The Museum is delighted to have recently acquired an old ship’s compass and an original watercolour painting of Thomas Berrington’s home on the Kowie east bank. We thank descendant Jon Green of Johannesburg for contacting curator Yvonne Surtees about this donation some months ago. The treasures arrived with notes compiled in 1934 by three generations of Berringtons: Ina Melvill, Sarah Ann Francis Berrington and Arthur Tozer Green.
Thomas Berrington, his French Huguenot wife Diana and their 7-year-old son Thomas had wanted to sail out with the 1820 settlers, but initially could not get a berth. A family of similar size was unable to travel at the last minute, so the three Berringtons went in their place, probably assuming the other family’s name until disembarkation.
Thomas Berrington traded between the West Indies and England so spent his life at sea. On one occasion his captain died and he had to get the ship back to England; the compass which brought this adventure to a safe end has now returned to Port Alfred! The Berringtons being settlers of means (Diana’s grand piano was the first one landed in Algoa Bay), they acquired prime parts of the east Kowie riverfront, ‘where the ships put off their cargo.’ The family thus gave Berrington’s Bay/Cove the name that is still used today.
The watercolour painting shows the house and flagstaff made by Thomas Berrington himself. ‘The Jack was flown every time ships came into the river. His house – where Cole’s Hotel later stood (1891/92)’ became Berrington’s Inn in 1834. It’s generally believed this was where The Lookout is today, although some say Berrington’s was a forerunner of the Victoria Hotel (now The Lodge). The Inn was burnt down in 1835, rebuilt the following year, destroyed again 1846 and again re-opened later that year. ‘The property was eventually abandoned by the Berringtons who moved to Sidbury after 1849.’
The artist and date are not known, but because Cock’s Castle (top left) is unaltered we know the painting dates from after 1840 but before 1876.
See painting and Thos Berrington’s Captain’s compass at the Kowie History Museum