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J.A. Clift: 110 years and still going strong

Situated in the foothills of the huge granite domes of Paarl Rock is the oldest monumental and granite contracting business in Southern Africa.

J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd is a family-owned and operated business spanning four generations, established in 1906 by James Andrew Clift of Cornish descent.

“We’re the oldest family owned granite business in the country and over four generations we’ve developed a specialist understanding of granite,” says managing director, William Clift.

“Through a philosophy of mentorship, we have 1 000 years’ cumulative tradition and experience. We take pride in our experienced staff and offer a rock solid guarantee of superior workmanship.”

Erecting monuments for future generations

The company’s founder, James Andrew Clift, emigrated to South Africa in 1894 and after a short period working on the Witwatersrand, settled in Cape Town where he worked as a mason in the Higgo Quarry.

In 1906, while still living in Cape Town he was awarded the contract to produce and erect the stone for the historic Rhodes Memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

On completing the Rhodes contract in 1908, he decided to relocate his business to Paarl with the idea of opening his own quarry. Finding a suitable site on the farm De Hoop, he leased the quarry site from the Minnaar family until the mid 1950s when his company bought the farm.

James Andrew Clift’s business continued to grow and received many prestigious Cape Town contracts, such as the Franschoek Huguenot Memorial, the Australian Mutual Building, the Old Mutual, the General Post Office and alterations to the Houses of Parliament.

In 1939 the business became a company – J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd –and continued to win large building contracts for Standard Bank, Barclays Bank and also Public Works contracts such as the Provisional Administration Buildings in Cape Town, expansion to the Table Bay Harbour, Stalplein and the Houses of Parliament. More recently, in 2014, Clift Granite constructed the new Coen Steytler obelisk which stands at the end of Adderley Street Cape Town.

J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd today

The name J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd has become synonymous with quality in the granite industry, with the company using traditional techniques combined with state of the art technology and is recognised as experts in all things stone.

The company specialises in manufacturing any design to any specifications, whether it be a kitchen counter, an historical monument or an individual memorial or a unique signage solution, no matter what their budget. The masonry division of the company produces fireplaces, garden furniture, bathroom vanities and tubs, and traditional tombstones.

J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd has the knowledge and skill to create almost anything you have in mind and offers:

    • Superior craftsmanship
    • Small town hospitality
    • Experienced staff
    • A rock solid guarantee

  • Museum chronicling the past

The Masons’ Square project, which includes a Dunters’ pub, blacksmith’s shop and a museum, is open to the public by appointment only.

Farming – award winning wines, olives and olive oil

Over time J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd has diversified into a farming division consisting of two historic farms: De Hoop and Schoongezicht, purchased in 1974. The farming division produces table grapes for the export market, table olives and olive oil as well as Shiraz wines, produced by winemaker Derek Clift.

De Hoop’s olive oil played a pioneering role in South Africa’s olive industry. The farm’s avenue of olive trees dates back to the earliest plantings on the farm. Today, De Hoop’s olive oil is produced from a selected blend of Leccino, Frantoio and Mission olives.

The future

Their trade is a vibrant and ever evolving industry and the company strives to keep abreast with all the new materials and processing methods that it acquires at the various international trade fairs. They are leaders in the processing of engineered stone and stock all the major brands such as Caesarstone, Vicostone, Silestone and Pro Quartz.

Sarnia Villa

On 13 October 1916 their great grandfather James Andrew Clift took transfer of Sarnia Villa from Charles Louis Back. Now 100 years later, William Clift (Jnr), the 5th generation, has been appointed to do the alterations and renovations, which on completion will become the new Head Office of J.A. Clift (Pty) Ltd. All five generations would then have lived, grown up or worked at Sarnia Villa and this just forges the special family bond that exists within the Clift family. Their current head office will then revert to our rental pool of properties.

William Clift says his father and grandfather Bill instilled in their sons and grandsons a lasting love and respect for the ancient craft of the stone mason. Grandfather Bill loved a good turn of phrase and was particularly fond of a quote by John Ruskin that began “When we build, let us think that we build forever”.

“Today, J.A. Clift is the oldest surviving monumental and granite contracting business in South Africa, and in the words of John Ruskin we can truly say ‘See this our fathers did for us’.”

The courageous young man who had left his homeland to seek security for his family, has gained respect and admiration in the industry. In Paarl the name J.A. Clift & Sons is proudly recognized as part of our history. It equates to quality, loyalty and community service.

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