Situated in the scenic Natal Midlands is the Baynesfield Estate. Located a short distance from the town of Richmond, the museum was founded by Joseph Baynes in 1863. Joseph Baynes was one of the original Byrne Settlers who came to South Africa from England at the age of eight. At the time of Baynes' death in 1925 he owned a vast network of butter factories, creameries, bacon factories and swine farms, which was considered to be the largest agricultural operation in South Africa.
Joseph Baynes was one of the first in Natal to mechanize his operations and strongly supported the establishment of the agricultural college at Cedara, as well as the promotion of agriculture at university level.
The dreaded East Coast fever which was transmitted by a ticks killed vast amounts of livestock in periodic outbreaks. Baynes was sure that the problem could be overcome by cattle dipping and adapted an Australian method to suit the local conditions. As a result of his newly developed process Baynes lost only eight cattle during the subsequent major epidemic. Baynes entered into parliament in 1890, represented the Ixopo division for twenty years. He also constructed a narrow gauge railway to assist farmers getting their goods to market, as well as assisting with the development of Durban's Maydon Wharf Baynes also suggested that Richards Bay be developed as a port.
When Baynes died at age 83, he left his home to the government asking that it be used as an agricultural research centre. He also founded the Baynes Memorial Home for men and boys located in Pietermaritzburg. The old Victorian style home and museum have been fully restored and are open to the public by appointment. There is also a 14 km hiking trail on the estate, and guests can overnight in a stone cottage which was built with the original stone from another cottage built by Baynes.
The Baynesfield museum features a number of sites, which include the Dairy museum, housed inside the first butter factory built in Natal in 1899. The original refrigeration room used on the Baynesfield estate displays various exhibits of the Natal Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club. Joseph Baynes' original homestead is today the home of the Antique Woodworkers Club also known as " The Woodpeckers", who give demonstrations using antique wood working tools. A Blacksmith can also be found there. Located within the Old Cheese Factory there is a interesting collection of antique sewing machines, and a pictorial representation, which shows of the development of the Baynes House Gardens. Baynes was a protector of the rights, liberties and dignities of unrepresented Blacks and Indians, and there is a small collection of Indian items on display inside the museum.
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