The Wellington Museum houses material about an extraordinary romance – between Martha Solomons, a woman from the South African workers class, and Harry Grey, an Anglican priest from the British aristocracy. The title Earl of Stamford has been linked to the Greys since 1628 and the Dunham Massey estate near Manchester has been in the family since 1772.
Martha Solomons (1838 - 1916) was the daughter of a slave known as “Queen” Rebecca.
In 1854 Harry Grey, a nephew of the sixth Earl of Stamford, was sent to the Cape Colony as a remittance man, where he met Martha Solomons. A probable meeting place is Bain Street, Wellington.
Thereafter they lived together in Wynberg, where Martha gave birth to two children: John (1877) and Frances (1879.) After their marriage in 1880 in the Wynberg Dutch Reformed Church, Martha gave birth to another daughter, Mary (1881).
In 1883 Harry Grey unexpectedly became the Eighth Earl of Stamford, after the death of his cousin, the Seventh Earl of Stamford in a freak accident. Thereby Martha Solomons became the Countess of Stamford. Now Harry received an income from the rental of properties in England, as well as a seat in the British Parliament. (A right he never took up). He started buying up properties in Constantia en Wynberg.
In 1890 Harry died, and from the interest on her investments, Martha donated money for the establishment of a school. Later the school became the Battswood College, where for many years teachers received training.
From this romance stemmed a valuable legacy of which few people are aware.