Detailed TOC
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26

Chapter 7 - A Racecourse is Born


On November 18, 1904, an idea germinating for some time had begun to take shape. "It is generally understood," said a director, Julius Weil, "that it will be in interests of Milnerton to have a racecourse. With this in mind, an application has been made to the Jockey Club for a licence, which I regret to say, has been refused. However, the Company has been approached during the week by brokers for the purchase of ground on which I believe it is proposed to have an Unlicensed Racing Club. Being against this on principle, I suggest a new approach to the Jockey Club Exe­cutive, to whom we should emphasise the benefits the sport would derive from the establishment of the new enterprise. Only if there is a renewed refusal should we, as a last resort, consider the idea of an unlicensed club."


After consideration of these ideas approaches were also made to the senior body in the country, the South African Turf Club, suggesting a preliminary meeting. Not only did the South African Turf Club respond in an encouraging fashion, even appointing a Sub-Committee to deal with the scheme of a course at Milnerton, but from Johannesburg a director of the Auckland Park Racing Club also made approaches, suggesting a lease of land, with an option of purchase, and submitting, in support of his arguments, a balance sheet of the Transvaal institution, "which shows same to be in a very prosperous condition".


With this further possibility in mind, a sub-committee was set up at Milnerton, consisting or Messrs. Langerman, C. Marais and Martin, the two groups meeting at a lunch on December 12, 1904, to discuss the pro­ject. Agreement in principle was reached and early in the New Year a suitable tract of land was found on the farm Rietvlei.


Only a few weeks after the auction sale a further big step was taken, to deal with the demarcation of the site of the proposed Milnerton Turf Club, and, at a cost of £50, to equip the Rugby Ground with its own railway station - admittedly only a single platform.


During September 1905 an agreement was hammered out with the S.A. Turf Club, based on a lease on an area not exceeding 80 morgen, for a period of nine years, occupied with an option of purchase at £100 per morgen, to take effect by 1914. Mortgage facilities were promised by the Company, which furthermore undertook to lend up to £10 000 towards equipping the course. It was also agreed that, should the South African Turf Club abandon the ground at some future date, the Milnerton Estates might be allowed to take over its Racing Licence. Powers of appeal to the Jockey Club of South Africa in Johannesburg were accepted by both par­ties and the Turf Club undertook to hold at least 10 race meetings yearly. In return the Company undertook to "connect the course with the Milner­ton Railway at its own expense. The erection of a covered way to the Course shall be at the Company's option". The engineer prepared a detailed lay-out, while, as a pleasing gesture, the South African Turf Club sent complimentary tickets to the Directors of the Milnerton Estates for their November meeting at Kenilworth.


Promising though the situation appeared, unforeseen hitches occur­red. On December 1 a reminder was addressed to proposed Lessees en­quiring: "What steps are being taken to give effect to the provisional arrangement entered into, since the Company is now prepared to submit plans and specifications for the proposed Course." (Incidentally the estimated expenditure, as a result of the prevailing drop in prices, had been cut to £10 000.) Even by the time of the Annual General Meeting, the Milnerton Board considered it inadvisable to make public reference to any definite Racecourse transaction, restricting its announcements to the fact that the completion of two additional miles of roads had raised the grand total to nine miles, that work had been done in stabilising the banks of the river, that a quarry had been opened and that "several well-built houses" had been erected by purchasers of lots.


Apart from "Arnhem", mentioned earlier, these included at least another still standing today at No. 10, Marais Road. Formerly the proper­ty of Albert Coates, the famous musician it now belongs to a former Mayor of Milnerton, Alderman Theo Marais.


More than a year passed before a notification was received that the Stewards of the South African Turf Club would hold a meeting, at which "the Milnerton Race Course question will be finally settled".


One entertaining glimpse of the original inspection was furnished on January 19, 1906, when the Company's engineer was instructed "to put up a rough structure to give a better view of the whole ground, also to have a man on horseback in attendance so that he could ride round the propos­ed course, which would prove that a Race would be in full view of the Grandstand all round the course".


In March the South African Turf Club authorised their representative "to enter into an agreement with the Company to provide racing at Milnerton", and in this connection an arrangement was proposed arising from an unsuccessful previous scheme. At a place called, in honour of its English counterpart, Goodwood Park (this was the beginning of the pre­sent municipality of Goodwood), another race club had endeavoured to establish itself. Hence the Milnerton Estates decided to "obtain an option on the Goodwood Park buildings, which would be followed by a joint in­spection with the Stewards of the South African Turf Club. Yet on April 20, all the Secretary could report was that the Turf Club Agreement had not been signed.


Both sporting rivalry and economic slump were responsible for the slow progress during 1906. With the Great Depression at its worst, with the revenue of the Cape Colony down by nearly 50 per cent and thousands of people leaving the country, even the South African Turf Club, though already in existence for a century, became hesitant. Yet at this point another group of sportsmen, to their permanent credit, decided to show their confidence by starting on their own account the Milnerton Turf Club, one of the most important being John William Stuckeris (Willie) Langerman, father of Dr. R. M. Langerman and, as mentioned, a member of the firm of Langerman Brothers & Lawrie, became one of the original stewards. Born in Cape Town in 1878, he had started his racing career in 1895 at the age of 17. He gave his personal backing to this project, and mainly through this, made it possible, on February 13, 1907, for Mr. Jeppe to express the Board's appreciation of the good news that "a Racing Licence had been granted to the Milnerton Turf Club by the Jockey Club of Johannesburg".


James W. Langerman, his elder brother and partner, private secretary of Sir James Sivewright as a young man, also played a major part in start­ing the Turf Club.


The Grand Stand of the Milnerton Turf Club

The Earl of Athlone and Mr Sidney Benjamin, president of the Milnerton Turf Club

Well heeled punters at Milnerton Race Course.


Within a matter of weeks, however, the fact that the Milnerton Turf Club had the financial support of Milnerton Estates gave rise to serious rows, the Company taking legal advice "as to whether the Court could restrain us from holding race meetings at Milnerton, as it had been stated that the Jockey Club had acted illegally in granting us a licence". Carl Jeppe, vigorously opposing this view, declared on March 15, 1907: "I do not fear any possibility of the Licence to have been illegally granted, and if it were so, I feel sure that the Jockey Club, as a body of men, would simply define Milnerton as a Racing District and reissue the Licence to us." With the prospect of a special meeting of the Jockey Club on April 3, 1907, Jeppe, accompanied by the Secretary, went especially to Johannesburg to put the case. Back came the news that "efforts made to reconsider the granting of the Milnerton Licence have failed", the Jockey Club reaffirm­ing that the Milnerton Licence could in no way be interfered with. "Any arrangements which the South African Turf Club desires to make with the Milnerton Turf Club will have to be done between the two clubs without instructions or interference from the Jockey Club." And so, in May 1907, it became possible to set up a new Turf Club Company, for which 'Articles and Constitution were drawn up by J. Bennie Keyser, a well-known Cape Town attorney.


The grand stand at the Turf Club in more modern times.


Construction work was vigorously taken in hand and, although not yet completed, the first meeting on the new Milnerton Race Course took place on May 28, 1908, thereby inaugurating what can be described literally as a new era in the progress of the Estate.

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