Excerpts from: Mary van Blommenstein, "Winnifred Ann Lidderdale," Bertram House Museum web site http://www.museums.org.za/bertram/lidder_d.htm.
Mrs. Lidderdale's family ties with the Cape can be traced back to a romance between her great grandfather, a young officer in the Scotch Brigade named Hamilton Ross, and a local girl, Catharina Elizabeth van den Berg, during the First British Occupation in 1798.
Early in September 1798 Ross sailed for Madras on HMS Sceptre and was followed about a fortnight later by Catharina. The couple were married at Fort St. George, Madras, in the following year and returned to the Cape in 1803 where Ross became a successful merchant and prominent citizen in his adopted country.
Hamilton Ross was a Sponsor of the Cape of Good Hope Bank and member of the Legislative Council. He lived at his country estate, Sans Souci, in Newlands, and in January 1843 bought the Mount Nelson estate for his daughter Maria Johanna and her family.
Maria's first husband, Joseph Hodgson, died leaving her with four young children. She then married her cousin, John Ross. Their eighth child, Ellen Hamilton, born on the Mount Nelson estate was Mrs Lidderdale's mother.
Winifred Ann Lidderdale, nee Neumann Thomas was born in Cape Town in 1882. Her father Charles was Black Rod in Parliament and organist at St. George's Cathedral. After her marriage to Henry Maxwell Lidderdale, she lived in England and the USA. In 1951 the childless couple returned to Cape Town for their retirement.
Mrs Lidderdale is widely remembered for her outstanding ability as a public speaker until her death at the age of 95 in 1977. Her public spirit is evident in the range of the following local civic achievements.
It was through her initiative that the Springbok Library was assembled in 1944 and housed in South Africa House, London, for the use of SA Volunteers in the UK. She subsequently arranged for the Springbok Library to be transferred to the South African Library in Cape Town in 1946. Mrs Lidderdale's concern for the elderly was demonstrated by the establishment of a fund known as Senior Security administered by the Rotary Club of Cape Town. Finally, her ardent desire to turn a dream of establishing a house museum to commemorate the British contribution to life at the Cape was made possible by her bequest to the nation.
In 1975 the Minister of National Education, Senator van der Spuy, announced that Mrs Lidderdale's bequest together with those of other benefactors would be permanently exhibited at Bertram House. Shortly afterwards, the house was opened to the public as a museum. Extensive restoration of the building took place during 1983 and it was formally reopened as a Georgian town house in May 1984.
Sadly, Mrs Lidderdale did not live to see the successful completion of this project. Active to the last, she died as a result of a fall whilst working on a catalogue of her collection in the house during her ninety-fifth year. Not only does her bequest form the nucleus of the collection in this museum, but the Lidderdale Trust Fund makes provision for the purchase of pieces, to augment the original holdings.