Belvidere

  • Belvidere is situated on the Wesern edge of the Knysna estuary.
  • Many of the homes in the area features Victorian or Edwardian architecture.
  • Belvidere is known for it’s well-kept gardens.
  • Home of the Norman-style Belvidere Church (circa 1885).
  • Property value: From R2,9m to 23m.

 

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’.

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.

Holy Trinity Church – Belvidere

Foundation stone laid on 15 October 1851, and the church was consecrated on 5 October 1855 by Bishop Gray.

This church is unique among Sofia Gray’s churches in that it is the only Norman (Romanesque) building. The Norman style is characterized by the use of the round arch, small windows and very thick walls.

In early 1848, two affluent English-speaking settlers from the Knysna area Thomas Duthie and William Newdigate, rode to Cape Town to impress on the Bishop the need for clergymen in their region. On 14 September 1848 he recorded while at Belvidere, an extensive piece of land owned by Duthie.

In March 1849, Duthie formed the Belvidere Church Building Committee that began to meet regularly and on 8 October 1849 they thanked Mrs Gray for providing them with ‘so beautiful a design’ for the church. It is likely that Sophia used a design by Henry UNDERWOOD whose plan for Saint Sepulchre’s Cemetery Chapel, Oxford (1848 demolished circa 1970) is similar to what was built at Belvidere. Working drawings of the final plan were discussed between Gray and the head stonemason (probably Alexander Bern) on 26 November 1850 in Knysna when the Bishop was on the return leg of his tour to Natal.

The stonemasons set out the building on 27 May 1851 and for the next six months stone was blasted at a quarry and brought to the site. By the middle of 1852, all the stonework was complete and the roof was begun, and in 1853 the church opened for service. The consecration however had to be delayed until 5 October 1855 when the Bishop was in Knysna again for a visit.

One of the stained glass windows is dedicated to Augusta Vera Duthie and another to William Henry Moore Duthie and Alfred George Duthie granddaughter and grandsons of Thomas Duthie.

This is probably one of Sofia Gray’s best known churches.