Lord Charles Somerset arrives in the Cape as Governor

Lord Charles Somerset Image source

Wednesday, 6 April 1814

Lord Charles Somerset was the Governor of the Cape Colony from 1814 to 1826. He arrived in the Cape on 6 April 1814 as Governor with a mandate to further develop the colony and to improve conditions for the inhabitants. He was one of the British officials of the time that earned a lot of money even compared with the annual salary of the town secretary of Bathurst, a small town in the Eastern Cape, then an administrative centre established by the British Government for the 1820 British Settlers. Lord Somerset had a distinct sense of responsibility towards the country he had been sent to govern.

In 1814 he asked botanist Dr MacKrill who had a leaning towards geography to tour the Cape Colony and assess the potential to produce crops for export. In 1818 he launched the South African public library in Cape Town. He mediated between Xhosa chiefs and English settlers in Eastern Cape.

The government purchased a farm, Somerset Farm, which was under the supervision of Dr MacKrill. Somerset Farm provided crops and horses for the soldiers that were guarding the border of the colony. Local farmers as well as the 1820 Settlers began to feel unfairly treated. In 1825 Lord Charles decided to close the farm before the end of his term because of the charges that were laid against him by the farmers. Lord Charles Somerset died on 20 February 1831.

References:
• Makana Tourism, Lord Charles Somerset, Governor at the Cape, [online], Available at www.grahamstown.co.za[Accessed: 2 April 2014]
• The History of Parliament , Somerset, Lord Charles Henry (1767 -1831) , [online], Available at www.historyofparliamentonline.org [Accessed: 2 April 2014]
• Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau

Last updated : 04-Apr-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 14-May-2012