A Brief History
Joseph Baynes was born in Austwick, Yorkshire in 1842. His twin brother was still born. His mother died when he was 2 years old. In 1850, Joseph's father Richard decided to join the Byrne settlers and come to the Colony of Natal, presumably to start a new life and escape the depression in England. Richard did not take up the allotment of land granted to him b
y the Byrne settlement scheme, the land being too small and unsuitable to farm and make a living. Instead he bought a farm in the York district and also set up a butchery in Durban. As a young lad Joseph used to ride all through the Colony of Natal, looking for cattle to buy, fatten on the farm and then sell at the butchery.
It was as a result of this extensive travelling in Natal that he came to find the Umlaas valley. By the age of 26 he, his father and his brother, William, who had come to join them much later, started to buy land in the valley.
Joseph was married twice. His first wife was Maria Zietsman, daughter of a Paulus Hermanus Zietsman, a member of the Volksraad in Pietermaritzburg. They lived in a rather primitive home with the stables at one end and the bull-ring at the other. They had a few inter-leading rooms in the centre. In 1875 Maria died in childbirth and their baby daughter died as well. Three years later Joseph married Sarah Tomlinson. Her father had been mayor of Pietermaritzburg and was the Chairman of the Natal Bank. Richard Baynes died in 1881 at Nel's Rust.
Baynes House was built in 1882. It is a typical example of a Victorian home with a passage running the full length of the house and rooms leading off each side. It has been extensively altered over the years. There are many original pieces pieces of furniture in the house and it is open to the public for tours, by prior arrangement.
Joseph Baynes was a man of great foresight. As far as is known he had no formal education, but he believed in all his projects that everything he did, had to be done to the best of his knowledge and ability, with the best possible materials and advice.
He farmed beef and dairy cattle, sheep, horses and pigs. He started the bacon industry in the young Colony of Natal and set up a bacon factory on his Estate. He was the first man to dip cattle and became known as "The Conqueror of the Tick". This came about as a result of his importing 400 cattle from Queensland, Australia. Within a few weeks most of these cattle had died from tick-borne diseases and he was advised by the cattleman who had accompanied the cattle, to dip the cattle in order to kill the ticks. He followed this advice and built a cattle dip tank on his farm Meyershoek. Initially he was ridiculed by the farming fraternity, but when east Coast Fever struck the Colony, Joseph lost only 8 cattle whereas other farmers lost up to 50% of their herds. This dip tank is now an Historical Monument. In later years it was compulsory for farmers to dip their cattle and the Government of the day subsidized the costs involved in building dip tanks.
Another first for Joseph Baynes was the building of the first butter factory in South Africa. Refrigeration had recently been developed, transport of goods had improved with the expansion of the rail system in the Colony, a method had been adopted to determine the butterfat content of cream and how to separate cream from milk. With these four important facts in mind Joseph Baynes set about investigating the manufacture of butter, getting the best advice possible from Britain, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. The butter factory (now the dairy museum) was opened on November 1898. From this modest start, Joseph expanded to develop butter factories throughout South Africa. In order to market all the fresh goods from the butter factories, Joseph Baynes opened "Model Dairies" first in Durban and later in Johannesburg and other centres. These "Model Dairies" were modern tearooms where customers could enjoy fresh country milk by the glassful, and buy butter, eggs, ice cream, cheese and cream cheese in large premises which were spotlessly clean and well decorated. Large glass fronted refrigerators allowed the customers to view the display of goods for sale.
In order to run the butter factory and the mill at Nel's Rust, Joseph needed electricity. To this end he had a furrow of 16km dug from the head waters of the Umlaas River. The canal was about 3 meters wide and deep. Water flowed along this furrow by gravity and fed two turbines - one to run the mill to grind the maize and the other to generate electricity for the residences, dairy and butter factory.
Next door to the butter factory is a large building, recently restored to house The Natal Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club Museum, was the first refrigeration room in South Africa. The section used as the refrigerator had insulated walls made of corrugated iron, wood, cork and charcoal. An ammonia compressor was used to cool this section. This compressor has been restored to working order by members of the Tractor Club.
Joseph Baynes served as Minister of Lands and Works in the Colonial Government and it was during this time that he piloted through the drainage of the Congella Swamps to develop Maydon Wharf which doubled the size of the Durban Harbour.
In 1887, Baynes became a member of the Indian Immigration Board, which the Colonial Government had set up to control all matters connected with the Indentured Indians, who were brought from India to work mainly on the sugar plantation of the Colony. In 1902 he was elected Chairman of this body and he fought long and hard to ensure that the promises made to the Indians on recruitment, were kept once the labourers arrived in Durban. This involved ensuring good accommodation, rations, medical care and so forth. In 1905 the Government of the day sought to impose unequal taxation on the Indian population as an inducement to them to return to India. Baynes was against this measure.
Throughout his life, Baynes stood for justice and fair play. When the Colonial Government wanted to impose a personal tax on the black population of the Colony in 1906, Joseph objected saying that as the Black people had no representation in the Government, an addition tax should not be imposed. His advice was ignored and this led, 6 months later, to the Bambatha Rebellion. This Rebellion against the Colonial Government started on the neighbouring farm Trewirgie. Sub-Inspector Sidney Hunt and Sergeant George Armstrong were killed in the skirmish. It is said that residents from the Byrne area fled the troubles area and came through Nel's Rust. One wounded trooper with san assegai in his back managed to reach Nel's Rust where he was nursed back to health by Joseph, Sarah and the staff. Fleeing members of the community took refuge in the Long Barn at Nel's Rust.
The only enterprise entered into by Joseph Baynes which was not successful, was a woolen factory in Langalibalele Street (Longmarket Street) Pietermaritzburg. In the early 1920's Joseph Baynes handed over the buildings which had housed his woolen factory, to James Hay, High Commissioner of the Salvation Army. His wish was that homes would be developed for a home for men and one for boys.
The Salvation Army Joseph Baynes Children's Home has since moved to Trelawney Road in Pelham and is supported in many different ways by the Baynesfield Board of Administraton.
Joseph Baynes died on 16th July 1925, two years after his beloved wife Sarah. He left a detailed will in which he asked that the name of the farm Nel's Rust be changed be changed to Baynesfield. He left the entire estate of 23 000 acres in trust. Some of the clauses of his will are:
In beautifying and developing the Estate;
In expanding and developing the existing industries or creating further or new industries;
In scientific agricultural research;
In practical illustration of what is possible to be done in the way of development;
In creating agricultural schools or colleges;
In laying out such a portion or part of the Estate as may be thought fit as a public park;
And specially in establishing Industrial Institutes or Homes for under-privileged children.