Who’s Who in the Family — thumbnail sketches

Introductory Note For those of you not familiar with the details of our family’s history over the past two and a half centuries – and this website will hopefully be of particular interest to you – I provide here a very brief Who’s Who in the Family — thumbnail sketches. It is not in any way complete. There are over 1,400 people in our Family Tree! But this Who’s Who will give you a little information about many of the people mentioned in the Stories & History and Diaries and Reminiscences sections of this website so that you can make sense of where they fit into the overall family story. Family members are listed alphabetically by their first names by which they were known — e.g. Barkly Molteno (not V. B. Molteno); Betty Molteno (not Elizabeth Molteno); and Charlie Molteno (even though his names were actually John Charles Molteno). As I put new stories and reminiscences on to the website, I will add additional members of the family to those already described in this Who’s Who. With a few particularly interesting members of the family, I intend over time to write much fuller accounts of their lives. But that is a big job!  These will be eventually posted to the Biographies section of the site.


Barkly Molteno (1872-1952)


Captain Barkly Molteno, Royal Navy, 1916

One of John Charles Molteno’s younger sons. He was sent off from the Cape to England in 1885 at the age of 13 to train as a Royal Navy officer.  He had a distinguished career in the Navy, fought  in 1916 in the Battle of Jutland (the only engagement during World War 1 between the German Imperial Navy and the Royal Navy), and retired as a Vice-Admiral in 1922. He and his wife, Ethel Robertson, had one daughter, Viola Molteno; Barkly also adopted Ethel’s son, Malcolm.











Betty Molteno (1852-1927)


Betty Molteno with her partner Alice Greene, fairly early 1900s

The eldest of John Charles Molteno’s children.  When her mother, Elizabeth Maria Jarvis, died in 1874, Betty took responsibility for bringing up several of her younger brothers. Only when she was in her mid thirties, did she begin teaching. During the 1890s, she was headmistress of The Collegiate School for Girls in Port Elizabeth, which is where she met her lifelong partner, Alice Greene. Betty is perhaps the most remarkable of John Charles’s children. She took up many causes, including opposition to Britain’s war against the Boer Republics. She was active in support of the rights of Indian South Africans (she was a friend of Gandhi and spoke at many of his public meetings). She also supported Black South Africans’ early struggles over land and political rights, and lived for a time in a cottage built for her at the Ohlange Institute (next door to Gandhi’s Phoenix Settlement) which was founded by John Dube, first President General of the African National Congress. She was a particular friend of Sol Plaatje.  Betty was also a feminist and demanded the franchise for women.


Caroline Molteno (nee Bower)  (1790-1866)


Caroline Molteno (nee Bower), John Charles’s mother, London, c. 1860

Wife of John Molteno.  Daughter of George Bower who rose to a senior position in the Bank of England.  After the death of her husband at young age in 1827, she moved with her children out of Central London to Peckham, at that time a small village on the city’s outskirts, where her father had a house. Caroline lived in Peckham for the rest of her life, for some of the time supporting herself by running a school. A great sadness to her, four of her children emigrated to distant parts of the world. Only her son, Fred Molteno and his children, returned to live in Peckham. Her eldest son, John Charles Molteno, kept in touch with her by letter, although the post in those days was slow and irregular. But she had the joy of seeing him twice as a grown man, including during his lengthy visit to Europe with his wife, Maria, and daughters, Caroline and Betty, in 1860-61.



Caroline Murray (nee Molteno) (1853-1937)


Caroline Murray (nee Molteno)

The second eldest daughter of John Charles Molteno. Caroline was an exceptionally beautiful and strongminded woman. She married a Royal Navy surgeon, Dr C F K Murray, over the initial opposition of her father. In addition to their having a large family, Caroline and her husband turned their home, Kenilworth House, into a leading focus for the family after her father’s death in 1886. Caroline involved herself in various public activities, including opposition to Britain going to war against the Boer Republics (1899-1902) and her espousal of the franchise for women at the Cape. When her elder daughter, May, started the Chronicle of the Family in 1913, Caroline wrote her Reminiscences which give a wonderful picture of the family and the way of life on the Karoo and at the Cape generally during the 1860s. She died at Palace Court, the London home of her beloved and much admired younger brother, Percy, just a few weeks after he himself had passed away. She kept a journal at various times in her life, some of  which hopefully will be transcribed. And you can read Reminiscences of the Old Cape (pdf).


Charles Dominic Molteno (1789-1873)


Charles Dominic Molteno (John Charles’s beloved uncle), 1860s

Son of George Anthony Molteno, the first Molteno to settle in London.   A favourite uncle of John Charles Molteno who emigrated to the Cape Colony. After a lifetime working for the Docks in London, Charles Dominic moved to Scotland with his wife, Margaret Scott (who had been widowed as Mrs Glass). In late 1860, during only his second visit to England since emigrating to the Cape in 1831, John Charles took his family up to Scotland to stay with Charles Dominic, and it was in his house that Percy Molteno was born.








‘Charlie’ John Charles Molteno (1860-1924)


Charlie Molteno

Eldest son of John Charles Molteno.  At a very young age, Charlie became his father, Sir John Charles Molteno’s, secretary. In this role, he not only assisted him in his political duties as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, but also increasingly looked after his diverse business interests. Following his father’s death in 1886, Charlie managed the main family farm at Nelspoort for many years in association with his cousin, H. A. Jackson. He decided to enter politics on his own account in 1894 and was elected to the Tembuland constituency in the Transkei. He continued as an M.P., with one short break, up to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. He married in 1897 an American, Lucy Mitchell, whose family had close South African connections, and he and Lucy settled into their new home of Sandown in Rondebosch, about four miles from the centre of Cape Town, in 1899. They lived there for the rest of their lives together. Charlie died of pneumonia following a routine operation in 1924. His political contributions included opposition to the Boer War, and a growing recognition of the overriding importance of African South Africans playing a full role in Cape politics. On his death, Ons Land described him as ‘a man of firm principles and of earnest convictions. He was a man of character and a strong personality.’


Donald Currie, Sir


Sir Donald Currie, painting of

A remarkable Scottish entrepreneur who was an outstanding example of Victorians who built up great businesses from nothing, who then entered politics (Sir Donald became a Liberal M.P. for a Scottish seat in the late 19th century), and who also spread their activities, commercial as well as diplomatic, internationally. Sir Donald founded what became the Union Castle shipping line which ran the mail boat service between England and South Africa.  A friend of the Cape Prime Minister, John Charles Molteno, he became his brother-in-law when Percy Molteno married Sir Donald’s daughter, Bessie, although in point of fact Sir John had died the year before this marriage.  Sir Donald was a friend of the great Liberal leader, Gladstone, but broke with him politically over the question of Home Rule for Ireland. He bought three estates in the Scottish Highlands, including Glen Lyon which he left to his daughter, Bessie Molteno. He also used his great wealth to build up a major collection of Turner paintings, from which his descendants have continued to benefit for four generations.



Frank Molteno — his grave in Hawaii

Frank Molteno  (1815-1869)

Second son of John Molteno and Caroline Bower. Frank went to sea, and landed up in the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), then still an independent group of remote island chieftaincies in the Pacific.  There he settled and became a whaling captain in the northern Pacific Ocean. By all accounts he was a most attractive personality. But because of the huge distances involved and the extreme slowness of travel in the age of sail,  very little contact, even by letter, was kept up between him and the rest of his family in London and at the Cape. Frank married an indigenous Hawaiian, Kahua. From them, a line of part Hawaiian, part European Moltenos is descended. Unlike his elder brother, John Charles Molteno, Frank remained a Roman Catholic and his tombstone in a Catholic graveyard  In Hawaii can be seen to this day.


Frank Molteno (1863-1926)


Frank Molteno, son of John Charles Molteno

A son of John Charles Molteno.














George Anthony Molteno (1751-1816)

He is our original ancestor whom we know about. There are no available records of who his parents were or where they lived. Anthony moved from Milan in Italy to England, probably directly, but possibly via Paris. He opened his first printselling shop in Pall Mall in 1783. For a short time Paul Colnaghi was in partnership with him; the famous firm of Colnaghis is still in existence in London today. Anthony married an Englishwoman, Mary Lewis. Unfortunately, no portrait of George Anthony exists. Instead here is one of the prints he sold.


King George III, on his happy recovery from mental breakdown — a print published by George Anthony Molteno, 1789

Their children included James Anthony, John, Charles Dominic, Mary, Emma and Eloise. James Anthony, John and Mary were, it seems, the only children to marry and start families. Mary married Charles Busby Bristow, from where the Bristow-Molteno connection springs.  John married Caroline Bower and is the ancestor of all Molteno descendants who have a South African connection. James Anthony married Mary Mylius. Anthony’s business prospered; the winding up of his estate after his death in 1816 took some years. His eldest son, James Anthony,  was also a printseller, and an equally successful one for many years.


Harry Molteno (1880-1969)


Harry Molteno in the orchards, early 1960s













The youngest son of John Charles Molteno.  Harry partnered his brother, Ted Molteno, in developing their largescale deciduous fruit and apple farms at Elgin in the first half of the 20th century. Harry, like his brother, Ted, never married. Both brothers set up charitable trusts and left most of their wealth to them.  In addition, Harry made several major bequests during his lifetime to universities and at least one  school. Educated at Cambridge, he was musical. For many years, he and Ted had their cousin, Dr Ernest Anderson, also a bachelor, living with them. After Harry died, the Molteno Brothers Trust ran the farms and became a very large donor to various educational projects, notably the Molteno Project which concentrated on improving literacy and the teaching of English in Black schools in South Africa during the last decades of the apartheid era.


James Anthony Molteno (1784-1845)


James Anthony Molteno, sketch dated 1814

The eldest son of George Anthony Molteno.  Anthony took over the family printselling business in Pall Mall. For many years he prospered, but eventually he went bankrupt towards the end of his life. This marked the end of over half a century of Molteno art dealing in London. A devoted Roman Catholic, Anthony was executor of his father’s will.  He married Mary Mylius. They had eight children. Only two of these offspring married and had children – Mary Molteno, who married Charles Parker, agent to the Duke of Bedford; and William ‘Frederick’ Molteno, who married Letitia Jones. The latter’s descendants are on the Family Tree, but Charles and Mary Parker’s have not yet been traced genealogically.






James Tennant Molteno, Sir (1865-1936)


Sir James Molteno, Speaker of the South African Parliament, 1910-15

One of John Charles Molteno’s sons.  Brilliant intellectually and a good sportsman, he was one of John Charles’ sons who was sent to Cambridge, where he studied Law. It was while he was there that he met his wife, Clare Holland Pryor. They got married shortly after his return to the Cape, but it did not turn out to be a happy relationship for either of them. Instead James threw his energies into politics. He was elected to the Cape Parliament in the 1890s and remained an MP for nearly quarter of a century. He made his name politically when he broke with the aggressively imperialist politics of Cecil John Rhodes. This led him to become prominent in the Afrikaner Bond, and at one point its parliamentary leader temporarily. James opposed the Boer War, and spent a couple of years during it travelling around the remoter reaches of the Cape Colony defending  in the courts and before courts martial Boer ‘Rebels’ – ie Dutch farmers in the Cape who allegedly gave assistance to their relatives and fellow Dutch-speakers living across the Orange River in the Boer Republics. After the War ended in 1902, James was elected Speaker of the Cape legislature. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, he was elected the first Speaker of the Union Parliament. He wrote in retirement two volumes of reminiscences, one of which is available on-line.


John Molteno (1788-1827)


John Molteno, father of John Charles Molteno — a miniature (from 1790s), passed down to Jervis Molteno at Glen Lyon

Son of George Anthony Molteno and Mary Lewis.  John married Caroline Bower. He did not go into his father’s printselling business but instead, worked at Somerset House in London, where he became Assistant Keeper of Legacy Duty. John and Caroline’s children included John Charles, Frank, Nancy, Frederick James, and Alicia.  When John got seriously ill at the young age of 39, he was distraught at being able to leave virtually nothing to this widow in his will, and the family became hard up on his death. John Charles was pulled out of school and got one or two nondescript jobs in the City. Facing such dead ends, four of the children (John, Frank, Fred and Alicia) emigrated  as soon as they could – to the Cape Colony, Hawaii, and Victoria and New South Wales in Australia. Their mother, Caroline, was left with only one daughter, Nancy, still living with her.  When Nancy married Mr Bingle, she moved from Peckham across London to the southwest of London where her husband ran a small college in Richmond.


John Charles Molteno


John Charles Molteno, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, 1872-78 — a sketch

Eldest son of John Molteno and Caroline Bower of London. Emigrated at the age of 16 to the Cape Colony. Became a merchant; later pioneered merino sheep farming at Nelspoort in the Karoo. Elected to the first legislature of the Cape Colony in 1854. Pressed for responsible government (whereby the executive of ministers is accountable to Parliament, and not to the colony’s British Governor), and became the Cape Colony’s first Prime Minister in 1872. Married three times. His first wife, Maria Hewitson, died tragically in childbirth in 1845. By his second wife, Elizabeth Maria Jarvis, John Molteno had ten children who survived infancy and from whom the majority of Moltenos today trace their descent – Betty, Caroline, Maria, Charlie, Percy, Frank, James, Victor, Wallace and Barkly. Following the death of Elizabeth Maria, John Charles married ‘Minnie’ Blenkins; they had four children – Minnie, Ted, Clifford and Harry. None of these ever married or had children. John was knighted sometime after he had been ousted, contrary to established parliamentary convention, as Prime Minister by the then Governor.


Maria Anderson (nee Molteno) (1856-1903)


Maria Anderson (nee Molteno), wife of Tom Anderson — 1880s

Youngest daughter of John Charles Molteno by his wife, Maria Elizabeth Jarvis. Maria married a Cape Town businessman, Tom Anderson, who was a widower. They settled in Kenilworth, but  also had a holiday home at Kalk Bay, called Quarterdeck.  Tom and Maria had three children – Ernest, Harold and Effie. Maria had a quieter, less forceful character than her elder sisters, Betty and Caroline. She was also much less interested in politics. Sadly, she died prematurely when still in her forties. Her daughter, Effie, took over as the active centre of this branch of the family, despite living far away from the Cape on her husband Elliot Stanford’s farm of Inungi in East Griqualand.  Every year, Effie would bring her children down to stay with her father at Kalk Bay during the hottest time of the summer.


Mary Molteno (nee Lewis)  (1758-1810)


Mary Lewis, wife of George Anthony Molteno (her tombstone lies in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalagar Square

Wife of George Anthony Molteno, the first Molteno to settle in London. Her tombstone lies cemented into the floor of the coffee house that now exists in the crypt of St Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square.  Her children included James Anthony, John, Charles Dominic, Mary, Emma and Eloise Molteno.

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