On 12 September 1860, Mattys Wynand Pretorius and his wife Magdalena Gerbrecht bought the farm Slangfontein on the banks of the Klip River for the purchase price of eight pounds sterling. It stretched from beyond the river to the Meyerton border. The largest portion is now known as Henley on Klip.
Mattys Wynand Pretorius died in December 1892, and was buried in the family graveyard on the banks of the river. In accordance with his final will, the farm was divided between his beneficiaries. A portion situated on the east bank of the river was known as “Bloemhok”.
In October 1903, the Small Farm Company Limited agreed to buy Bloemhok from C J van der Westhuizen. The company was approached by Mattys Cornelius and Johannes Pretorius, who owned some 1 250 morgen on the west side of the Klip River, and agreed to buy 781 morgen, including 7 000 feet of river frontage. Another company known as the Settlers Syndicate bought the residue of 781 morgen with a river frontage of 800 feet, which is now known as Highbury.
In 1904 three portable buildings were erected. One was used by the Henley on Klip Hotel. The second was converted to the township’s owner’s residence and the third became the Manor Hotel, but was originally the Henley Golf Club.
The construction of the Kidson weir on the Klip River started in 1904 with the object of impounding 80 acres of water varying in width from 80 to 500 feet with a maximum depth of 17 feet.
Advocate Horace Kent played a dominant role in the development. He bought the land in conjunction with the Small Farm Company and named it the township of Henley on Klip, because it reminded him of his birthplace, Henley on Thames.
During the South African War, British troops were stationed in the village to guard a nearby railway line to Johannesburg. Block houses set in concrete were constructed a few thousand yards apart and rifles were aimed down the line of wire, so they could be fired at night without the aid of Very lights.
In the early years the village was a popular weekend destination for visitors coming in by train from Johannesburg. Although the hotels have closed, Henley is still popular at weekends, particularly with cyclists and bikers visiting the markets and restaurants.
Since the early nineties Henley has become increasingly built-up and multi-racial, but it still retains its rural vibe, although the majority of residents commute daily north or south to work. A large minority are self employed, work in the village, or are pensioners, so there is still life during the week.
The village celebrated its centenary in 2004 with a Mardi Gras, which is now held every second year.
A River Runs Through by Koos van Eck, available in the Henley on Klip library, will tell you more.