History of Motala Farm: 1900-1919

Origins of Richmond Farm

The farm of 5,606 acres (2,268 hectares) on the top of the Kloof escarpment known as Tavelberg (Tafelberg – Table Mountain) was originally owned by William Cowie, an early settler who came to Natal with the Voortrekkers in the mid 1830s. In August 1845 Cowie sold Tavelberg (Tafelberg) Farm, which stretched from the Kloof Gorge into the Pinetown-Umhlathuzana basin, to Mr William Swan Field who renamed it Richmond Farm.

As William Swan had neither wife nor children he transferred Richmond Farm to his brother John Coote Field in November 1867 by Deed of Transfer 304. John Coote resided at Richmond Farm until his death in 1896 but it was only after the death of John Coote’s widow in 1901 that Richmond Farm was subdivided among their surviving children and grandchildren. The area today known as Motala Farm and Tanglewood Farm was probably inherited by Mr William Gillitt’s wife Elizabeth (born Field), although the Museum could not find documentation to prove it. Adjacent to the above mentioned farms was Surprise Farm which was inherited by William Swan Gillitt, the son of William and Elizabeth and grandson of John Coote Field.

Mr M.A. Motala

During the 1st World War (1914-1918) Mr Mahomed Ahmed Motala, an Indian businessman who lived in Durban, bought a section of Richmond Farm from Mr William Gillitt. Mr Motala was born and educated in Kathor, India and came to Durban where he was employed. Later his outfitters business in West Street expanded and gave him a sound financial footing for land purchases. Best known as a philanthropist, Mr Motala contributed the Motala Hall to Durban, was the second largest donor of Shastri College in Durban and the sole donor of the Motala Lads Home at Wyebank. In the mid 1920s Mr Motala subdivided his portion of Richmond Farm and resold small farms to Indian settlers who wanted to start their own market gardens. He also donated an acre (4,050 square meters) of land on the top of nearby hill in the area to be used as a cemetery for the residents.


  • Byrne-Spencer, Sheila. British settlers in Natal 1824-1957, Vol.6 Durban: University of Natal, 1992. p.28.2.
  • Phipps, Eunice. Fields of Fields Hill. Privately published Oct. 1963. p.17.3.
  • The South African Indians Who’s Who. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Witness, 1936. p.105.

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