Chapter 8 - Travelling Salesmen
The increasing frequency with which the name of Milnerton had figured in the news in the period while the Turf Club was being established had beneficial effects in other directions. On April 5, 1906, sightseers, to the number of no fewer than 200, were taken by special train and, we learnt, "expressed themselves as surprised at both the development that has taken place and the natural beauty and charm of the Estate". Besides the Rugby Field, now approaching completion, there were several additions to the facilities for amusement, including, curiously enough, a Maze, which came into operation on Wiener's Day* 1907, to the mystification of appreciative crowds.
Independently of the Cape Automobile Club, the Cape Town Motor Cycle Club asked leave on February 8, 1907, "to use our road from the Main Road to the Bridge and thence parallel to the Railway to the Central Station for sports to be held on March 2 next". One condition was made that the Motor Cycle Club be responsible for the attendance of the necessary police to regulate the traffic and do any repairs to the road.
Only a short while previously the well-known Van Riebeeck Mineral Water Spring had been located in the Tygerberg, for whose product a market, still existent today, was soon to develop. Hopes rose in Mi1nerton in July 1907, when there were reports of something similar within the bounds of the estate, samples being submitted to a Dr. Petersen, who however, as far as can be determined, gave a non-committal verdict, with the result that nothing more happened.
The Alfred Rowing Club agreed to hold its Regatta at Mi1nerton in November 1906, with the Company guaranteeing the organisers against loss. A Shooting Club asked for a piece of ground on which to set up a range, while an organisation calling itself "The Suburban Social Club" also manifested interest.
Among the less cheering events were the occasional incursion of the sea, of which a particularly bad instance was reported in October 1905 after a great storm. "The water," reported the Secretary, "rose to an unprecedented height, 2 feet 6 inches above the level of ordinary Spring Tides. The water dashed like a sea against the bank, which I am glad to say stood the severe strain to which it was put." Nonetheless, "in view of the immense volume of water in the river in flood time and the evident strain on the bank", a report was secured from the engineer as to whether a new channel should not perhaps be provided.
Despite the unmistakable goodwill with which a large section of the public regarded the new suburb, the continuance of the Slump could not be ignored and led during 1906 to the introduction of a new sales technique which, the management hoped, would help to neutralise the prevailing financial stagnation. This was described as "Sales of Land by means of Travellers", who today would be described as itinerant salesmen. According to the instructions given, these emissaries were allowed to travel round Cape Colony, quoting for inside lots £100, for corner and shop lots, £130 and for corner shop lots, £150.
The first travelling salesman appointed was a Mr. Udall, who received a bonus of £5 for each plot disposed of and was granted the sole right for the ensuing six months to market these properties. By the end of June, 13 plots had been thus disposed of, with several other possibles pending, while during the following month a further refinement was introduced when the New York Life Insurance Company, one of several big American concerns then still permitted to operate outside the boundaries of the U.S.A., agreed that a Mr. Westmacott should combine the sale of its policies with that of plots at Milnerton. Considerable success seems to have attended this experiment, even if only tantalisingly little was recorded of the details and terms under which he operated. Obviously, however, Westmacott was granted several privileges as long as he managed to dispose of land. Hence, on November 2, 1906, he successfully submitted an application to dispose of no fewer than 25 residential plots and to set up, for the first time, an agency for Milnerton Estates in East London. In Mr. Westmacott's wake there reappeared Mr. Udall, who wanted also to sell plots in other townships on the instalment system, but, notwithstanding the times, Milnerton Estates were in no mood for such new-fangled ideas and turned down his proposal.
Renewed publicity was however forthcoming in the press, the "Cape Times Weekly" on January 23, 1907, carrying an item:
IT WON'T GET CHEAPER!
The Popular Marine Suburb
Reserved for European Residents.
15 Minutes from Cape Town
Connected by Railway.
Boating, Sea and River Bathing.
Roads Made, Water Laid On.
Free Life Insurance Policy given away
with every Plot of Land.
Eric J. S. Westmacott,
3, Savings Bank Buildings,
St. George's Street,