetton is named after. Lidgetton is a small settlement further down the R103 towards Pietermaritzburg.

Following his marriage, William and his wife became very active in the district and country-side meetings would often end with Mrs Taylor’s show of hospitality in one way or another. Mr and Mrs W Taylor were always in the forefront of everything that made country life pleasurable and the cheerful hospitality of Fordoun in these pre-railway days was enjoyed by many.

Another colorful character who has owned Fordoun, is Lady Nora Usher and her husband Sir George. This wealthy English Industrialist couple bought Fordoun after World War One as a winter home to escape the English climate. As the years progressed, and especially after the death of Sir George in 1963, Lady Usher lived at Fordoun permanently. The death of Sir George left a massive void in the life of Lady Nora. She was left with a large estate, complicated business arrangements and many legal challenges, and she very much felt that life had been unkind to her.

Throughout their lives, formality and entertainment had played an important aspect in the routine of Sir George and Lady Nora Usher.  Amongst their other guests there were often lengthy visits by a number of ‘English Roses’ who had been sent out to ‘the Colony’ to meet an eligible bachelor. Characters and raconteurs were always being invited to dine at Fordoun and in the evenings all were expected to change into formal dinner suits and long dresses.

After Sir George’s death, Nora continued to entertain and have grand dinner parties, however she became a little unsteady on her feet as she got older. One story that she used to tell was of a late night after a party. The servants had left, and she went to check that the fireplace in the main lounge was in order. The wood was kept in a large, deep woven basket which by this stage was empty. As she inspected the fire grate, she fell backwards, bottom first, into the basket. She rocked side to side, hoping that the basket would topple her out, but to no avail. So she decided that she would sleep in it. She was woken in the morning by frantic servants tapping and shouting at doors and windows. This stimulated her to make great effort and she rocked the basket with vigour until it fell over.

She was a character who was strong willed and mentally sharp up until the last two or three years of her life. After suffering a few minor strokes, she had a major stroke and fell, hurting herself quite badly and was admitted to Grey’s hospital in Pietermaritzburg.  This all proved to be a bit much for her and Lady Nora Usher died in 1994.

This legacy of country hospitality continues with Fordoun Hotel and Spa. A five star, award winning, upmarket boutique hotel and spa with a top class conference venue and a superior restaurant on the foundations of the “grand old lady” Fordoun.


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