ARTICLE CREDIT: Knysna Plett Herald – Correspondent Yolandé Stander | Tuesday, 30 August 2022, 08:01
Enthusiasm for Plettenberg Bay’s history was tangible on Friday 19 August as more than 150 locals and visitors gathered at the iconic and historic Forest Hall in the Crags on the outskirts of Plett.
The reason for the gathering was a talk by local resident and amateur historian Murray Crawford about the property and surrounding areas.
The event was spearheaded by the Van Plettenberg Historical Society and took place at Forest Hall on Friday afternoon.
“It was a resounding success… it shows that there is a great interest in the area’s history,” said the society’s chairman, Len Swimmer.
The talk was received well. The crowd, who sat along four long tables, hung on Crawford’s every word as he delved into the history of the area and shared stories of the people who called this part of the world their home many years ago.
One of the most touching stories he told, especially for those with a soft spot for romantic gestures, was that of a Major Rivven from Scotland.
It is believed that he wanted to purchase Forest Hall for his beloved wife, but could not as the owners at the time did not want to sell it. Crawford said that Rivven then decided to purchase land surrounding Forest Hall all the way to the Keurbooms River. He promised his wife that he would build her a house on the property and carry her over the threshold in his arms.
Fate however had something else in store. Before he could build the home, his wife passed away. Holding on to his promise, he built the house of her dreams as a mausoleum in her honour and carried her ashes across the threshold.
Crawford also spoke about the rich history of Forest Hall itself. Dating back to 1864, it was the first manor house in the Plettenberg Bay section of the Garden Route.
It was the South African seat of the aristocratic British Newdigate family.
While it is now a prominent historic feature in Bitou, Forest Hall started off with a “catastrophic construction error” that caused it to decline into decrepitude. It was abandoned as a hopeless case and left to rot, but was acquired by a visionary outsider who had the will and resources to rescue it. Thanks to him and subsequent owners, it is today a beautifully restored and maintained historical monument.
After the talk, attendees were treated to a tour of the property and a delectable spitbraai with all the trimmings, as well as tastings of locally produced wines, gin and craft beer.