Looking Back: Hougham Hudson-PE’s First Magistrate

This blog was originally published in LOOKING BACK – The Journal of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth, Volume 55, 2016 as “Hougham Hudson and his Family.” Apart from minor punctuation and grammatical changes, this blog is the same as the original article.

Main picture: Hougham Hudson’s house opposite the Town Hall which later was used as the Post Office under Mrs. Biggar. Market Square and Castle Hill circa 1860 painted by Mrs J Clark

One of the most celebrated of the British settlers who came to the Cape Colony in 1820 was Hougham Hudson, with his brother William; descendants of the two brothers are to be found in all four provinces of the Republic. The Hudsons had distinguished themselves in many different spheres of activity, notably in administration, education, banking, mining, engineering, and progressive farming.

Hougham (the name is pronounced ‘Huffam’) was born in Broadstairs, Kent, in the south-east of England, on 10 May 1793. He was the eldest child and son of Hougham Hudson and his wife Mary, nee Hugget, who were married on 16 February 1792. Hougham is said to have had three sisters and three surviving brothers; William was his second youngest brother, 16 years his junior. Their father’s profession is unknown, but his mother’s relatives had been landowners in Kent since at least as early as 1710.

As Broadstairs was a coastal village, ‘a little fishing place, built on a cliff… in the centre of a tiny semicircular bay‘, Hougham may have been educated in Canterbury, the county town some 20 miles [about 32 km distant]; he must have been given a good education, as this was a prerequisite for the posts he held later as Civil Commissioner and Magistrate. On leaving school, he became a ‘farmer and grazier’.


Towards the end of 1819 Hougham decided to emigrate to the Cape Colony as he had heard that grants of land on the Eastern frontier were being offered under a scheme sponsored by the British government, sailing in the new year. Each male settler was entitled to 100 acres of farmland in the Zuurveld. On 6 November 1819 Hougham married 23-year-old Elizabeth Ann Walker.

Hougham and Elizabeth joined ‘Dyason’s Party’ of ’67 souls’, sailing in the Zoroaster with Wait’s (40 people) and Thornhill’s parties. The Embarkation Lists show that the Hudsons were accompanied by a 10-year-old boy named ‘William’ (no surname). It seems safe to assume that this boy was the documented son of Hougham senior and therefore the immigrant Hougham’s brother.

Hougham Hudson

The start of Hougham’s career

The Dyason Party found on arrival that they had been allotted land a few miles from the present­ day village of Bathurst. They made a valiant attempt at farming, but after blight spoiled their first crop of wheat and floods caused further havoc, many of the settlers sought alternative occupations. Hougham by now had a baby as well as a wife and brother to cater for, as Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, William Hougham, born on 8 February 1821 at Bathurst.

Hougham was lucky in finding vacant clerkship in the Landdrost’s office at Graaff-Reinet and began work there in mid-1821; the landdrost being the celebrated Andries Stockenström.


The year ended badly when baby William, the first of their 12 children, died on 6 December. Their second son, Hougham (referred to in this History as ‘Hougham junior’) was born on 13 November 1822. Two more sons followed, William Nicholas on 25 March 1823 and Thomas Andries on 4 December 1826, the latter named after Stockenström.

First Civil-Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of Port Elizabeth

Hougham was soon promoted to District Clerk, and in 1828 was chosen as first Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of Port Elizabeth. Entries in Anglican church records show the names of four more children born to Hougham and Elizabeth while living in Port Elizabeth – Charles on 29 December 1828, Sarah Elizabeth on 24 June 1830 and the twins, Walker and Mary Ann, on 9 February 1832. The twins died when less than two months old, Walker being buried on 5 April and Mary Ann on 8 April. At this difficult time, Hougham was dogged by trouble; he was ordered to do duty as Magistrate at both Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth, which he did for nearly four years, keeping an establishment in both towns, but without additions to his salary. It was probably in Uitenhage that his second surviving daughter, named Mary Ann after her dead sister, was born on 23 May 1833.

Hougham Park [Photo by J.S. Benni]

Hougham received a shock the next year when, on 1 July, he received a letter dispensing with his services and removed to the vicinity of Port Elizabeth to take up sheep farming. However, a new and better appointment was awaiting him and in late July 1834 the authorities in Cape Town offered him the post of Agent-General to the African tribes on the Eastern frontier. He was kept in Cape Town until 12 October, then permitted to return to Port Elizabeth.

The Sixth Frontier War

Hougham’s move to the frontier was doubtless delayed by the outbreak of war on 21 December 1834, when 12 000 Xhosa warriors began to stream into the Cape Colony, destroying everything in their path. In the space of two weeks all the country from Algoa Bay to Somerset (East) had been ravaged, though Col. Henry Somerset managed to hold out in Grahamstown. Col (later Sir) Harry Smith rode the 600 miles [about 966 km] from Cape Town to Grahamstown in 6 days to take charge of operations, and British troops and local volunteers assembled to repel the invaders.

As H E Hockly claims [The Story of the British Settlers of 1820 in South Africa, 1948, Juta & Co Ltd, Cape Town and Johannesburg, page125], Hougham amongst many others may have distinguished himself in this campaign, but he cannot have been in the field very long as in March 1835 he took up the important administrative post that the Government had promised him. The job entitled him to a salary of £200 per annum, with a house in Grahamstown and allowances. Elizabeth gave birth in Grahamstown on 16 July 1835 to another son, Benjamin, who died on 2 February 1836. By the end of the war Hougham had suffered considerable financial losses. He blamed the Government and the Army for the fact that he was out of pocket in the amount of over £200.

The Relief Fund

The Hudsons had fared far better than most of the white settlers, of whom some 7000 had become destitute, 455 farmhouses burnt down, and thousands of head of cattle, horses and sheep stolen. The total losses in the Colony totalled an estimated £300 000.

Hougham’s house

Hougham was appointed to administer a Relief Fund for the Government, much of his work involving the revival of agriculture; farmers were to receive a share of the cattle recovered from the Xhosa. He was also responsible for overseeing that farmers planted the year’s crops before the spring rains. Colonel England reported to the Governor that the Grahamstown Volunteers were given leave to return home to cultivate their farms; and he stated that Hudson “… requires corn for seed from our stores for these agriculturists …”, to which D’Urban readily agreed.

D’Urban’s Plans

After the war ended, the country between the Keiskamma and Kei Rivers became the new Province of Queen Adelaide. D’Urban planned to civilise the tribes by fostering ‘a love of industry and order’ and considered thus that future bloodshed and strife would be avoided. Theal reports that “several officers of ability and merit were selected. Mr. Hougham Hudson was appointed agent­ general, in which capacity he was to be the medium through which the subordinate agents were to receive instructions and correspond with the government. He was stationed at Grahamstown, where he was also to perform the duty of resident magistrate. Mr. [later Sir] Theophilus Shepstone, who had served as an interpreter during the war, was placed in his office as a clerk.”

Acting Secretary

By the end of 1836, British dominion over the Province of Queen Adelaide had been renounced. Hougham’s influence as Agent-General was reduced, but he still kept his important position as Acting Secretary to the new Eastern Cape Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Andries Stockenström. The latter was very unpopular with the white settlers, who thought he views too liberal. But he proceeded with his plans to pacify the Frontier and made treaties with various African chiefs, Shepstone interpreting and Hudson signing as witness.

The Great Trek

Stockenstrom’s unpopularity was one of the main causes of the Boers leaving the colony from the Eastern Cape and heading across the Orange River. By September 1837, some 2000 had left.

George Hudson

Hougham’s eighth son George, who was destined to become Colonial Secretary of the Transvaal, was born on 22 May 1838, in the same year that the Voortrekkers first entered that territory.

An appeal to the Trekkers

As the Trekkers were still, in Britain’s view, British subjects, a letter of appeal signed by Hougham, appeared in the Cape of Good Hope Gazette on 21 May 1838. Entitled ‘To the Farmers who have Emigrated beyond the Land Boundary of the Colony‘, the text mentions “that great misfortunes have befallen many of Her Majesty’s Subjects who have emigrated beyond the Land Boundaries of the Colony“, that many are thus reduced to great distress and wish to return but have been deterred by the possibility of being penalised for leaving the Colony without permission. The Governor assures them that they shall be freely allowed to return and to resume their domicile and employment and promises to cancel any charges resulting from this emigration, provided they return to the Colony before 1 January 1839. They were warned that emigration does not absolve them from their Allegiance as British Subjects; and that, whenever the preservation of peace and prosperity of the Colony and of the Bordering Tribes shall require military occupation of Port Natal [later Durban]. the Governor will be prepared to do this in Her Majesty’s name.

Hougham Park

1838 was an important year for Hougham, for personal reasons; not just because of the loss of his youngest son (Elizabeth’s twelfth and last child), but because it was the year that he acquired a large estate at the coast named ‘Samson’s Kraal’. Situated some 25 kilometres north-east of Port Elizabeth, he renamed it ‘Hougham Park’; bounded by the coast along its south side, it may have extended originally between the Coega and Sundays Rivers. The land was suitable for dairy farming and sheep and had a servitude giving sailing ships the right to call there for fresh water. There is no truth in the statement, said to be attributed to 1820 Settler Jeremiah Goldswain, that Hougham received this property as a ‘grant’ on his retirement, from Lord Charles Somerset; the title deeds show that it was purchased from Ignatius Stephanus Ferreira on 17 July 1838, who had bought it on the same day from Johan Godfried Schlemmer, thought to have been a relative by marriage of Hougham’s brother William.

There was an old dwelling at Hougham Park when its new owner took possession. It was a U-shaped building with walls two feet [600mm] thick, pierced in places by gun-slits, with yellowwood ceilings and a tiled roof. Hougham extended it considerably, though the upper storey is a later addition from the 1920s.

Hougham would have preferred to have lived at ‘Hougham Park’ rather than Grahamstown and, since Coega was in the Uitenhage District, he applied for the post of Civil Commissioner of Uitenhage when it fell vacant in March 1844 but was unsuccessful.

Deaths of Elizabeth and Sarah

Hougham took overseas leave in the second half of 1844 and the couple sailed for England, companied by Sarah and several of their other children, Elizabeth had long been suffering from a pulmonary infection’ and it was hoped the change of climate would benefit her. On arrival, the family went to stay with relatives in Kent, and there Sarah, ‘a fine girl in her fifteenth year‘, collapsed and died of heart failure. The shock proved too much for Elizabeth and she too died suddenly the next day.

Civil Commissioner of Albany

 It Is not known how soon Hougham returned home, but he was certainly back in Grahamstown by October 1845, when he became Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate of Albany.

The death of William Nicholas

Two years after the deaths of Elizabeth and Sarah, Hougham lost his eldest son. A young gentleman of high promise and considerable talent‘, William had ‘proceeded to the East Indies with his uncle’ and died there in October 1846.

Hougham’s retirement

Hougham was CC of Albany from 1845 until 1852, during which time he was President of the School Committee, Chairman of the Divisional Roads Board and a Justice of the Peace. He also Interested himself in the affairs of the Anglican Church in the Eastern Cape. He resigned his post in October 1852. Sir George Cathcart, Governor of the Cape, congratulated Hougham on his fine record of service; he was sincerely sorry that Mr. Hudson had had to give up a position that he had so long and ably filled in most difficult times.’

He [Hougham] is now worn out‘ commented Stockenström in his autobiography, ‘But is in enjoyment of a respectable pension and sees the whole of his large family respectably placed, his eldest son having been Civil Commissioner of Somerset (Somerset East) since he was twenty-five, and the younger ones likewise holding responsible offices and behaving very well.’

Hougham spent his retirement at Hougham Park, where his son Andries was now married and living with his wife and small children. He died at his estate on 5 July 1860, at age sixty-seven, and was buried in the family cemetery nearby, where his gravestone can still be seen, and the inscription clearly read.

Hougham’s will

Hougham had made his will on 6 September 1856. He stipulated that his effects should be sold and the proceeds – after the deduction of £700, to be placed on trust with his bankers in Port Elizabeth (purpose unspecified) – divided in equal shares between his children, Hougham Junior, Thomas Andries, Charles, Mary Ann, George and John. Hougham, Andries and John were to be his executors.

In a codicil dated 4 October 1857, Hougham changed the arrangements for the disposal of his possessions; he now decided that his silver, glassware and furniture should not be sold, but shared equally among his children, giving detailed directions as to who should receive what.

His immovable property, similarly, was not to be put up for sale. His son, Andries, was to ‘remain in undisturbed possession of the farms Hougham Park‘, provided he paid the sum of £1500 into the estate; and the further proviso that the ‘said farms’ should not be ‘alienated’ by Andries or his children ‘without refusal of them having first been given to my other five children or their heirs‘.

Hougham Park was occupied by his descendants for 57 years after his death [until 1917].

Children of Hougham and Elizabeth Hudson

A summary of the couple’s 12 children and their achievements is as follows:

William Hougham (08/02/1821– 06/12/1821).

Hougham junior (13/11/1822 – 18/12/1900). Entered Civil Service very young, becoming 2nd Clerk to the Resident Magistrate of Albany at age 14. In 1838 his father, then Acting Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, took him into his office as Clerk; he was so capable that he was allowed to deputise when Hougham went to England in 1844. In 1845 he became Secretary to the Lieutenant­ Governor. In May 1847, at age 25, Hougham junior became CC & RM of Somerset East, retaining this appointment for 20 years, as well as acting as Secretary to the Lieutenant- Governor in 1861 and as CC of Albany in 1865. He was also Mayor of Somerset East for many years prior to 1861; CC & RM of Colesberg 1871-1874, transferred to Graaff-Reinet and from 1879 to Grahamstown. He and his wife were leaders of the Anglican community whist in the town. Married (1) Helen Maria Currie 01/06/1848 – early 1860s — 5 children, and (2) Frances Jemima Currie (widow of his brother-in-law Joseph) 29/02/1867 – one child.

William Nicholas (25/03/1823- October 1846) Died in the East Indies.

Thomas Andries (14/12/1826 – 07/05/1893, at Hougham Park). Andries made farming his career and ran Hougham Park for his father. Married Wilhelmina Langebach c1847 or 1848 – eleven children.

Charles (29/12/1828 – 1881) Joined the British army as a temporary clerk aged 15; served with the Grahamstown Yeomanry during the 7th and 8th Frontier Wars and continued his duties as clerk between the campaigns. Charles was with the Ordnance Department for nearly 11 years, attaining the position of Acting Barrack-Master and Deputy Storekeeper. He performed his tasks with efficiency and received testimonials from, amongst others, Sir Harry Smith. Charles resigned from his job and took leave at the end of 1854 to sail for England, with a view to trying to obtain a commission as a regular officer during the Crimean War (October 1853 – March 18;56). He was taken on in the Land Transport Corps, with the rank of lieutenant. Leaving for the Crimea in February 1855, he was posted to Balaclava and, promoted Captain, was in charge of several huge store-depots at the siege of Sebastopol. Seriously wounded in the attack on the Redan, he was evacuated to England and compulsorily retired on half-pay in April 1857. After a long battle with the military, he was given a commission in the 10th Foot Regiment (North Lincolnshires) in Cape Town. His service ended as a Major and Brevet-Colonel in October 1877, retiring in 1878. He died in England aged 52. Charles did not marry.

Sarah Elizabeth (24/06/1830 – 20/10/1844 in England).

Walker & Mary Ann (twins 09/02/1832 – buried 05/04/1832 & 06/04/1832).

Mary Ann (23/05/1833 – unknown) Spent her childhood in Grahamstown and thought to have moved into Hougham Park with her father when he retired. In 1856 Mary married civil engineer Matthew Woodifield, who built Port Elizabeth’s first breakwater, surveyed the route of the Port Elizabeth-Grahams-town Railway (1856-57) and completed the Zuurberg Pass (1857-58). The couple were in England from October 1857 – August September 1858 and, on returning, Matthew was transferred to the Western Cape as 1st Assistant Colonial Engineer in 1859. He retired at the end of 1863. Nothing is known of the couple after 1863; they had at least two children.

Benjamin (16/07/1835- 02/02/1836).

George (22/05/1837 – 28/07/1900) Joined the British military as a civilian in Grahamstown in 1853, and passed his Civil Service exam in 1854, appointed Clerk to the CC & RM of Peddie. came Clerk in H M Customs Dept in Port Elizabeth in 1865. Served in various towns and villages in the Eastern Cape 1870-78 and promoted steadily, becoming CC & RM of Aliwal North, then East London; Treasurer-General & CC of Griqualand West in Kimberley 1878, then sent to King Williamstown. In 1880 George became Colonial Secretary of the newly created British Crown Colony of Transvaal. After the Boer revolt at Paardekraal, the conclusion of the 1st Anglo-Boer War and the Pretoria Convention, George was chosen as British Resident. After the London Convention was signed in February 1884, the office of British Resident was abolished and George returned to the Colony in May 1884; he took his wife and children to England and Europe, returning to the pe in 1888. In January 1889, he was appointed Commissioner of Police and Chief of the Criminal Investigation Dept in Kimberley in January 1889, retiring from Government service on 31 March 1894 and settling at ‘Stellenberg’, Wynberg, where he died and was buried in St Peter’s Cemetery, Mowbray. George had married Jessie Elizabeth Smith, daughter of PE merchant William

Smith on 4 January 1865, and they had 7 children.

John (27/11/1838 – 1889) Entered the Civil Service in 1855, beginning as a Clerk in Cradock and progressed steadily until appointed Acting CC & RM in May 1864; during his 9 years here, he did temporary duty at times in Fort Beaufort, Peddie, Victoria East, Stockenström and Queenstown. He was CC at Victoria West 1864, CC at Aliwal North 1869 and Treasurer of Basutoland (now Lesotho) after it was annexed by Britain in 1869. Moved to Hope Town in January 1879 and in 1882 to Oudtshoorn, where he died in 1889.

John married Mary Catherine Charlotte Gilfillan in about 1863 and they had 8 children.

A brief history of Hougham’s farm by Janet Drysdale

The farm was originally called Samson’s Kraal and was owned by T.I. Ferreira.  The U shaped core of the homestead has been dated back to 1817. Hougham Hudson bought it from the Ferreiras in the 1830’s and renamed it Hougham Park. It appears from records and the graves in the graveyard, that there have been only three families owning the farm since that date – the Hudsons for 60 – 70 years, the Denfords and the Crews family from 1945 – 2007. Evidence has been found of Stone Age peoples on the farm in the form of stone implements.  Shell middens are occasionally visible along the beachfront when the wind moves the dunes.

The graveyard [Doug & Janet Drysdale]

Hougham Park Coega (Doug and Janet Drysdale)

Hougham and his wife Elizabeth were 1820 Settlers and Hougham played a significant part in the early life of Port Elizabeth owning several properties and being a Civil Commissioner and the first Resident Magistrate of Albany. He died in 1860 but the property remained in the family for the next 60 – 70 years. There are at least two buildings and a lime kiln dating back to this time that are of historical importance. Hopefully the descendants of the Hudsons will be able to supply lots more information about this family’s tenure at Hougham Park. I noticed the graves of van der Riets, Lambs and Stewarts in the cemetery who were married daughters of Andries and Wilhelmina Hudson and granddaughters and grandsons of Hougham Hudson.

During the Anglo Boer War 1899 – 1902 the farm was used as a remount for the British Army.  A regimental crest was carved into one of the interior walls of the house by a soldier.  Bones of the army horses that died can be found in the shifting dunes when the wind exposes them. 

William H. Denford who was born in Barnstaple, Devon, England in 1872 was the next owner. The Denfords filled in the original U shape of the house with a hall and added a double storey over the hall. He died in 1950 at 79 years and he and his wife are buried in graveyard.

The Graveyard before Maintenance (Doug and Janet Drysdale)

Edgar and Patty Crews bought the farm in 1945 sight unseen in partnership with Edgar’s boyhood friend Cecil Golding to discover later that it was a ‘dry’ farm with no electricity and covered with dense bush, facts that were to influence their lives and farming activities.  Edgar was always an ideas man and he had to think of other ways of making a living from the farm.  Firstly they had to find water so a shaft was sunk through the limestone dome and tunnels made to find fresh water streams flowing to the sea from the mountains.  Before moving to Port Elizabeth he had been in the mining industry in Johannesburg.

Edgar was a well-known personality in Port Elizabeth especially in the farming community. He played quite an important part in the reorganisation of agriculture. He was vice president and president of the EP Coastal Agricultural Union from 1947 – 1950 and then president of the Cape Agricultural Union in 1953 and 1954.  He was also active in politics – he was EP regional chairman of the United Party and then moved to the Progressive Party.

From finding thousands of oysters washed up on the beach from the oyster beds off the coast, he introduced oyster farming in PE supplying many restaurants all over the country until fairly recently.  Unfortunately the building of the new harbour has caused the oyster beds to silt over. After much sweat and tears Edgar tamed some of the shifting dunes by creating barriers of gravel, limestone, dead branches and then sowing rooikrans seeds that flourished and provided shade, shelter and improved the soil.  He was then able to make a road down to the beach to transport larger quantities of shell grit which was sifted and dried in the kiln for the poultry industry.


The article in the magazine Looking Back lists the source as follows: The following is a condensed version of the life of Hougham Hudson and his children, summarised from A Family History … Hougham and William Hudson and their Descendants, researched and written by Daphne Child and issued in typescript in April 1977 (73 pages of A4 typing). We are most grateful to Mr. Louis Collier, a great-great-great-grandson of Hougham Hudson, for supplying the Society with a copy of this useful work.

https://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/some-remarkable-history-coega by Janet Drysdale

Leave a Comment.