A Walk Through Time

It stands alone in the pristine countryside of Boston like a memory from a by-gone era. Today Calderwood Hall is a guesthouse, conference centre and wedding venue, but way back in the 1800s it was built as a family home, in what was then the remote and distant High Flats, many days travel by ox cart from Durban.

Calderwood Hall was the family home of the Jardine family, who emigrated to South Africa from Scotland to settle on their 50 000ha tract of land in the wild interior of the new colony. The settlers initially built a modest stone farmhouse near a small river (now a dam with the original river running through it), but when the youngest son, Joseph Jardine, inherited the property, he decided to invest his newly made fortune in a far larger country manor, designed by Stott, one of the most popular architects of the time.

Construction was planned to start in 1895, aiming for completion in 1900. Bricks were made on site using sand and clay from nearby riverbanks, which were moulded into shape and fired in straw kilns on the farm. Today one can still see the handprints of the brick-makers and imprints of the straw where the bricks were placed to cool after firing.

However, things were delayed by the loss in 1898 of imported building materials such as the "broekielace", tiles, steel pressed ceilings, steel fireplaces, stained glass, doors and door surrounds, all imported from Glasgow in Scotland, which sank into the waters of Durban harbour when a rope snapped during offloading. Luckily all the items were insured, and the whole consignment was re-ordered and arrived two years later. It then took another two months to transport everything to the building site by ox-drawn wagons.

Calderwood Hall was completed two years later than anticipated in 1902, and when complete was a truly elegant Victorian country mansion, which was the Jardine family home for many years. During their occupation, Joseph Jardine and his wife Edith produced twelve children, who were all born in the 'birthing room' on the ground floor (now a TV lounge), as Edith refused to climb the house's magnificent walnut staircase after her sixth month of pregnancy. The babies were then transferred upstairs to the 'nursing room' (now the en suite bathroom for the Indian suite) on the mezzanine level, where they were cared for by the nurse or nanny.

Unfortunately, over time, the next generation of Jardines sold off portions of the estate until there was only the house and a small garden left. Mondi bought much of the land, and finally acquired the house too, but in a very dilapidated state. Plans to turn it into an executive retreat came to nothing, and the house was sold once again in 1996 as a totally derelict property with a dam and 30ha of land. The once magnificent yellowwood floors were scratched and scarred, the roof leaked, bats, rats, owls and 17 beehives had taken occupation, cows grazed outside the front door, and there were no toilets, geysers, septic tanks, electrics, plumbing, running water or telephone.

The renovations were so costly that the buyers decided to open a B&B to defray some of the expenses, and today Calderwood Hall has evolved into the country venue it is today.

The Edwardian Era...

The Edwardian era or Edwardian period in the United Kingdom is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII 1901 to 1910. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 and the succession of her son, Edward, marked the start of a new century and the end of the Victorian era. While Victoria had shunned society, Edward was the leader of a fashionable elite which set a style influenced by the art and fashions of continental Europe—perhaps because of the King's fondness for travel. The era was marked by significant shifts in politics as sections of society which had been largely excluded from wielding power in the past, such as common labourers and women, became increasingly politicised.

The Edwardian period is frequently extended beyond Edward's death in 1910 to include the years up to the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the start of World War I in 1914, or often to the end of the war in 1918. By the end of the war, the Edwardian way of life, with its inherent imbalance of wealth and power, had become increasingly anachronistic in the eyes of a population who had suffered in the face of war and who were exposed to elements of a new mass media which decried the injustice of class division.

Socially, the Edwardian era was a period during which the British class system was very rigid. It is seen as the last period of the English country house. Economic and social changes created an environment in which there was more social mobility. Such changes included rising interest in socialism, attention to the plight of the poor and the status of women, including the issue of women's suffrage, together with increased economic opportunities as a result of rapid industrialization. These changes were to be hastened in the aftermath of the first World War. The lower classes, as with earlier periods, were segregated from the aristocratic and mercantile "society", and led lives far removed from the relative luxury enjoyed by the other classes.


In fiction, some of the best-known names are H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, Beatrix Potter, and P.G. Wodehouse.

Science and technology

The turn of the century saw many great innovations. The first transatlantic wireless signals were sent by Guglielmo Marconi, and the Wright brothers took their first flight. By the end of the era, Louis Blériot had crossed the English Channel by air, the largest ship in the world, RMS Olympic, had sailed on her maiden voyage and automobiles were common.


The Edwardian period is often regarded as a romantic Golden Age of long summer afternoons, garden parties and big hats—this cultural perception was created by those that remembered the Edwardian age with nostalgia looking back to their childhood across the vast, dark, horrid abyss of the Great War. The Edwardian age could also be seen as a mediocre period of pleasure between the great achievements of the Victorian age, which preceded it, and the great catastrophe of the war which was to come after.

Fashion Traits of Historic Edwardian Gowns

Evening dresses were low-cut and sleeveless, then the neckline rose and sleeves became fuller. The sleeve went from a tight top and fuller bottom gathered into a wide cuff to the double-puff. By 1910 kimono sleeves were popular. The mermaid skirt was popular in 1901. It was gored, clung above the knees, then flared out to the hem. Some skirts were trained while the hems were decorated with lace and fabric ruffles.

Though pastels were very popular for historic Edwardian gowns, vibrant jewel tones were also worn. The height of fashion still seemed to be that of the Lady - mature, sophisticated and well-bred. But increasingly, there was hope for the ordinary woman, hope that had been founded in the last decade of the previous century. In fact, even the flowing lines of Edwardian fashion were rooted in the final years of the Victorian age. Though we conveniently define these eras as Victorian and Edwardian, stylistically, the line between them is blurred. The 1890s merge seamlessly with the early 1900s in an age of extravagance and style, appropriately called la Belle Epoque and lasting from approximately 1890 to 1914. This world began to decline by 1914, but the Great War ended it forever. Until then, throughout the early 1900s, fashion enjoyed its last true age of elegance, in what has been described as one long Edwardian summer.
The softer fabrics suited paler colours than had been favoured in the brash 1890s, and a variety of delicate shades abounded with evocative names such as "eau de Nile" and "ashes of roses". But it is a mistake to think that bright colours were never worn. Some extraordinarily vibrant and yet very attractive examples of early Edwardian dresses survive today, in rich jewel colours.

Soft clinging fabrics, wilting sleeves dripping with expensive lace and a flounced, trained skirt that had to be carried artfully with a skirt grip, all added to the air of elegant, luxury that accompanied the Edwardian lady and the leisured, perpetual summer afternoon which she seemed to inhabit.

Hair and hats, an important feature in the belle epoque, were another source of discomfort. Hair in the 1890s began relatively simply but waves and puffs increased throughout the decade, in a style generally called Pompadour, recalling the fashion of that eighteenth century lady. Even more important than the hair of the '90s had been the hat, an increasingly elaborate affair that could be an inconvenience at the theatre or in church. By 1900 the puffed and waved hair tended to be tilted forward over the forehead. The large hat, often with upturned brim sat forward on the coiffure, emphasising the extraordinary forward tilt of the early 1900s woman. While the S-curve remained fashionable, the hair and hat remained forward. As the curve of the figure straightened, the coiffure began to fill out behind and at the sides until by 1908 it seemed to be sagging behind, under its own weight. The large, waved, back-weighted hair of the end of the decade supported perhaps the largest, wide-brimmed hats seen since the age of Gainsborough. The hat was ruthlessly speared to the coiffure with foot-long hatpins that endangered the eye of anyone who stood too near. All of this balanced precariously above a svelte column of a dress, which hampered the stride of its wearer by its narrow, hobble skirt.

Such was the woman of 1909 to 1910, the epitome of elegance and luxury and once again, somewhat helpless. But beneath the surface of this impossible look was the skeleton of a much simpler form of dress. The corset no longer hampered breathing though it was long; the skirt though tight, could be cut with a vent or pleat to make walking easier; the bodice could be a blouse of the simplest all-in-one, magyar cut and though the weighty headdress was an insurmountable problem, in every other respect, dress in 1910 was beginning to reflect the practical needs of the twentieth century woman.

The Edwardian Wedding...

The Edwardian wedding was elegant affair with fringed lamps, grandfather clocks, large, faded carpets, overstuffed Windsor chairs, and large oriental vases. Silver (polished to perfection) and crystal was used wherever possible along with silver trays, candlesticks, cutlery, crystal chandeliers, candelabras, and sparkling wine glasses.

The decor had a fresh, cheerful feel using florals of roses, lilac, wisteria, and sweet peas, with trellises, ribbons and bows. Stripes were also typical something simple but rich, gold damask and white, as well as candy stripes. A popular colour scheme was pastels in the colours of flowers - primrose yellows, leaf greens, the lilac of wisteria, and grey.

Electric lighting was just beginning to be introduced to the grander homes. Fabric lampshades in soft colours with frills and tassels were used as wall lights, table lights and even standard lamps. Ceiling roses disguised the wiring for light fittings. Tiffany lamps or reclining female bronze figures were also in keeping.

A classic array of foods such as oysters, salmon in cream sauce, roast duckling, éclairs, caviar, beef consommé, filet mignon, truffles, roast duck, foie gras were served plated and on offer would be brandy and fine wines. This food was typically served over a number of courses, as in eight, ten or more. French wine was preferential with options at every course. Gloved and tuxedo-clad waiters scurried from table to table and women were dressed in high buttoned blouses and with aprons.

Live music continuously flowed in the background — something that went down easy, such as light Mozart, Bach, Liszt or Chopin played by either a piano player or a string quartet.

The early Victorian bridal bouquet fashion was the tussie- mussie — a tightly arranged, hand-tied nosegay of blooms slipped into a decorative cone. A later fashion was enormous cascade bouquets, the bride-to-be would pore over the Language of Flowers before settling on her blooms. There would be beautiful, fragrant flowers on every table and large ferns used round the room.


Calderwood History: with kind permission of Gaynor Lawson of The Quill (May 2005)
Edwardian and Victorian Information: Wikipedia