Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Lovemores and Bushy Park

The area known as Bushy Park is today inextricably linked to the Lovemore clan. Yet it might not always have been so. In fact Henry Lovemore was not the initial owner of this land. Lt Cornelius Bolton Alcock was and it was known as Klaas’s Kraal. Even Cornelius was not the initial applicant for this land.

 This blog is the story of those early days of Bushy Park. 

Main picture:  Hunting at Bushy Park

Metelerkamp’s Petition

The last quarter of the 18th century saw various groups of white people traverse the Eastern Cape while the Xhosas simultaneously explored further southward past their traditional grazing areas. The whites included a motley collection of foreign explorers and hunters together with intrepid Dutch-speaking farmers known as Trek Boers.

Amongst the Dutch speakers was one, Meneer Rutger Metelerkamp, who on Monday 10th January 1814 submitted a memorial or statement of facts, as the basis of a petition requesting a grant on the land bearing the name Klaas Kraal. As the area was denoted by a person’s name rather than a botanical description implies that somebody must have been resident on this land albeit temporarily. Perhaps it was a band of Koikhoi who were known to be itinerants in this area.

Chelsea Conservancy

The area that Metelerkamp was requesting was situated “in the Field Cornetcy of Zwarkops River extending S. to the sea shore near Algoa Bay W. to Govt. ground, N. contgs [contiguous]  to the Officers at Algoa Bay and E. to the Quitrent place of Jacs [Jacobus] Botha.

The submission of the report drew an acidic reprimand from an official at the Landrost’s Office in Uitenhage. Apparently the details of the land requested were too sparse as he stated that “The Landdrost must be informed and I must insist in future upon more attention being paid to the instruction of the Commission.”  As the official pointed out, “As the Opgaaf has not been been made, it was the duty of the Commission to have ascertained for my information the means of cultivation and stocks possessed by the Memorialist”.

The absence of these details had unfortunate results for Rutger Metelerkamp, a merchant from Cape Town who had probably foreseen the opportunity for business and trade that would grow around Algoa Bay; the frontier being pushed northwards to beyond the new settlement at Graham’s Town, and he doubtless wished to establish a base in the area.

His memorial of 10th January 1814 stated that “having lately purchased the opstal [homestead] of the Loan Place called Klaaskraal” he was “desirous to obtain it on Perpetual Quitrent as also the remaining Government land contiguous to the same…. “.

Original farms in Port Elizabeth
Original farms in Port Elizabeth per Redgrave

No immediate action was taken by the Landdrost on this report as his reply listed above was only provided on 2nd December 1816. Even by the delinquent standards of the civil service, this was slow. The reason for this lengthy delay was probably pursuant upon various political factors. Foremost amongst those was probably the security situation on the eastern frontier. With the restive Xhosa tribes periodically making incursions southward, the need for the permanent stationing of British troops in the region became a distinct possibility. Two solutions were ultimately implemented, the first being the cheaper of the two. Secondly it killed the proverbial two birds with one stone.

Enter Lieutenant Alcock

As part of the austerity measures after the Napoleonic Wars, the establishments of overseas garrisons were being reduced. Moreover, that suited the local government policy which was to encourage both officers going on half pay and soldiers about to be discharged to settle in the colony. Already several officers of the 60th Regiment of Foot in Cape Town, conscious of their precarious  future, contemplated settlement in the colony where they were stationed.

60th Regiment of Foot
60th Regiment of Foot

Amongst those officers of the 60th Regiment of Foot was one Lieutenant Cornelius Bolton Alcock who had already acquired land at Simon’s Town and built a house upon it. It is presumed that Alcock had become aware that the farmland of Klaas Kraal was becoming available when he had performed frontier duty in 1817. He submitted a memorial to the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, and even though he lodged his request on 2nd December 1817, more than two years after Metelerkamp, the decision to grant the land was made in favour of Alcock.

Interestingly, the Inspector of Lands, commenting on the petition by Metelerkamp, noted that no opgaaf [report] had been completed. He added that there could have been no difficulty in ascertaining the necessary information at the time of the inspection “when the Petitioner had been present, and if not then”,  he wrote, “the Petitioner might have been made to give it afterwards during the preparing of the [land] report”.

This was deemed a satisfactory reason to give preference to C.B. Alcock and the opstal Klaas Kraal was registered in his name on 13th February 1818.

The Report of 1818 covering the property indicates that Alcock either took over or most probably introduced 70 breeding sheep, some draught oxen and a few goats. Furthermore Alcock was not indolent as he grew both wheat and barley, reaping some 200 muids of wheat and 60 of barley. [A muid was a Dutch unit of capacity used in southern Africa equal to about three bushels]. Production figures for subsequent years never approached anything like these quantities but perhaps this was for tax reasons as taxes were levied on quantities reaped. The Report also indicates that the farmhands were mainly Hottentots, with one female slave, no doubt a domestic worker, and five slave boys, who probably worked on the farm as grooms or herdsmen.

Appointment of Lt Alcock

Henry Lovemore until 1820

Nothing is known for certain about the origins of Henry Lovemore. No record has been traced of his date or location of his birth as well as any details of his youth or where he grew up. Also because for most of his life there were no cameras, no photograph is available, nor for that that matter a painting. If any of these were in existence, they were all consumed in a fire which destroyed his homestead on Bushy Park in 1822.

A possible clue to his lineage can be derived from his Death Notice dated 22nd November 1851 which was signed by his eldest son, Robert Henry Lovemore. On this official document he noted that Henry Lovemore’s father was a Zebedee Lovemore and his mother was Susannah Lovemore. As a Christian name, Zebedee was extremely rare just as Lovemore was rare in the late 18th century. Yet, despite this, the only Zebedee Lovemore that can be traced, resided at Fetcham, a village in Surrey, England.

Map of Klaas Kraal by Bernard Johnston

Transcritions of hand writtern sections:

  1. Quitrent farm Cragga Kamma of A. Landman
  2. Land allocated to the officers at Algoa Bay
  3. Grazing grounds about xxx morgan
  4. Cultivated land
  5. Sandhills covered with thickets
  6. Several springs along the shore
  7. Rocky shore

Much like in the McCleland clan, where the birthplace of the Rev Francis McCleland is given as Cork due to the fact that that was where the port of departure rather than Longford, similarly, it is suspected that Robert Henry, without malice or evil intention, noted his father’s birthplace as London. This error was no doubt occasioned by the fact that his earliest recollection of his father would have been as a Londoner. For these reasons, in all probability Henry Lovemore was the son of Zebedee Lovemore of Fetcham.

The Cock and Bottle
The Cock and Bottle

Tracing Henry’s father proved even more problematic as where Zebedee Lovemore was born is unknown. However a man by that name was married to a Mary Fellows in London in 1725. Surprisingly three children of Zebedee and Mary were baptised in the parish church in Fetcham. After that hopeful breakthrough, disappointment reigns yet again. Firstly the baptismal dates are long before  Henry could have been born. Furthermore, none of the children survived into adulthood. To cap it all, Zebedee’s wife, Mary died in 1773 which would have been at least four years before Henry was born. As a last resort, Zebedee probably remarried, though no evidence exists of a second marriage, or whether he ultimately took a mistress.

The first record of Henry Lovemore’s name appearing in a public record is in February 1803 when he married his first wife, Sarah Jones, in the church of St. Martin-in-the Fields in London. Sarah gave birth to two daughters, but only the elder, Eliza, survived. Her mother, Sarah, died in 1807 when Eliza was only three years old.

Hunt at Bushy Park
Hunt at Bushy Park

The next record of Henry Lovemore appears in September 1810 when he became the licensee of a public house in the Strand, the Cock and Bottle, in the City of Westminster near the modern railway station of Charing Cross.

The three years that followed Sarah Lovemore’s death must have been particularly difficult. Without a wife, he had to bring up a young child and, at the same time, earn a living in a demanding occupation. He also had to build up capital to enable him to take over a public house with its stock and furnishings. After two years he moved away from the noisy Strand to another house, The Fox, in a quieter neighbourhood in Brewer Street, just north of Piccadilly Circus, and close to the high class residential area of Golden Square.

St Martin's-in-the-Fields Church in London
St Martin’s-in-the-Fields Church in London

Henry married again in 1812, his new wife Ann being the daughter of a fellow licensee, Robert Way, of Covent Garden. Henry Lovemore’s first three children by her, all boys, were born at The Fox. The first, Henry, lived for only nine weeks, but the other two, baptised Robert Henry and Henry Robert, obviously after the two fathers, developed into healthy youngsters and remained close to each other for most of their lives, even dying within days of one another.

A watercolour of the White Bear in 1851 painted by Thomas Colman Dibdino

In 1815, Henry Lovemore moved up-market again to a long-established tavern in the City of London. His new abode was The White Bear in Bride Lane, which ran between Fleet Street and New Bridge Street, the “new bridge” being Blackfriars. To earn one’s living in the City of London, one had to be “made free“. He was enrolled into the Pattenmaker’s Company, and, through it, was elected a freeman. The White Bear was well patronised by merchants and professional men and, in the four years that he held the licence, Henry Lovemore was able to accumulate sufficient capital to enable him to look around for another move. His next three children were born in these years, Ann in 1817, Maria in 1818 and Sophia Remnant in 1819, the last after he had vacated the White Bear.

The next move was to be a bold one. In July 1819, Henry Lovemore sold the lease of the White Bear, and put his name down to join a party of settlers preparing to go to the Cape of Good Hope under the leadership of John Bailie, a former seafarer and civil servant. The reasons behind Henry’s decision to emigrate are not known, any more than are those of many of the other 1820 Settlers. Forsaking a life with a degree of security for a working life with a young family in a largely undeveloped country, could not have been easy. However his decision to make the move defined him as a man with ambition who was unafraid of huge challenges. In fact he probably possessed all the attributes of current-day entrepreneurs.

John Bailie

Henry Lovemore in Port Elizabeth

Henry was assigned to John Bailie’s Party which was amongst the first to sail. Its date of embarkation was late November 1819, just before the birth of Sophia Remnant was due. Henry Lovemore was forced to postpone his departure, and the baby was born on 24 November. Having lost its place, the family had to wait in temporary accommodation until the following February when it went on board the transport Sir George Osborne, which, after a succession of delays, sailed from Deptford on 15 March 1820.

The settlers from the Sir George Osborne disembarked in Algoa Bay on 5 July. Although he had been required to forego passage in the first ship to leave, Henry Lovemore had sent three men from his own group to proceed ahead of him with Bailie’s party. Those preceding him to the Cape were Henry Belmore, William Collins and Thomas Mead who had sailed out on the transport Chapman, and so had arrived some three months before Henry himself. Whether they had been instructed to seek out a farm or land which might be offered for sale is not known. However, when he arrived in his new country, he received up to date reports from them on the general situation and, in particular, information about likely places where his family might live. Within a few days, Henry Lovemore was able to inspect available properties and select one suitable for his needs. The property was called Klaas Kraal, and was being offered for sale at £1000 sterling by a former army officer to whom it had been granted two years before. Henry Lovemore moved fast to acquire it, putting down a deposit of RxD 456 with the Landdrost at Uitenhage within 12 days of disembarking, and then, on 13th October 1820, paying the balance in cash.

The seller, Lieutenant Cornelius Bolton Alcock, did exceptionally well out of the sale. He was fortunate in having a buyer in Henry Lovemore who had to find, quickly, somewhere for his family and his small group of artisans to live. Transfer was completed within four months of his arrival, and the property was renamed Bushy Park, after the name of the Royal estate to the west of London near Hampton Court Palace. It was a large area, especially by English standards, 2556 morgen equivalent to more than 2500 hectares. There was a homestead and some grazing land, of which only a small part was under cultivation.


The deeds of the property paint quite a dismal picture. Of the 2556 morgen, 1874 morgen were marked as “Sandhills covered with thickets”, 655 shown as grazing ground and the balance of 27 morgen as being under cultivation. The water supply for the whole area was described as “indifferent”. Furthermore, no house or farm building are shown on the deeds.

Most of the land was covered with bush, in which game was plentiful. Along with the crops that could be planted and grown easily, the game helped to carry the family group through the early years in the Colony, despite a prolonged drought and a succession of crop failures. Those first years were difficult for all the newly arrived settlers, but the Lovemore family probably fared better than most.

The opgaaf returns up to 1826, after which they were no longer made in the Uitenhage District, provide an indication of the changes introduced by the new owner. Not surprisingly as both sheep and goats were vulnerable to diseases in those early years, both forms of livestock had been discarded within a year. As a replacement, the number of breeding cattle was rapidly increased  from three in 1820, to 90 in 1822 and 150 by 1825.

Wheat and barley production continued but the output never matched that of 1818. However it must be recalled that the early 1820s were years of successive crop failures in the districts of Uitenhage and Albany. In 1823, there is no record of wheat sown or reaped whilst the amount of barley gathered dropped to 45 muids. The crop production figures for wheat and barley in 1821 and 1822 have not been entered in the returns, so comparisons are impossible.

Bushy Park from the rear by Tony Grogan
Above: Bushy Park from the rear by Tony Grogan

Even if opgaaf figures had been available, they are open to serious doubt. The system of collecting and collating was suspect and officials seem to have been content to accept that many of the details were left blank. The procedure for making up the data was questioned in 1829 when returns were still being prepared in some districts. An editorial in the South African Commercial Advertiser of the 9th September 1929 states: “These Returns having been originally made up for the purposes of taxation under the superintendence of various persons, more or less qualified for the Task, may or rather must be far from perfectly accurate”. The editor was specifically referring to population figures but commenting on other information in the opgaaf he wrote: “the inaccuracy will always be found on one side, it being the immediate interest of every individual that the number and quantity of things taxable should be understated…”.

Henry Lovemore’s later life

Another son was born in 1822, and when baptised ten years later (there was no chaplain in Port Elizabeth when he was born), he was given the name ‘James Zebedee’, the second name surely indicating a connection with the earlier Zebedee. Just when the family had settled in, and some of the land cleared and cultivated, the homestead caught fire and burnt down, with many of the family’s possessions destroyed. No time was wasted in rebuilding the house. A young settler from England, Jonathan Board, was engaged to do the work. The house that Board built, altered and enlarged, forms part of the house that stands today.

The homestead on Bushy Park
Above: The homestead on Bushy Park

A  romance  developed between  Jonathan Board  and  Eliza  Lovemore,  and  the  two  were  soon married.

On 29 March 1823, the Royal Netherlands frigate Zeepaard, homeward bound from Batavia, ran aground in Sardinia Bay close to Bushy Park. Alerted by a sailor who came to the homestead seeking help and water, Henry Lovemore went to the scene. He supplied the 170 survivors, which included wives and children, with whatever food and water he could, and summoned assistance from the Landdrost and the military. Fortunately, there was little loss of life. The captain and ship’s officers gratefully accepted a generous offer to be accommodated at the homestead. Bushy Park’s reputation for hospitality stemmed from this incident, and has been maintained ever since.

Bushy Park in 1884 by Hannah Margaret Dicks

The frigate could not be saved after being battered against the rocks, and, as Henry Lovemore was the nearest  landowner  to  it,  the  Captain  empowered  him  to  sell  what  remained  of  the  hull  and equipment. After several days of waiting on the beach, the survivors were moved first to a tented camp at Port Elizabeth, and then, as soon as sea passages became available, on to Cape Town.

Back view of Boplaas house after Wallace Edward Lovemore renovated it in the 1920s
Back view of Boplaas house after Wallace Edward Lovemore renovated it in the 1920s

In the latter part of 1823, Henry Lovemore learnt that an area of vacant land on the Quagga Flats was to be offered as a land grant, and at once applied for it. He had made several previous applications for land grants, as he needed more grazing land, but all had been unsuccessful. Possibly because of his prompt and commendable actions over the Zeepaard, his latest application was viewed sympathetically by the Cape Government, and, at the end of 1824, he received the land on Quagga Flats as a grant. It was a much larger property than Bushy Park, extending over 3774 morgen, much of it good grazing land for cattle and sheep, but containing little else. There were no buildings and water was limited. Henry Lovemore named it Preston Park after another royal estate.

Another son was born to Henry and Ann in 1825 and baptised Charles in the new St Mary’s Church in Port Elizabeth. It was to be Ann’s last child. Before the boy was three years old, Ann died, leaving Henry a widower for the second time. Circumstances, though, were very different from 1807. The elder sons were in their ‘teens, and the family had been fortunate in engaging a governess, Hester Marshall, shortly after arriving in Algoa Bay. She became more than a governess. She stepped in to help run the household (Eliza had moved into Port Elizabeth on her marriage), as well as seeing to the education of the younger children. Ann’s death must have been a grievous blow to Henry Lovemore; they had been married for sixteen years, and Ann had given him four sons and three daughters. On her had fallen the task of organising the domestic side of their lives when the family moved into their new home. She was buried in the Bushy Park cemetery, the first to be interred there.

Front of the Boplaas House
Front of the Boplaas House

After just over three years as a widower, Henry Lovemore married again. His new wife Mary Ann, born Day, brought him the same happiness for 16 years as did Ann. Two daughters were born, only one of whom, Maria Elizabeth, survived. She was to be the favourite ‘Aunt Lizzie’ to the next generation.

At the end of 1834, events in the Eastern Province led to the Sixth Frontier War whereupon many communities and farms came under attack from tribesmen. At the beginning of 1835, such was the scale of the threat that defences were erected around Port Elizabeth. All settler farms between Graham’s Town and Port Elizabeth were exposed to raids and incursions, including those on the Quagga’s Flat. Preston Park had not been developed or much cultivated at this time. Whatever cattle may have been on the farm would probably have been driven away to a safer area.

Aerial view of Preston Park house (Boplaas) in the 1950s
Aerial view of Preston Park house (Boplaas) in the 1950s

A similar threat to lives and property arose in 1846 and 1847 when the frontier districts were again in turmoil. By this time, the two elder sons, Robert Henry and Henry Robert, had married, built homesteads on Preston Park, and begun to raise families. They had no alternative but to leave their homes and drive whatever stock they could to the south-west. Whilst they were away, the farm was looted, and considerable damage done. At the beginning of the emergency in April 1846, James Lovemore joined the Uitenhage Provisional Company and was commissioned into it as an ensign. He was on active service along the frontier when he contracted a fever from which he died. He has no known grave.

At the end of 1850, there was further trouble in the frontier districts, and once again the Preston Park families were forced to leave their homes. This time they went to Uitenhage and took shelter with the father-in-law, Joseph Crowe, but they probably had to leave most of their cattle and sheep behind. It was not until April 1852 that they were able to return and rebuild their lives and properties.

Auction of the lease of the White Bear on the 6th September 1819

Meantime, back in April 1847, Henry Lovemore suffered another personal tragedy when his third wife, Mary Ann, died after suffering from an incurable disease. Within 18 months, Henry Lovemore had married again, the new wife being Sarah Anderson, a widow and the sister of a long-standing friend, Hougham Hudson, of the Cape Civil Service. Henry Lovemore had announced his intention to marry in a letter to his second son – the only personal letter to have come down through the family. In the letter, Henry Lovemore shows his deep affection for the two families at Preston Park, and his interest in their well-being. It also shows him as a profoundly religious man.

Letter sent by Henry Lovemore to Capt. Francis Evatt at Fort Frederick regarding the sinking of the Zepaard

Henry Lovemore was now in his final years. Towards the end, although still active and in good health, he handed over more of the day-to-day running of Bushy Park to the youngest son. On his death, he was interred in the same grave as the two former wives who had died earlier at the farm. They were all joined, in May 1860, by the fourth wife, Sarah.

Letter sent by Henry Lovemore to Col. Jacob Glen Cuyler re the sinking of the Zepaard

Henry Lovemore’s life had been a full one in which he accomplished much. He had begun with very little and ended it as a large landowner, a successful farmer, and a much-respected figure around Port Elizabeth. For most of his life, he had had to work hard, sometimes very hard, particularly during the years after his first wife died, and again, in the years that followed his arrival in the Cape. His decision to leave London and start a new life in a faraway land was a brave and decisive one for his family and himself. At Bushy Park, he built up from scratch a successful farming business. He suffered several personal tragedies, with the premature deaths of three wives, his promising son James, and three young children. He rose above these setbacks. His contribution to the growth and prosperity of Port Elizabeth and the surrounding area was considerable, outweighed only by his legacy to his children and their families of a purposeful, sincere and understanding father.


Early Days of Bushy Park by Gweneth and Bernard Johnston in Looking Back, September 1991

The Lovemore Story by Bernard Johnston [2005, Creda Communications, Cape Town)

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  2. Hi Dean,
    Thank you for this story and information about the Lovemore family. I have been researching them as my children are descended from them. Do you have any more information about the children and their families? I live in the UK so my access to information is very limited.


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