The Marsh Memorial Homes is situated off Milner Road in Norton Way, Rondebosch, Cape Town. The dedicated staff provide a home for some 56 children “at risk”. Operating costs are high and in order to financially support the Home, the William Marsh Will Trust entered into a 99 year lease with the Marsh Woodside Village Trust. A condition of this lease is that 40% of any surplus generated on the resale of the retirement units will be distributed to the William Marsh Will Trust.
Why “Woodside Village”?
The estate on which the Home stands is of interest to the historian. It consisted originally of two properties, namely “Woodside” and “Firlands”. They were fertile lands, well watered from the Kromboom and Black Rivers.
The larger portion “Woodside” was a freehold grant given to Andries Daniele Grove as far back as 24 February 1790. His father owned an estate between Rouwkoop and Ecklenberg, both of which are well known names in Rondebosch. The first mention of a dwelling on “Woodside” was in 1796. In 1811 the property was owned by Isaac Stromboom, a local ships chandler. Diagrams show a “wagenpad” leading to Woodside, indicating that the property was in regular use. We can speculate that Isaac grew fresh fruit and vegetables to supply his store in Simonstown.
The original freehold of “Firlands” was held in 1789 by Johannes Bletterman, eldest son of Hendrik Bletterman, an important official of the Cape who lived in Table Valley on the present site of Woolworths in Adderley Street, Cape Town.
Against the backdrop of an ever-changing ownership, through good times and bad, the developers of the retirement village opted to call it “Woodside” to establish a strong link with the past.
History of the Marsh Memorial Homes
In 1901 the South African War was not yet over. Lord Kitchener had introduced his “scorched earth” policy which prevented Boer commandoes from receiving essential supplies and some 117 000 refugees were placed in camps. Food shortages and poor sanitary and medical conditions resulted in a very high death rate.
At this time Mrs T E Marsh conceived the idea of a children’s home. In his will, her father-in-law, Mr William Marsh, left half of his wealth for the “construction and maintenance of houses for orphaned and destitute children”. The Rev T E Marsh, his son, purchased “Woodside”. The foundation stone of the Home was laid in 1902 and the first children arrived in 1903. “Firlands” was purchased in 1921. Building continued through the war years. Today the picturesque Victorian styled houses surround a village green.
On 10 February 1950, disaster struck. A fire caused extensive damage, destroying Norton Hall and two housing complexes. They were rebuilt, but it was decided to change from the dormitory system to a cottage system, which still exists today. The children live in groups under the care of social workers who endeavour to give them the experience of as near a normal family environment as possible.
More recently the management of the Home have introduced a concept of Family Preservation. This programme/intervention addresses the origin of the challenges in the communities from which the children “at risk” have come. This programme is a natural extension of the work undertaken at Marsh Memorial Homes and seeks to assist families to overcome their problems so that their children may return to their homes to live with them.
As with the farms, the Home has passed through good times and bad. The dedicated staff still seek to fulfil Mrs Marsh’s vision of providing a place where children can, in some measure, experience the love, security and understanding they need.
Marsh Memorial Homes’ Chapel
The old stone Marsh Chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows and carved oak pews was completed in 1922. The dedication of the organ in memory of the late Henry Douglas Parker took place on 23 April 1969. The Chapel can seat 250 people and is regularly used for services for the children and staff of the Home.
Residents of Woodside Village also have access to this wonderful church for regular and special services.