Lady Anne Barnard “locked-in” Cape Town

Lady Anne Barnard “locked-in” Cape Town

Confined to barracks – Lady Anne wouldn’t have had a problem with lockdown, especially in her later years when she lived like a recluse. She arrived in Cape Town 1797 and initially lived in the Castle of Good Hope where the barracks were (and still are).

Lady Anne set herself the challenge of painting the phenomenal view of Cape Town from the Castle (pictured). Unsurprisingly it took her three years to finish. Halfway through she wrote: “I wish I had not undertaken this panorama; I am really very bad at it and yet having undertaken it I do not like to give up.”

CT pano 3 (1)

Thankfully she didn’t give up – it gives a fabulous and unique view of what Cape Town looked like just after the Dutch’s long occupation (nearly 150 years) and the very beginning of the British rule. Its emptiness has an extra resonance now with the Government’s COVID-19 measures.

CT pano 4 (1)

Lady Anne’s picture is so wide it is in seven sections and hard to photograph, especially as it is now hanging in a passage of her family’s ancestral home in remote Fife, Scotland.

There is still Lady Anne’s presence at the Castle. There is a room named after her which she made into a ball room. A few people claim one of the ghosts there is her! Such a story will be part of Jeanne Bonnema’s new family tour of the Castle for Culture Connect.

Greg Clingham, (pictured below) Professor of English emeritus at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, will be giving an illustrated talk about Lady Anne and her watercolours for Culture Connect when he is next in town (he was due to give it on 16 April 2020). As this will be a long way off Tracey Randle, “Cape Herstorian”, be giving an illustrated talk about Lady Anne’s sitters, “it has been one of the most astonishing and exciting lines of research I have ever conducted.”

Both early evening events will be at the Vineyard, where there is display (image below) about Lady Anne and her husband, Andrew Barnard who was the colony’s secretary; the house they built is now part of the hotel. Dates will be announced post pandemic.

Stephen Taylor, has also agreed to give a talk on Lady Anne for Culture Connect when he is next in Cape Town (he is based in England). Stephen’s very readable, yet thorough biography, Defiance: the Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard, is published by Faber & Faber (2016 and 2017).

Rosalind Spears’ talk, Lady Anne Barnard, Balcarres and the Cape with fabulous music recordings as interludes, is planned for U3A Atlantic Seaboard 12 November 2020. Perhaps she should do it for Culture Connect too? In the meantime, do read Jeanne Bonnema’s short biography on Lady Anne below, with images from Rosalind Spears.

Early life
Lady Anne Lindsay was born on the family estate of Balcarres (pictured below) in a remote part of Fife, Scotland, on 8 December 1750. She was the eldest of the 11 children of James Lindsay, the impoverished 5th Earl of Balcarres, and his wife, Anne Dalrymple, who was 40 years his junior. They had a governess at home. Anne subsequently developed her conversational skills in the Edinburgh salons of her grandmother Lady Dalrymple, amongst the best minds in Scotland including the philosopher David Hume.

Lady Anne had numerous admirers, many of whom would have been happy to lay their worldly goods at her feet. But she was unconvinced that she liked any of them well enough to marry them. Eventually she was persuaded to accept one of her suitors, a wealthy merchant Henry Swinton. But her family put a stop to it when they heard rumours he was not as rich as they had thought. Lady Anne got the blame and thought a coquette – a label that stuck with her for years.

Balcarres 2019

In 1793 Lady Anne married Andrew Barnard; at the age of 43 years, considered very old at the time to become a wife. He was the son of the Bishop of Limerick. She had refused his proposals two years earlier, but now, to everyone’s amazement, she accepted him. She continued to use her title as she was the daughter of an earl and was known as Lady Anne Barnard for the rest of her life.

The couple retreated to Ireland where they attempted to live within their limited means. Anne was determined to get him a job so asked Henry Dundas (he was one of her previous suitors, a Scottish advocate and Tory politician and became Viscount Melville). Eventually Dundas offered him the position of secretary to the governor at the Cape of Good Hope. This was not quite what Anne had hoped for, but no other offers were likely.

Life at the Cape
In February 1797, the Barnards sailed for the Cape of Good Hope. They arrived three months later and lived in the Castle of Good Hope with the governor, Lord Macartney. Macartney’s wife had not travelled out with him and so Lady Anne acted as his hostess. They entertained the army officers and the Dutch colonists as well as visitors who were passing through, such as Richard Wellesley, Lord Mornington, elder brother of the Duke of Wellington.

A few weeks after arriving, Lady Anne climbed Table Mountain, highly unusual for women of her background. She went on several trips into the interior. She recorded what she saw both with words and drawings, including reflections on issues, such as the massive slave population in the Cape and the appalling treatment of local farm labourers.

The Barnards renovated a run-down cottage, Paradise, in Newlands Forest, part the way up Table Mountain and for a while they lived there (its ruins still exist and below is what it might have looked like, Wiki). In 1798 they built a house in Newlands, now part of the Vineyard hotel.


Lady Anne called these years the happiest of her life, marred only by her inability to have children. Andrew Barnard thrived under Macartney’s laid back leadership style, but when the governor returned to England because of ill health, the colony was temporarily put under the control of General Dundas, a nephew of Lady Anne’s old suitor. His authoritarian approach and contempt for Andrew Barnard made life difficult. Soon he was secretary in name only as General Dundas bypassed his approval.

Things were not easier with the new governor, Sir George Yonge. Lady Anne reported to Dundas that Yonge had accepted a huge bribe from an infamous slave trader to land lots of slaves. Yonge was removed from office. In 1801, before another governor could be appointed, Britain made peace with France. The colony was handed back to the Dutch, and so there was no need for a colonial secretary. Lady Anne was worried about a new position for her husband as Dundas was no longer in power. In January 1802, Anne travelled back to England to try and get him work, while he stayed until the official handover to the Dutch; neither realised it was going to take a year.

A disastrous posting
Three years after Barnard’s return, he was still without a job. Finally, in 1806 Henry James Fox, a prominent British Whig statesman, recommended that Andrew Barnard should get his old job back, as secretary to the new governor at the Cape. Windham, Secretary for War and the Colonies (one of Lady Anne’s former suitors) reluctantly agreed. But Lady Anne then panicked that her husband’s health would not stand up the Cape; she pleaded with Windham to give him something else, but he didn’t change his mind. Andrew Barnard said he would take the post or he would not get any more offers. Anne stayed in England to lobby for him.

The new governor, Lord Caledon, was young and inexperienced so relied heavily on Andrew Barnard. The governor was concerned about his secretary’s nausea and vomiting, especially as it got worse. On 27 October 1807, he died. Lady Anne was devastated and blamed Windham.

Table-Mt-1790 from Greg Clingham's site

Lady Anne received a letter from Lord Caledon about a mixed-race girl, about six years old. She was the daughter of her husband and a slave woman, conceived after she had left for England in 1802. Anne’s reaction was unconventional for the time; she excused her husband’s infidelity, blaming herself for leaving him like a widower in South Africa. In 1809, she welcomed Christina Douglas, into her home at 21 Berkeley Square. (Cape Town based photographer Ed Suter, (picture below), found out last year, he is related to Christina; an exhibition of his work is currently touring Vineyard hotels).

Self portrait-20200306-WA0021

Christina was not the only child that Lady Anne cared for. Barnard had fathered two illegitimate sons before his marriage and each of these placed a daughter in Lady Anne’s care – Margaret and Anne Hervey.

Final years
Lady Anne increasingly lived as a recluse, devoting her time to writing and drawing. She wrote a memoir of her life with Christina Douglas’s, help. Some relatives worried about it bringing the family into disgrace and she was adamant that her work was never to be published and her memoirs remain so today.

In 1822, Sir Walter Scott quoted a verse from Auld Robin Grey in The Pirate, specifically referring to it as Lady Anne Lindsay’s beautiful ballad. After maintaining her anonymity as the author through most of her life, she was finally given public credit for her poem.
Lady Anne died on 6 May 1825 at her home in Berkeley Square (her funeral was nearby at St George’s, Hanover Square, pictured). She left legacies to all three of the girls who lived with her, and, skipping over her brothers, left the rest of her property to her nephews, James and Lindsay.

St George's Hanover Square with her suitcase

Mainly The unconventional Lady Anne Barnard (1750-1825) by Rachel Knowles
Supplemented by Defiance: the Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard by Stephen Taylor 2016 (and Wiki)

For the Castle ghost stories: and .

For Lady Anne’s writings

For a docu-drama, made in 1990 for SABC by Roberta Durrant on Lady Anne’s time at the Cape:

For Balcarres and the Regency info by Jeanne Bonnama, email me (and with any comments and questions):

Finally, a picture of Rosalind Spears with the current Earl of Balcarres, in situ, 2019.

Ros with the boss