Solomon Joel

(23 May 1865 – 22 May 1931)

Solomon Barnato Joel, known as “Solly” was born into a Jewish family, one of three sons of Joel Joel (a London publican, keeper of the King of Prussia tavern), and Kate Isaacs. Joel was the nephew of Barnett Isaacs, later known as Barney Barnato.

Along with his brothers, Jack and Woolf, he was mentored by their uncle Barney Barnato and made a fortune from the Barnato Diamond Mining Company. Within 10 years, he had become a millionaire, primarily by buying seemingly worked-out diamond mines in South Africa and re-investing resources for better extraction.

On Barney Barnato’s death in 1897, Joel became head of the family business, Barnato Brothers.

Despite having a keen interest in diamonds, he played a greater role in the gold industry. He established the Van Ryn Deep Mine in 1902; the Government Gold Mining Areas (Modderfontein) Consolidated Limited, in 1910; and the New State Areas Ltd. in 1918.

From the late 1890s, he acquired control of Langlaagte Estate and Gold Mining Company and Randfontein Estates Gold Mining Company from J.B. Robinson, and became a director of the Diamond Syndicate.

A 1899 cartoon depicting the hard-line approach by Paul Kruger when dealing with the “Uitlanders”

Early in his business career he supported the Uitlanders (translated from Afrikaan as “Foreigners”) against Paul Kruger’s government, and was a prominent member of the Reform Committee, an organisation established to lobby for a stable constitution, a fair franchise law, an independent judiciary, a better educational system, recognition of mining rights, etc. Many members of the committee, including Joel, were involved in the Jameson Raids. After being found guilty of high treason for his part in the the raids (Joel, along with most of the instigators found guilty of treason would later have their sentences commuted), Joel never involved himself in politics again. Joel’s brother Woolf Joel was murdered in Johannesburg in 1898, allegedly for his involvement in the Raids.

Joel’s interests were wide and varied and included many business concerns, including diamond and gold mining interests, activities in brewing, the theatre (he was an official patron of the Drury Lane Theatre in London) and railways. Joel was one of the financiers of the London and South London Railway. By the mid 1920s, Joel had exited most of his South African interests, passing on his chairmanship in the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company to his brother Jack.

Pommern jockeyed by Steve Donaghue

Joel also had a keen interest in horse-racing and sports, especially cricket. In the 1924–25 South African cricket season, Joel organised a team of mostly English players to tour the country and play matches against the national and provincial teams. The team was known as S. B. Joel’s XI and included leading players Ewart Astill, George Geary, Percy Holmes, Alec Kennedy, Charlie Parker, Jack Russell, Lionel Tennyson and Ernest Tyldesley.

His interests in horse racing saw him own and breed several successful racehorses, including Pommern, a triple crown champion and winner of 6 major events from 1914 – 1916.

Joel died in 1931 at Moulton Paddocks. On his death, his estate and possessions were sold at auction. The Home Stud Farm was sold in 1932 but continued until the 1980s. Moulton Paddocks passed into the ownership of Joel’s son Dudley, but the house fell into disrepair following his death and was later demolished.

Joel was buried in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.

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