Groutville is situated approximately ten kilometres south of KwaDukuza and about 69 kilometres north of Durban. The name Groutville was acquired from its founding father Reverend Aldin Grout who arrived in Natal with his wife Charlotte in 1836. Reverend Aldin Grout was part of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission. His initial missionary work dates back to 1836 when he established the Inkanyeni Mission near Empangeni.
Whilst at Inkanyezi Mission, he was threatened by King Mpande who dispatched his amabutho to launch a surprize attack at the mission. King Mpande was unhappy with Reverend Grout’s power and influence among the people. The attack thus forced Reverend Grout to flee and move south, settling at Nkukhwini, which was north of Umvoti River. The area of Nkukhwini was not conducive for permanent settlement as it was muddy. Reverend Grout then moved south of the Umvoti River where he eventually built the mission station. This was where he settled and it later became known as Groutville.
The area of Groutville was formerly a mission reserve administered by elected chiefs through a democratic process. Groutville was made up of seven branches namely Groutville Central, Memorial, Thembeni, Hangusi, Mnyundwini, Nkukhwini and Ntshawini. Only converted Christians were allowed to reside in Groutville. In order to ensure that converted Christians stayed uncontaminated from tribal life, Reverend Grout sought permission for amakholwa to have their own chieftainship.
Reverend Aldin Grout encouraged the Christian converts to acquire education in order to be self-sustainable. He also advised them to buy land and have title deeds as proof of being rightful owners of the land. The converted Christians were to abandon polygamy and their tribal ways. They were to be non-drinkers to be Christians. Most of the early residents of Groutville became sugar cane planters. The success of sugar farming in the area prompted the establishment of the sugar mill to support aspiring African farmers. Reverend Grout also introduced a system of “individual land ownership”, which encouraged people to cultivate and till the land.
The area of Groutville produced individuals of highest distinction. It was home to Benedict Wallet Vilakazi, the first ever African to acquire a PhD at the University of Witwatersrand. Groutville was home to Chief Albert Luthuli, the first African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It once lived the legendary Zulu hero, King Shaka, the founder of the Zulu Kingdom who established KwaDukuza in 1825.
Groutville also saw it fair share of the struggles of Black people in South Africa. Black farmers were neglected by the authorities and suffered immensely because of the 1936 Sugar Act which limited their production of sugar. The quota system also limited the amount of sugar that can be processed and sold, thus leaving them in economic misery. In addition, the year 1972 saw Groutville being threatened by forced removals. But fortunately the area survived when the decision to move the people of Groutville was rescinded.
The hardships experienced in Groutville influenced Chief Albert Luthuli to look at the broader context of South Africa, where he realized that the plight of the African was a National problem, not only confined to the people of Groutville. It was in that context that he devoted his life in fighting for the plight of his people.
New Dictionary of South African Place Names by Peter E. Raper