The roots of Marsh Memorial Homes are to be found in the generosity of William Marsh.
William Marsh Born in 1822 in Walsall in Staffordshire, moved to the Cape colony with his wife Frances, and founded a hardware firm in Cape Town that became extremely successful. Their only son, Thomas Edward (always known by his second name, after his father’s older brother), was born in Cape Town in 1854. After matriculating from the South African College, Edward worked in his father’s business for seven years before responding to a call to the ministry and going to Richmond Methodist College in London to train as a minister.
William Marsh’s will reads “I, William Marsh, domiciled in this colony… declare this to be my last will and testament. I give and bequeath to my son, the Reverend Thomas Edward Marsh, one half or share of my estate… and bequeath the residue of my said estate to my said son in trust, or in the case of his death before or after me then to the committee for the time being of the Wesleyan South African Conference, in trust, to be applied to the founding and maintaining of a Home for destitute white children upon the same principles as those of Dr Stephenson’s Home in London, and be called Marsh Memorial Homes…” When William Marsh died on the 2 May 1901, Edward, as executor proceeded to fulfil his father’s wishes.
Edward chose Woodside Estate in Rondebosch, which originally had been a grant of 1.7 hectares to Andries Grové in 1790. By the time Thomas acquired it in 1878, it had grown to 25.7 hectares, stretching from the Black River to the north (on the far bank of which was the Salvation army social farm), to Firlands Estate in the south, Milner Road in the west, and to the east it extended beyond the Kromboom River, to the boundary of what is described on the plan drawn by the surveyors at the time, as “property of the South African Lands Company”; today, Melo Road in Athlone runs along a further strip of the original property.
Four and a half hectares of the estate had been sub divided and sold off before Edward could make an offer, so he bought the remaining 21.2 hectares for £8 000. During the years 1902 to 1914 he bought any land that was left, except for the large plot at the southern end, on which stood Loopuyt House, built in 1895 and now popularly known as the Ghost house.
On the 28 August 1901 the Woodside property was transferred to Marsh Memorial Homes, the Homes officially opened their doors on the 12 January 1903 when the first children were admitted.
Much has changed over the years, the estate is considerably smaller with portions having been sold to raise funds, expropriated for the building of roads and leased to the Woodside Village Trust. So today on a smaller property the good work started by the Reverend Edward Marsh continues in the present Marsh Memorial Homes, a multicultural child and youth care facility under the auspices of The Methodist Church of Southern Africa.