George Yonge

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(1731-1812) Born in Colyton, Devon, in to Sir William Yonge, 4th Baronet and his second wife Ann Howard He served as Member of Parliament for Honiton from 1754 to 1761 and again from 1763 to 1796. He was elevated to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 1782. Was British Secretary at War (1782–1783 and 1783–1794), but spent a great deal of his life fleeing his creditors. To escape his debt, he acted as Governor of the Cape Colony for a short period from 1799 to 1801, but is stint at the Cape was largely a political disaster for the British Government and the colony, and he found a formidable enemy in Lady Anne Barnard. Symonds and Fisher (in The History of Parliament Online ) quote Lord Wellesley, who wrote to Lord Dundas from India at the time: "My accounts from the Cape all concur in representing that government to be in a state of great confusion. The imbecility and ignorance of Sir George Yonge entirely disqualify him for his situation ... The importance of the Cape in its relation to India increases every hour ... Yonge is employed in founding theatres and masquerade rooms. He dances with more grace and perseverance than Lord Keeper Hatton; and the fame of his brawls has not only reached the kaffirs, and animated every kraal from the Cape to the desert of Sahara, but extended to the Indus and the Ganges.". Charged with extravagance, he was dismissed from office on 20 September 1801. Died 25 September 1812 in Hampton Court.

He had been a competent amateur architect and an expert on Roman roads and his name now lives on in the form of Yonge Street, the main arterial road in Toronto and, indirectly, in the African Theatre (today St Stephen's Church) in Cape Town.

Sir George Yonge and South African Arts and Theatre

Described as a "very- very weak old soul" by Lady Anne Barnard, he was apparently a gregarious, womanising spendthrift, but fortunately for theatre in the country, also an enthusiastic supporter of a variety of cultural activities. For example, he rebuilt Government House, salvaged the gardens, introduced Cape Towns's first printing press and first newspaper (The Cape Town Gazette and Kaapsche Stads Courant), and started "The Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts and Sciences". He also greatly supported musical entertainment and theatre and, urged on and assisted by private citizens and probably utilizing much of his own funds, designed and built the first custom-built theatre European style in Cape Town: The African Theatre/Di Afrikaansche Schouwburg , aided and abetted by Dr Somers.


P. A. Symonds and David R. Fisher,"YONGE, Sir George" in The History of Parliament Online [1],_5th_Baronet

Bosman, 1928; Laidler, 1926; Fletcher, 1994

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