Roma Lesotho




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The Trading Post - Roma

All off-roaders lead to Roma, undisputed capital of the off-road adventurer in Lesotho. Roma is a small town, by Southern African

standards, lining the main road from Maseru to Semonkong for a few kilometres. Originally called Ha Tloutle

( Tlou;- Elephant ? Maybe NOT the place of fine elephants.

Perhaps another mystery such as Umgungundlovu? More likely the name of an important   local chief ).  The eastern margin

of this roadside town contains the famous National University of Lesotho, NUL.

On the opposite side of the main street is the Roman Catholic mission. Two of the three reason that Roma, Lesotho is famous.

The third is the Trading Post of Jennifer and Ashley Thorn.   The area is also locally called Ha Baseane, after the Grandfather of Ashley,

John Thorn; hence, " the place of Boss John/Jan " became Ha Baseane. Since the late nineteenth century the Thorn, family has been trading

in Lesotho, with their base in Roma and at Ramabanta and satellite stores in outlying areas. Managing these enterprises, striding through

the mountains on foot, racing through the broken back-lanes of the country as a champion off-road racing driver and navigator,

Ashley developed an intense knowledge  of the country, it’s people and the language of sesotho. A better guide and host you could

not imagine.


See History of Lesotho and The Thorn Familly below.


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Bas Jan  Thorn  ( Image courtesy of the Thorn Family )


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The Main House of  the Thorn's The Trading Post                                          Two of the original Rondavels


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The main house at The Trading Post is covered with the Morara or wild vine.

This is the Seboko of the Bafokeng, a plant held in great respect. Ellenberger

compared this plant to the mistletoe.

Smiling 'Mme Mapoqua looks after you at The Trading Post.    



Contact: Jennifer Thorn

Roma Trading Post Guest House

P.O. Box 64 Maseru, Lesotho

Tel/Fax +266 22 34 02 02 during office hours

Tel: +266 22 34 02 67  after hours

Mobile Tel: 082 773 21 80 


url :



Manonyane Cash & Carry 

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The entrance to the trading area and the mill.


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N.J. Thorn's trading station                                                                                Clients wait patiently for their Sorghum to be milled 


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The millers




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The History of Lesotho and the Thorn Familly

                         1786 Moshoeshoe born at Menkhoaneng - east of Hlotse (Leribe)

1st son of Mokhachane, a minor chief of the Mokoteli branch of Koena (Crocodile) clan.

Other names: Lepoqo (family dispute) Letlama (the Binder), Tlaputle (the Busy One)

1809 Letlama took praise name "Mo-shoe-shoe" after capturing many cattle from another chief, Ramonaheng, as easy as "shaving" Ramonaheng's beard.

1810 Married Mabela, daughter of the Bafokeng chief, Seepheephe.

1811 Mabela given name 'Mamohato after birth of 1st son, Mohato (Letsie).

1814 Birth of 2nd son, Molapo. Later daughter, Tsoamathe, then sons Masupha,& Majara.

1814 Death of philosopher - Chief Mohlomi who influenced Moshoeshoe to follow a path of peace.

1820 Moshoeshoe moved from father's village to Botha-Bothe at age 34 & began his rule as chief.

1822 The Amahlubi fled from Shaka across the Drakensberg. This started the Lifaqane - "wars".

1824 Moshoeshoe forced to migrate from Botha-Bothe to Thaba Bosiu with many refugees.During two day journey on foot, his grandfather, Peete, was captured & eaten by cannibals.The Basotho Hat takes its conical shape from Qiloane mountain next to Thaba Bosiu.

                         1828 Thaba Bosiu attacked unsuccessfully by the Amangwane.

1829 First horses acquired by Moshoeshoe's people through the Griquas.

1830 Thaba Bosiu attacked unsuccessfully by the Griqua of Hendrik.

1831 Thaba Bosiu attacked unsuccessfully by the Amandebele of Mzilikazi.

1832 A Griqua hunter, Adam Krotz, visited Moshoeshoe who explained the benefits of missionaries.

1833 First white missionaries from Paris Evangelical Missionary Society arrived and established mission at Morija near Matsieng.Introduced grains & vegetables.

1835 First dissatisfied Boers from Cape crossed Orange River looking for land.

                         1837 Eugene Casalis founded Thaba Bosiu Mission.First books in Sesotho printed in Cape Town.

1845 Bloemfontein established with Major Warden as British Resident.

                         1848 Orange River Sovereignty proclaimed by the British.

1851 Battle of Tihela (Viervoet). Warden's army defeated by the Basotho.

1852 Battle of Berea. General Cathcart withdraws troops sent to punish Basotho.

1854 Orange River Sovereignty abandoned by the British. Orange Free State Republic established. Moshoeshoe visited Bloemfontein, President Hoffman visited Thaba Bosiu.

1858 Senekal's War. OFS vs Lesotho. Basothos attacked OFS farms. Boer troops forced to withdraw from Thaba Bosiu.

1859 George James Thorn was born in Bloemfontein on 13th January, 1859 to John James Thorn (a Mason) and Harriett Agnes Charlotte Pawle, who were living in Bloemfontein. George was 2nd born & had one brother &5 sisters.

1862 Roman Catholic Missionaries invited by Moshoeshoe to station in Tloutle (Roma.)

1865 Seqiti War with OFS. Heavy losses by Basothos.Seqiti, the sound of the Boer cannons.

1868 Lesotho annexed by British after Moshoeshoe appealed to Sir Philip Wodehouse.

                         1869 Maseru founded  

                         1870 Moshoeshoe 1, founder of the Basotho Nation died.

1877 Frasers, the largest trading company in Lesotho founded north of Mafeteng by two brothers.

1879 War against Chief Moorosi by Cape troops. Moorosi defeated after long siege.

1880 Start of the Gun War.

George Thorn married Annie Elizabeth McSherry at St.Augustine's Anglican Mission in Modderpoort on

11th June, 1880.George Thorn opened Blacksmith shop on Thorn's Corner in Maseru, where today the Basotho Hat building stands.

George was attracted to Lesotho to repair wagons that carried grain from Maseru to the Kimberley diamond fields and gold fields of Johannesburg.

The arrival of steel ploughs (10000) by 1891 also needed a blacksmith for repairing.

                         1881 John Thomas Thorn born in Ladybrand, November,1881.

1883 Roma Trading Station sold by J. Peddle to George R.Hobson at Roma's Hoek, 1/12/1883.

1884 Britain restores direct rule at Cape Colony's request, with most of Basotho chiefs consent.

1887 Eileen Mary McCabe, (later Thorn) born in April, 1887 in Queenstown, C.P.

                         1891 Death of Paramount Chief Letsie.

                         1892 Lerotholi, Letsie's son, succeeds as Paramount Chief.

                         1896 Rinderpest killed large numbers of Basotho cattle.

1898 Paramount Chief Lerotholi fought and defeated his uncle Masupha near Thaba Bosiu.

1899 Anglo - Boer War outbreak. Lesotho traders supplied many horses to Boer & Brits.

1903 John Thomas Thorn bought Roma Trading Station from a Mr. Brumidge Grain, wool, horses & livestock

were "traded" for ploughs, tools, saddles, cotton & woollen blankets & European clothing along with basic groceries.

Roma Trading Station situated in village of "Mahlanyeng" - place of "mad people".

It was a place where people with mental disorders were treated by a "doctor".

1905 Paramount Chief Lerotholi died, succeeded by his son Letsie II. First National Council opened in Maseru.

First train crossed new bridge over Mohokare (Caledon) River into Maseru.

                         1911 Total population of Lesotho 404,507

1912 John Thomas Thorn (30) married Eileen Mary McCabe (25) in Queenstown, C.P.

                         1913 Letsie II died age 45.Griffith, his brother succeeded

John Thomas Thorn opened Makhaleng (Ha Simione) Trading Station.

1917 633 Basotho died with sinking of troop ship Mendi off the Isle of Wight.

                         1918 'Flu epidemic wiped out many Basotho.

1919 Paramount Chief and other Principal Chiefs visited England.

1921 The population of Maseru Reserve: Natives, 1890 - Europeans, 399. Population of Lesotho 498,781.

1922 Neville John Thorn born in "Big Rondawel" at Roma Trading Station on 20th May, 1922.

1925 Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VIII) visited Lesotho.

1926 Beth Winifred Maclean (later Thorn) born in Kimberley on 18th September, 1926.

                         1930 George Thorn died on 9th January, 1930 in Maseru.

1933 The year of the Leroele - severe dust storms after worst drought in living memory.

John Thomas Thorn gave Basotho employment to plant trees on Roma Trading Station.

                         1936 Total population of Lesotho 562,311.

1938 Birth of Constantine Bereng Seeiso, later King Moshoeshoe II.

1939 Death of Paramount Chief Griffith. Seeiso his son, succeeded.

John Thomas Thorn invited by Chief Ramabanta Api to open Ramabanta Trading Station.

1940 Death of Paramount Chief Seeiso. 'Mantsebo, senior wife of Seeiso, appointed Paramount Chieftainess Regent.

1941 "O.B.E." John Thomas Thorn, on 1st January, 1941 was appointed by the King of England,

to be an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, especially for opening the

Basutoland War Fund with his personal contribution of 500 pounds and the valuable part he played in the public life of Basutoland, & valuable cooperation with wool marketing.

1941 African Pioneer Corps recruited to fight in Second World War.

1942 Neville John Thorn joined Allied Forces in North Africa & then Italy.

1943 More than 500 Basothos died with sinking of Erinpura in the Mediterranean.

1945 Neville Thorn's mother, Eileen, died shortly before he returned from Italy of tick-bite fever.

Catholic University College opened in Roma.

1947 Royal visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth & two daughters, Elizabeth & Margaret.

12/04/1947, Neville John Thorn married Beth Winifred Maclean in Kimberley.

The Macleans owned a salt pan on banks of Vaal River & were house friends of the Thorns.

1948 4/12/1948,1st child, David John Thorn born in Kimberley, RSA.

1951 22/09/1951, 2nd child, Ashley Allan Thorn born in Kimberley, RSA.

1953 8/08/1953, Jennifer-Anne Kennedy, (later Thorn) born in Bloemfontein.

1954 5/12/1954, 3rd child, Jean Winifred Thorn, (later Peacock) born in Queen II, Maseru.

1957 Death of John Thomas Thorn at Roma, 24th September, 1957 from Carcinoma Venticuli.

                         1958 N.J.Thorn & Co (Pty) Ltd formed with H/O at Roma.

1958 - 1962, Ashley Thorn attended school in Maseru Preparatory School. (120 pupils)

1959 Opening of Seaka Bridge, over Senqu River near Quithing, replacing the pont.

1960 Constantine Bereng Seeiso installed as Paramount Chief & proclaimed Moshoeshoe II.

1st political elections held & won by Basutoland Congress Party, 32/40 seats.

1961 Neville John Thorn bought Thaba Tseka Trading Store from Edgar Calder-Potts.

1963 Prince David Mohato Bereng Seeiso (current King) born 17th July. Regional University of Botswana, Lesotho & Swaziland opened in Roma.

1963 - 1969, Ashley Thorn attended schools at Clifton & Hilton College in Natal, RSA.

1964 Death of former Paramount Chieftainess Regent, 'Mantsebo Seeiso.

1965 General election. Lesotho granted internal self-government. BNP won 31 seats, (41.6% of total vote) BCP 25, MFP 4.

1966 Independence restored to Lesotho after 98 years of British Rule. Population 1,000,000

                         1967 King Moshoeshoe II exiled to Holland.

David John Thorn joined his father at Roma Trading Station.

Roof of Africa Rally started in Johannesburg, passed through Lesotho, ended in Durban.

1970 1970 - 1973, Ashley Thorn studied Business at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, RSA.

                         1970 elections. BCP 36 seats, BNP 23, MFP 1.

30th January, BNP Prime Minister suspended the Constitution & declared a State of Emergency.King Moshoeshoe II returned from exile in Holland.

1971 Ashley Thorn met Jennifer Kennedy whilst studying in Grahamstown.

1973 Ashley navigated for David Thorn in 1948 Willys Jeep in Roof of Africa Rally.Broke down at Moteng beyond Oxbow Lodge.

Jean Winifred Thorn married Duncan Winifred Peackock on 7th December.

                         1974 Ntsu Mokhehle, leader of BCP exiled.

David John Thorn married Isobel(Ish) Anne Orr on 17th April, 1974 in Maseru.

1975 Ashley Allan Thorn married Jennifer-Anne Kennedy on 29th March, 1975 in Bloemfontein.

1975-1976 Ashley & Jennifer honeymooned in Europe / USA / Canada - working.

1976 Ashley & Jennifer lived & worked in Johannesburg from Sept '76 to Nov '79

1979 Ashley & Jennifer joined N.J.THORN & CO at Roma, Ashley as Managing Director.

1980 Andrea Susan Thorn, 1st child born to Ashley & Jennifer in Bloemfontein 7th June, 1980.

1981 Ashley Thorn bought his 1st Off-Road Racer, Mazda Rotary powered sandmaster. Entered Roof of Africa Rally & broke down at Moteng, again?.

1982 Richard Graham Thorn, born to Ashley & Jennifer in Bloemfontein on 18th April, 1982.

1984 Kerry Louise Thorn, born to Ashley & Jennifer in Bloemfontein on 22nd September, 1984.

                         1985 "Miracle" election held & BNP "returned unopposed".

RSA instituted a border blockade fearing a militantly pro-ANC government in Lesotho.

1986 20th January, a military coup under Major General Lekhanya, expelling ANC, North Korea, Cuba. Lesotho led by King & Military from 1986 - 1990.

Duncan & Jean Peacock left Roma to live & work in Ficksburg.

                         1987 Ntsu Mokhehle, leader of BCP returned from exile.

                         1989 David & Ish Thorn left Roma to live in Ladybrand.

1990 November, King Moshoeshoe II sent into exile for trying to oust the military in favour of Royalty. Proclamation of the Office of the King Order 1990, stripped the exiled King of all power. November, Prince Mohato (Letsie III) was officially installed as Lesotho's new monarch.

1991 30th April, Major General Lekhanya ousted by Colonel Phisoana Ramaema.

21st May, widespread looting & burning of foreign owned shops in Maseru & other towns. Following the beating to death of a shop-lifter woman in a foreign owned shop in Maseru.

                         1992 September, Moshoeshoe II returned from exile.

                         Trading Post Guesthouse in Roma opened.

Ashley Thorn started navigating in Off-Road racing after stopping his campaign as a driver in 1991.

1993 27th March, General election won by BCP under Ntsu Mokhehle, winning all 65 seats. Ashley Thorn, 1st Lesotho Citizen, won Roof of Africa Rally - cars, navigating. Ashley Thorn awarded South African Colours for motor racing.

1994 King Letsie III with military backing staged coup to depose BCP from government & requested his father be re-instated as monarch.

1995 February, King Moshoeshoe II reinstated as Monarch, BCP returned to govern after SADAC pressure.

1996 King Moshoeshoe killed in car accident on Cheche's Pass near Mantsonyane in January. King Letsie III reinstated as the Monarch.

1997 Ntsu Mokhehle broke away from BCP Party to form Lesotho Congress for Democracy party (LCD).

Neville John Thorn died 15th October, 1997, buried in garden of Roma Trading Post. John Thorn, posthumously awarded "The Order of Ramatseatsana" by King Letsie III, in the King's annual award.

1998 March General election won by LCD under Pakalitha Mosisili, Mokhehle having retired.

BNP totally dissatisfied with election result & picketed outside Palace for many months. 22nd September, RSA & Botswana troops entered Lesotho to quell mutinies in Police & Defence Forces of Lesotho and Maseru was looted & trashed. Roma was also affected & N.J.Thorn & Co lost its main supermarket opposite the University Main Gate.

1999 Ashley Thorn navigated joint drivers, Stan Illman / Franz Stangl to 2nd win on Roof of Africa.

                         2001 King Letsie III married Karabo Mot'soeneng

2002 7th October, Princess Mary Senate Mohato Seeiso born to King Letsie III & 'Masenate. General election & result peacefully accepted when LCD won 54% of the seats.

Work commenced on Ramabanta Lodge, converting residential area of trading post for tourism.

2004 Queen Mother, 'Mamohato, died whilst on a pilgrimage to Mantsonyane in September.20th November, Princess 'MaSeeiso born to King & Queen.

Andrea Susan Thorn married Quentin De Bruyn, 20th November, at St. Augustine's Anglican Mission, 124 yrs after Great-Great Grandfather, George Thorn's marriage at the same venue.


                         2006 Total population 2,200,000





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Last updated:  13 November 2011