Boschetto Agricultural College

I know very little about Boschetto Agricultural College on the slopes below Platberg and above the town of Harrismith, Free State, so I’m writing this hoping someone who knows more will make sure we preserve the history.

‘No successful South African settlement for women’s agricultural or horticultural training appeared until Miss Norah Miller, an émigré from the Edinburgh College of Domestic Service, acquired a farm and began receiving students in 1922, forming the basis for the Boschetto Agricultural College.’

– it’s somewhere near here . . – nearer the mountain though –

‘Boschetto’ is Italian for a copse or grove – and there are a few of them in that picture. Ah! Leon Strachan found a bit more – a snippet from Eric Rosenthal’s 1967 Encyclopedia of Southern Africa: The Boschetto property was about 250 acres and had belonged to a relative of Norah Miller’s named H.R. Wisely. It was named after a house in Malta that belonged to the family. Although it was a private undertaking, Boschetto enjoyed the support of the government. Rosenthal noted ‘it no longer exists.’

– a plaque for Boschetto’s founder, in the Anglican church, Harrismith –

I found a 1931 video clip on Boschetto showing the students working in the grounds of the college. Platberg can be seen in the background. The students are seen milking a cow, making butter, spraying trees with fertiliser or pesticide, and tending to beehives wearing protective clothing. The clip is worth watching if only to shake your head at the jolly, gung-ho, empire-confident British what-what voice of the narrator!

– the west end of Platberg in a still capture from that 1931 video –

Here’s something on a Boschetto graduate:

Gwendaline Bessie Ryan was born on 22 January1917 in Keiskammahoek, Cape, the daughter of Hugh Joseph Ryan and Louise Alvilde Thesen. She was educated at Boschetto Agricultural College in Harrismith. Gwen founded a dairy farm at Charlesford, on the Phantom Pass near Knysna, and was a keen horsewoman – in one article she is called the doyenne of Cape polocrosse – and was a well known horse breeder. Gwen also bred racehorses. She ran a horse livery yard and riding school from the farm and held regular polocrosse events at the Old Drift.

Gwendaline married Col Robert Devenish, Dep Commissioner South African Police, son of Robert Devenish, of Rush Hill, county Roscommon, Ireland, on 29 Nov 1952. Gwendaline died on 8 August 2002, in Knysna, Western Cape, and is buried in Knysna cemetery.

More Boschetto old girls Mary remembers:

Rosemary Dyke-Wells was in or near Kruger Park in the 50’s. Mom & Dad Pieter & Mary Bland Swanepoel visited her on their honeymoon.

Sir George Albu‘s daughters;

Sir Percy Fitzpatrick‘s daughter, ‘who dated Michael Hastings for a while.’


Before I forget them, I must tell you Dad’s story about Norah Miller:  (Peter Swanepoel)

Says he used to ride his horse over to Boschetto hoping to meet girls.

The first time he went, Miss Miller asked him to sort out some pictures or things in her office and he was able to do so.

He says from then on he was “in,” and she was was always helpful to him.

and Mom’s story: (Mary Bland)

She heard someone come in to a house in town (their house?) saying: “There’s someone at the door.”

Who is it? asked somebody else.

“I don’t know, but it’s got one eye, one leg and a hell of a cough!” came the reply.

Of course, it was Norah!



Burke’s Landed Gentry Of Ireland, 1976 p1037

Una Monk, New Horizons: A Hundred Years of Women’s Migration (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1963), p. 137 (quoting Lady Aberdeen);

Wolseley, Gardening for Women (cit. n. 1), p. 234 (on the Canadian situation);

Also Harrismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard.

4 thoughts on “Boschetto Agricultural College

  1. I was intrigued and delighted to read about Boschetto as my mother, Kate Hoare Taute, was a lecturer at Boschetto, having travelled from England to take up a position at the College. My husband and I have travelled to Harrismith to try and find out more about the College but found it quite run down. My husband’s aunt, Anne Pitchford Palmer, was also one of my mothers students, along with Gwen Devenish. I grew up in Knysna and my parents remained friends with Gwen and her husband, Bob, until first Bob, then my parents and then Gwen died. I do have some photos of Mum’s stay at Boschetto – I wonder if there would be anyone interested in them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mary. Thanks for visiting this little snippet. I wish I knew more about this place that played such an interesting role in Harrismith’s story while it lasted. I’d love to add your photos to this site with all these names and anything else you know about them.
      Can you email copies to ? Obviously I’ll credit you as supplying them. That would be so good to add to the little I know so far. Thanks again. Peter Swanepoel


  2. My parents bought Boschetto in about 1957.
    We had horses and a small dairy. I with my wife and 3 daughters lived there from 1984 to 1993. In 2000 the Municipality made the property available to a training group but this was not successful and the property is now effectively in ruins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks for commenting. Great to hear more about that interesting place. Are you perhaps the famous Louis B??


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