Sunday, 14 June 2009


Graham Southey (left) gave an interesting and amusing talk at the April 2009 meeting of the West Gauteng branch of the GSSA.

Southey is a very old surname. This name has been spelt in various ways -- South Hey, Southhey and Sowthey. From 1698 it was spelt as we know it.

Graham gave a broad outline of the early Southey history in England. He visited Wellington, an area in which the early Southey families had settled. The early settlers took a great interest in parish affairs.

At the local parish church he found the names of no less than nine Southeys who had been church wardens in the 1600s.

Thomas Southey (1545-1601) was known as the great clothier of Wellington. He married Joan Budd, a daughter of William Budd, a serge maker of Wellington. They had six sons and three daughters. The eldest son was Robert from whom several famous Southeys were descended.

Robert also lived in Wellington and his son Robert was a poet who became the Poet Laureate to King George III of England. They wanted to honour him with a title but he declined and said he would prefer a pension. There is a bust of Robert in Westminster Abbey.

Henry Herbert (1783-1865) was the King’s physician.

John (1666-1728) was a famous lawyer from Thornton in Somersetshire. He married an heiress, Mary Canon. Their granddaughter married the Honourable Hugh Somerville. She died giving birth to her only son, John Southey Somerville who became the 15th Lord Somerville.

Thomas became the founder of the London Wool Exchange in the 1800s.

George was the eldest son of another John Southey. He married Joan Baker. The 1820s was a bad era in England. At the age of 43 George Southey and his family decided to leave England for SA.

They were allocated land in the Grahamstown area. They were simply dropped off on their allocation. Fortunately they had brought two tents with them!

Graham knows little about the lives of George and Joan Southey.

Their eldest daughter was Sophia (1804-1880). She married Joseph Stark who was a founder member of the village of Pedi in the Eastern Cape.

Their eldest son William had to endure difficult times during the war of 1834/1835. He was an incredible farmer who eventually controlled farms in the Graaff-Reinet and Bloemfontein areas. Misfortune struck when he became ill and he lost these farms along with the finest stud stock.
Richard Southey, the third born, having assisted Sir Harry Smith, developed a lasting friendship with him. He held various positions of responsibility in the Cape Government and later became Sir Richard Southey.

Sir Richard Southey married twice and had 7 sons and 2 daughters.

Two of his sons became farmers. Charles and William began farming together on “Klipgat” in the Middelburg area. They divided the farm and Charles farmed with ostriches during the boom period, later developing his farm as a race horse stud farm.

William, Graham’s great grandfather became known as the “Father of Irrigation’ in SA. He had seen great potential for irrigation in times of flood. He started building weirs across the great Brak Rivier to irrigate his lands. He had 3000 morgen under cultivation.

Frederick William Southey, a son of William became a very successful sheep farmer. He exhibited sheep and took first prize for the grand champ merino ram for 17 consecutive years. In the 18th year Graham’s father took the championship from him. They did not speak to each other for 3 months.

Fred had 24 grandchildren. They held a gathering on the farm in 1995 in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fred Southey moving to that farm.

Fred owned 12 farms in that area, one in Alliwal North and another in Cradock. Each child inherited two farms and his bookkeeper of 40 years got the 13th farm in Cradock.


  1. Hello Graham,

    I just wanted to mention that the name Southey goes back to the famous Domesday Book ordered by William the Conqueror in about 1086 AD in England.There are seven alternative spellings.
    The earliest record obtained by a search of 12 types of ancient record is in Lincolnshire where Ralph of Sotby held the village and Church (has a Norman chancel arch) of Sotebi from the Bishop of Bayeux. He was linked to a Norman noble at the battle of Hastings,1066.The Normans were originally Vikings who eventually took Normandy in Northern France.
    From Lincoln they spread to Yorkshire,Essex,Berkshire,Scotland,USA,Canada, South Africa and Tasmania and so on.
    Notable were Sir Richard Southby,Sir Archibald Southby,Poet Laureate Robert Southey LLD(born Wine St. Bristol 1774 d. 21-3-1843) and his son Rev. Charles Cuthbert Southey(1820-?) who was married 3 times and had 7 children incl. a son Robert Charles Southey who was Christened on 23-12-1848 at Plumbland, Cumberland UK.
    I am trying to find a link between the Poet and my family in England as although I was a science specialist at school in London and University I find that I can write poetry!My great grandfather was Frederick Southey(20th 12 1834 Norfolk -?) a customs officer.Son Frederick William Southey(1863-1935),son Wilfrid Henry Southey, my father,(1897-1987).He had 3 brothers.

    I hope this interests you,

    Brian Wilfrid Southey,born 1941 Wallsend on Tyne, Northumberland UK, now living in Ireland.

  2. Hi there, i found the piece very interesting but nowadays there are allot of Southey's who are far from related. How do I find out where we originated from?

    Thank You
    Christo Southey
    Western Cape
    South Africa


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