The heart of the forest

 

A GARDEN ROUTE GEM

In recognition of this value and its now irreplaceable structure, Forest Hall was declared a National Monument by the South African Heritage authority in 1992. The essential character of this beautiful monument to South African history has not changed – even as everything around it does.

About us

The Victorian Manor House, built in 1864, was one of the first homes built in the Crags and Plettenberg Bay area of the Garden Route. It was declared a Historical Monument by the South African Heritage authority in 1992 and has been splendidly restored to its original glory.

The original nineteenth-century yellow-wood and stinkwood floors, stairs, and doors of the home have been beautifully restored to show off the features that made these woods so prized for interiors and flooring. This and many other original aspects of the home, including the very close proximity of the same forest from which the wood was sourced, impart not only a sense of time and history but lend the house a uniquely natural and authentic feel. The atmosphere of a grand old family home still pervades and with it the peace and tranquillity of a time gone by and a slower, gentler experience of a less explored Africa.

The Manor House is situated within a large area of smooth green lawn, surrounded by indigenous forest. From each of the windows, guests are treated to uninterrupted and breath-taking views – in one direction over this forest to the foothills above the Kurland Polo fields, and the Outeniqua mountain range; in the other over the Tsitsikamma to the Indian Ocean.

The indigenous forest that covers much of the Estate is home to vervet monkeys and baboons; bush-buck and wild pigs can often be seen at dawn on the border between the forest and the lawns.

Accommodation includes both the main Manor House, which can comfortably accommodate 10 adults (5 bedrooms) + 5 kids, and several cottages on the grounds for additional guests.

Our history

Forest Hall Manor was built in 1862 by an English gentleman, William Henry Newdigate – the third son of Francis and Lady Barbara Newdigate of Astley Castle in Warwickshire, England. History tells us that he built the stately home for his beautiful bride, Caroline Duthie – the grand-daughter of George Rex of Knysna. With next to nothing available in the way of infrastructure and skills in the then still untamed and barely colonized part of Africa that is now known as The Garden Route, Newdigate imported masons and carpenters from England to build his ‘gift’. The floors, door and window frames, ceiling supports, and the grand central staircase were hewn from the ancient hardwoods of the surrounding forest.

The Newdigates played host to many of the pioneers of the day (including Bishop Grey and Thomas Bain), and the Estate, with its rolling lawns, croquet games, music and dances, finest china and family silver, was an ‘island of gentility’ in the middle of the dense Tsitsikamma – home to leopards, baboons, and herds of elephant, bushbuck, and water buffalo. While the women- corseted and with parasols to keep off the African sun – ‘took their tea’ and the children chased butterflies, the men formed hunting parties and went on fishing expeditions. Forest Hall was an ‘English Gentleman’s Estate’, a haven of civilization and – so it is told – great joy, but five years after it was built, an unforeseen and dramatic page was added to its history.

The Great Fire of 1869 has gone down in the annals of local history as possibly the most devastating and terrifying event of the times. It swept through the fynbos and forest between the sea and the mountains with extraordinary ferocity, burning almost the entire area from what is now Humansdorp (near Port Elizabeth) through to Mossel Bay. The loss of habitat and life was absolute. As the Newdigate family, their servants, and others who had fled there from the

surrounding communities huddled in the house, under a black sky choked with ash, their desperate prayers seemed answered. For hundreds of miles around nothing had been spared, but a sudden change in wind direction and a dense fog that rolled up the cliffs from the sea turned the flames; alone in the area. Forest Hall, and the fortunate people cowering inside, survived to begin anew.

That glorious and stately chapter of Forest Hall’s past sadly came to a close in the early 1930s. Though the house was still in the Newdigate family, it was left vacant after William and Caroline’s three spinster daughters moved to be closer to the town of Plettenberg Bay in their later years. Other family had long before moved on or passed away. The house fell into a long slow decay and over the years the home that was once so vital and alive became an empty shell; like all old homes to suffer such a fate, it became a ‘ghost house’, the source of chilling stories and legends amongst locals.

The intervening years have seen the house slowly and painstakingly restored, first by tenants who lived there for many years, then by Hilary Peter, the great grand-daughter of William and Caroline Newdigate (after the tenants left and the house fell into disrepair a second time), and in the more recent past by new owners. The house and the grounds today are somewhat more than just reminiscent of its aristocratic origin, but instead of ghosts, there is new life and a deep sense of permanence. Forest Hall is fitted with the finest in modern amenities, but the essential character of this beautiful monument to South African history has not changed – even as everything around it does.

In recognition of this value and its now irreplaceable structure, Forest Hall was declared a National Monument by the South African Heritage authority in 1992.

Forest Hall Manor was built in 1862 by an English gentleman, William Henry Newdigate – the third son of Francis and Lady Barbara Newdigate of Astley Castle in Warwickshire, England. History tells us that he built the stately home for his beautiful bride, Caroline Duthie – the grand-daughter of George Rex of Knysna. With next to nothing available in the way of infrastructure and skills in the then still untamed and barely colonized part of Africa that is now known as The Garden Route, Newdigate imported masons and carpenters from England to build his ‘gift’. The floors, door and window frames, ceiling supports, and the grand central staircase were hewn from the ancient hardwoods of the surrounding forest.

The Newdigates played host to many of the pioneers of the day (including Bishop Grey and Thomas Bain), and the Estate, with its rolling lawns, croquet games, music and dances, finest china and family silver, was an ‘island of gentility’ in the middle of the dense Tsitsikamma – home to leopards, baboons, and herds of elephant, bushbuck, and water buffalo. While the women- corseted and with parasols to keep off the African sun – ‘took their tea’ and the children chased butterflies, the men formed hunting parties and went on fishing expeditions. Forest Hall was an ‘English Gentleman’s Estate’, a haven of civilization and – so it is told – great joy, but five years after it was built, an unforeseen and dramatic page was added to its history.

The Great Fire of 1869 has gone down in the annals of local history as possibly the most devastating and terrifying event of the times. It swept through the fynbos and forest between the sea and the mountains with extraordinary ferocity, burning almost the entire area from what is now Humansdorp (near Port Elizabeth) through to Mossel Bay. The loss of habitat and life was absolute. As the Newdigate family, their servants, and others who had fled there from the surrounding communities huddled in the house, under a black sky choked with ash, their desperate prayers seemed answered. For hundreds of miles around nothing had been spared, but a sudden change in wind direction and a dense fog that rolled up the cliffs from the sea turned the flames; alone in the area, Forest Hall, and the fortunate people cowering inside, survived to begin anew.

That glorious and stately chapter of Forest Hall’s past sadly came to a close in the early 1930s. Though the house was still in the Newdigate family, it was left vacant after William and Caroline’s three spinster daughters moved to be closer to the town of Plettenberg Bay in their later years. Other family had long before moved on or passed away. The house fell into a long slow decay and over the years the home that was once so vital and alive became an empty shell; like all old homes to suffer such a fate, it became a ‘ghost house’, the source of chilling stories and legends amongst locals.

The intervening years have seen the house slowly and painstakingly restored, first by tenants who lived there for many years, then by Hilary Peter, the great grand-daughter of William and Caroline Newdigate (after the tenants left and the house fell into disrepair a second time), and in the more recent past by new owners. The house and the grounds today are somewhat more than just reminiscent of its aristocratic origin, but instead of ghosts, there is new life and a deep sense of permanence. Forest Hall is fitted with the finest in modern amenities, but the essential character of this beautiful monument to South African history has not changed – even as everything around it does.

In recognition of this value and its now irreplaceable structure, Forest Hall was declared a National Monument by the South African Heritage authority in 1992.

Responsibility

Forest Hall is currently following a program of alien clearing and Reafforestation, with an active laboratory and tree nursery that has been established for some time, run by Landmark Foundation scientist Albert Ackhurst. We collaborate closely with SANParks with a view to the preservation, restoration, and re-establishment of the wide variety of indigenous and endemic flora and fauna.

Forest Hall is officially a ‘leopard-friendly’ property. The Cape Mountain Leopard is shy and nocturnal, and up until recently was thought to be extinct in the area. Evidence of a returning population is very uplifting, and along with many other neighboring properties in the Crags, Forest Hall is working in co-operation with the Landmark Foundation in the latter’s Leopard and Predator’ project to track the
population of these amazing forest cats with infra-red camera technology. Cameras are set up to respond to movement and take pictures – providing photographic evidence of the number and movements of these majestic animals – so rarely seen by human eyes and driven from their environment over the past 100 years by hunting, development, and poisoning. Now protected, they are still elusive enough to have a magical quality about them.

At Forest Hall, we are committed to using environmentally friendly technologies to run the Estate’s systems as far as possible:

1. Solar Panel System: The Pool has been fitted with the latest available technology in solar water heating. We have installed 18 x Genesys 1000- 10 solar collector panels with an average output of 1200kwh per panel. The system is a world leader in flat plate sun collectors, and the panels are certified to comply with BS EN12975 standards in the USA and Canada.

2. Biolytix System: The sewage on the farm is controlled and managed by a fully automatic Biolytix sewage system – the system complies with local municipal standards and the final stage treatment of the effluent water is cycled every 30 minutes through natural reed beds and manmade wetland systems – the effluent water is also cycled constantly through water energizing flow form systems to maximize aeration and water purification.

Forest Hall is also actively involved in initiatives aimed at providing support to the local Crags community of Kurland Village. It is currently involved in the setting up of a non-profit initiative aimed at promoting local initiatives. This is being done through the creation of a cultural village where local people will be able to showcase and sell their arts and crafts to tourists. The initiative also involves the local people in the clearing of alien vegetation and reforestation.

Recent Events

Forest Hall Estate has proven time and time again that it is the perfect location for filming various productions such as international award-winning films, series productions, and reality shows.

In 2008 Forest Hall Estate was the location for the filming of the 13 part NBC series CRUSOE, based on the story of Robinson Crusoe. For several months the production team worked to build an incredible production set in the indigenous forest of the Estate, with over 250 crew members working seven days a week to bring the well-known adventure story to life in ideal surroundings – without damaging them. During this time Forest Hall accommodated the vehicles, mobile studios, and production equipment on the grounds, as well as the hundreds of crew members who moved in and out of the Estate daily. Estate Manager Pieter said, “It was a great experience and went very smoothly, thanks largely to the co-operation of the production crew and the hard work from my assistants”.

Previously, in 1988, Forest Hall played host to the filming of Daleen Mathee’s CIRCLES IN THE FOREST – a famous South Africa story set in the Knysna Forest in the early years of colonization.

To name a few more; various scenes from Black Sails, The Crown, Tomb Raider 2, Fiela se kind and Gaia was also filmed at Forest Hall Estate.

Phone: 073 345 9600/ 082 378 8934
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