The Manor House
Connect with the history of George and the Garden Route when you stay at The Manor House at Fancourt, a National Monument and the former home of British engineer, Henry Fancourt White, who is credited with having built the Montagu Pass over the Outeniqua Mountains linking the Karoo with the Indian Ocean.

With 18 exclusive suites and elegant country home features, The Manor House is that quintessential luxury getaway that guarantees exclusivity and privacy within the beautiful surrounds of 613 hectares of lush parklands.

History

The story of The Manor House’s begins in 1854, when British engineer, Henry Fancourt White was elected to represent Port Elizabeth in the Cape Parliament.

In 1859, Fancourt White decided to settle, with his wife, son and daughter, in Blanco at the foot of the Outeniqua Mountains. He built his elegant family home, then known as Blanco House, in the style of an old Cotsworld mansion.

Despite contributing greatly to the development of the George area, Fancourt White lost his fortunes in the economic depression of 1860 and died a poor man six years later.

His widow and her children remained at Blanco House and the young boy, Ernest Montagu, lived there until the age of nine when he left to attend school.

After the death of Sarah White, the property was put up for sale on an estate auction in 1875 and had three owners between 1867 and 1903: Henry de Maraliac (three years), Robert Drummond (three months) and the surveyor, M.J. Adams.

Ernest Montagu White

The latter renamed the house “Homewood” and lived there for 24 years, until it was sold on auction to Ernest Montagu White, son of Henry Fancourt White, returning the estate to the White family. Ernest renamed the house “Fancourt” – in honour of his father.

During the presidency of Paul Kruger, Montagu White was appointed Consul -General in London for the Transvaal in 1892. He was sympathetic to the Boer cause and at the outbreak of hostilities, travelled to the USA to obtain aid and sympathy for the Boers.

After buying Fancourt, he did not settle there permanently since his wife, an English lady named Margaret Broadly Hesse, did not wish to come to South Africa. They resided at “The Lodge” in Halmere, England, but during the South African summers, Montagu White temporarily moved to Fancourt.

At the end of 1914, due to health reasons, Montagu White returned to South Africa for a lengthy visit during which he made various changes and improvements to Fancourt. No expense or effort was spared to tailor the house to his tastes. Thus, skilful Norwegian craftsman came from Knysna to do all the carpentry at Fancourt. Montagu White was a wealthy Gentleman who made Fancourt into a well-appointed home – an excellent example of traditional English country lifestyle, with more emphasis on stately comfort than on luxury.

Because of his love for animals, his fantail-doves were his pride and joy. He also greatly enjoyed going for a ride in his small white-hooded carriage pulled by well-kept red oxen. Montagu White became known as an amiable fellow who was always impeccably dressed, topped with a Panama hat and a flower in his lapel!

As a businessman, Montagu White contributed to the development of Wilderness as a holiday resort. He built White road, the old main road linking George to Wilderness. He also made donations to the churches. He donated the stained-glass window in the St Mark’s Cathedral in George in memory of his father, as well as the carpets in the small Anglican Church in Blanco. These carpets he had knotted himself during his long sea voyages to and from South Africa.

Montagu was very fond of his stepsister, Elizabeth Jan Ham, who frequently came to visit him from Oudtshoorn. During one of her visits, accompanied by a widowed friend, Sydney Vincent and her son, a great tragedy occurred at Fancourt.

Elizabeth Ham with children

On 10 April 1916, Montagu White went as usual to gather mushrooms and gave them to the cook to prepare. This time, however, his good judgment failed him – all three adults died of mushroom poisoning and Mrs. Vincent’s son was left an orphan.

Montagu White died childless. He favoured the arts in his Will by the establishment of a trust fund to the benefit of a meritorious art student and the National Art Gallery in Cape Town. In 1916, Fancourt was put up for sale on a giant estate auction.

The estate fetched only 3 000 pounds on the auction and the sale was withdrawn. The old mansion then remained empty for two years. And as can be expected, those in the vicinity soon thought it to be haunted. Eventually, it was bought by Rubin John Bryce Greer at the start of 1918. He, his wife and four daughters lived at Fancourt for seven years – the ghosts notwithstanding!

The old house relived whenever the young folks of the area held their regular dances in the dining room (now the Montagu Bar) – the band reportedly consisting of a violin, a concertina and a banjo. A special task, entrusted to one of the more responsible guests, was to keep the band in form by providing the necessary liquid refreshments – too little, and they refused to play; too much, and they were unable to play.

Major H.S. Pullar bought the estate in 1924 and owned it until 1934. He once again restored and enhanced the house in addition to adding a small polo field, luxurious stables, a small pavilion and even a gymnasium.

The Major resided splendidly at Fancourt – albeit only for certain months of the year when he temporarily left his permanent home in England. Following Major Pullar, the list of owners reads as follows: William E Allpass (a jersey and stud farmer from Surrey, England), Colonel Rudstone Brown, A.M. Williams, a Mr. Meyer and Basil Botha.

The short-term owners in particular did little to preserve the house. The walls were crumbling due to dampness and the foundation and roof sagged precariously. The high cost of restoration made it an uneconomical possession.

In 1960, after almost 30 years of neglect, Fancourt became the property of Dr. Roland Anthony Krynauw, world-renowned South African brain surgeon. He applied himself to the restoration of the house and with skill and loving finesse, he returned Fancourt to its erstwhile glory. He also added a wing to the L-shaped house to make it quadrangular. The wasteland that was the weed-engulfed garden he converted into a splendid park.

André Pieterse bought Fancourt in 1969. Apart from a number of years spent in the USA, they and their four children lived in and preserved Fancourt until 1987, when they started to convert it into the Fancourt Hotel.

By July 1993, however, Fancourt was on the market once again. In 1994 a German couple, Hasso and Sabine Plattner, bought the estate out of liquidation. Expansion and development proceeded at an unprecedented pace, and when the present becomes history, it will be said that Fancourt never stopped growing.

Plattners with Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel