Dr James Barry

There are many legends and stories that have arisen in The Roundhouse’s time, but none as intriguing as that of Doctor James Barry. One of Lord Somerset’s great friends, and family physician, he often called at The Roundhouse. In fact, the two’s friendship became a subject of many a hushed conversation in the colony.

Despite Barry’s shrill voice and strange appearance, he was a brilliant surgeon and is accredited not only with saving Somerset’s life on at least one occasion, but also with performing the first caesarian section in Africa. His awkward demeanor and odd mannerisms didn’t foil his efforts to make monumental improvements to healthcare in the Cape Colony and elsewhere.

Yet the most astonishing facet of Barry’s character was revealed not in his life, but in death. After succumbing to infection in 1865, the nursemaids who had laid his body out asserted that he was in fact a woman. Moreover, they claimed that the body showed signs that she had carried a child. Although never conclusively proven, Victorian society ran rife with rumours, some substantiated, some pure flights of fancy.

Whether fact or false, Doctor Barry’s legacy is now solidified as being the Lady of the Manor at The Roundhouse. It is said that her soul still roams The Roundhouse and surrounds. Some even claim to have seen her figure dressed in military garb, or on horseback. Others have heard her cries echoing through the valley, mourning lost love or child, or want of a normal life.