History of Belvidere Manor - Knysna

Our History

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The story of Belvidere

The story of Belvidere begins in 1830 when land known as 'Uitzig' was acquired by George Rex, the "squire and proprietor of Knysna" who had settled at a farm known as Melkhout Kraal, close to what is now the junction between the N2 national road and George Rex Drive. George Rex became the foremost timber merchant in the district, as well as a ship builder. In 1833 a young Scotsman named Thomas Henry Duthie who was serving in the British Army in the Cape, met and married George's third daughter, Caroline. He bought the farm from his father-in-law for £750, and renamed it 'Belvidere'.

Caroline Duthie
Belvidere postmark
Thos Duthie

In April 1835 the young family, now with a first baby, named Caroline after her mother, moved into their small cottage, near the site of where "The Bell" now stands. At that time the cottage would have had timber walls and a rush roof, and was a comparatively primitive dwelling.

By 1848, the family had quite outgrown the cottage. The Duthie's had nine children by August 1850, and plans were made to build a larger house. Foundations were laid on 2nd October 1848, and according to Thomas' diary, in November 1849 the family had their "first dinner out of New House - it was good".

With its simple design and indigenous wood interior, Belvidere House became an important example of English Georgian architecture in the Western Cape where the Dutch gabled houses were more common. The Victorian-style verandahs were added in the 1860's.

During its life, Belvidere House served as an official post office serving the local community, with business being transacted from the glass door in the drawing room. Copies of letters sent from Belvidere, with the Belvidere postmark may be seen framed on the wall in the Drawing Room.

As a crossing point from one side of the lagoon to the other, many visitors from all over the country spent time at Belvidere. It was a centre of gracious hospitality, welcoming every person of note who visited the Knysna area, including Bishop Gray and his wife Sophie, and the author Anthony Trollope, and we hope we are continuing this tradition to this day.

Belvidere House is a recognised as a historical building by SAHRA.

SAHRA is the South African National Resources Agency, whose aim is to provide for the identification, conservation, protection and promotion of our heritage resources for present and future generations

Click here to visit www.sahra.org.za for more information