The popular Notties Hotel celebrated its centenary anniversary a few years ago, securing its place solidly in the history books as one of the Midlands’ most popular hotels.
Legend has it that there has been an inn situated here since 1854. While the actual building we know today is not as old, there could certainly have been on this site a “Notties” inn or a tavern for the soldiers stationed at Fort Nottingham, who were supposed to protect the area from Bushmen who were stealing local livestock. Situated at the crossroads where the road to the interior met the road to Fort Nottingham, it would have served the horse-drawn coaches that travelled the area before the railway line was constructed.
The first recorded facts about the hotel we know today indicate that the land for the Notties Hotel was bought by George Orwin in 1889, following the death of landowner James Ellis and his sister Janet King, the land being sold by the family to pay off the siblings’ estates. The price received for the land, the princely sum of 125 pounds per acre, was extremely high for the time. Presumably it was the favourable location that drove the price so high.
Orwin erected the Railway Hotel, as it was first named, to serve the station that was built at the tiny Nottingham Road settlement. Local farmer and settler Charles Smythe writes in his diary, “July 12th, 1882: The railway has at last commenced, and there is a large staff of men on Gowrie busy putting up buildings and beginning the earthworks. The station is to be just at the crossing of the road to Fort Nottingham, about two miles from Strathearn. The railway line finally reached Nottingham Road at the end of 1885, eventually changing its name from “Karkloof Station” to “Nottingham Road Station” in 1887.
The railway changed the lives of the Midlands’ settlers forever. There was a daily postal system, and almost anything they needed could now be ordered from Durban or Pietermaritzburg. Produce from the area could be quickly sent to the city centres for sale, and travel between the coast and the interior was a matter of hours rather than weeks or days. The railway also led to the development of the Midlands as a viable area for settlement.
The Nottingham Road Farmers Association was formed in October 1887, in what was known as The Railway Hotel, where the present Notties Hotel is today. The hotel soon became the centre of social activity for the area, which became increasingly popular as a holiday destination, with its fresh, cool air and lovely countryside.
The so-called Railway Hotel, built by a Mr C Morgan, was completed at the beginning of 1891, and soon became the centre of social activity at Nottingham Road. A gracious, two-storey building set in rolling lawns, the hotel offered guests the comforts of proper lighting (using acetylene gas), tennis courts and a billiards room, as well as activities such as shooting and horse riding. At the turn of the century, the Singleton family took over the running of the hotel.
The Nottingham Road Hotel was always the local’s favourite haunt, whether for a social drink in the pub or for supposedly more serious matters such as meetings of the Nottingham Road Farmers’ Association. Apparently the farmers often only arrived home safely because their faithful horses knew the way back to their stables! The system worked smoothly until a prankster swopped the horses between the different traps and carts, so that drink-befuddled farmers were taken off in completely the wrong direction! Often the locals would decide to stay over at the hotel, especially if the weather was bad
One farmer, Christopher Groom, trying to reach the hotel to shelter from a storm, was unable to reach the hotel in time and was struck by a bolt of lightning just outside (where the first tennis courts were located). He and his dead horse were discovered some time later when the storm had passed over, the unconscious man quite unaware of his narrow escape. A hole straight through his saddle showed where the bolt of lightning had struck.
Like all hotels with a history, Notties Hotel is reputed to be haunted. In the past, guests and staff have reported that the spirit of a woman roams the hotel (especially room 10) and its grounds. This house-proud, gentle ghost apparently moves flower arrangements, tidies away clothes and straightens bedding. Legend has it that she is ‘Charlotte’, a lady of loose morals or a chamber maid depending on the source of the tale, who apparently threw herself to her death over the balcony outside her room after being jilted.
Or was she pushed ?…