Fancourt History

In the early days of South Africa’s expansion,
when ox-wagons negotiated their way through
impassable mountain ranges, Henry Fancourt
White established a workers’ base at the foot of
the Outeniqua Mountains for the construction of
the Montagu Pass.
The building of Blanco House in the style of a
Cotswold Mansion proceeded slowly from 1859.
Henry, a wealthy man at the time, suffered a
major financial setback in 1860 and died soon
after. Blanco House was put up for auction in
1857: “a thatched-roof double-storey building
with ten airy rooms, kitchen, pantry, outbuildings
and servants’ rooms”.
The property was subsequently owned by Henri
de Maraliac, Robert Drummond and M J Adams,
the latter re-naming it Homewood in 1879. At a
public auction in 1903 Homewood was sold to
Ernest Montagu White who re-named the house
Fancourt in memory of his father – Henry
Fancourt White.
Ernest, or Montagu as he was known, spent the
English winters at Fancourt. He made extensive
improvements to the house using indigenous
timber from forests in the area. Always
immaculately dressed – a Panama hat and a
flower in his buttonhole being his trademark –
Montagu supervised his estate from a white-
canopied cart drawn by a red ox whilst he
painted watercolours, knotted rugs and lived the
life of a country gentleman.
Sadly, in 1916 Montagu, his sister and a friend
succumbed to mushroom poisoning after
enjoying a dinner of wild mushrooms picked by
Montagu earlier in the day. The house stood
empty for two years after the tragedy. It was said,
however, that the deceased Montagu and
Elizabeth continued to visit their much-loved
Rumours of ghosts did not deter Rubin Greer from
purchasing Fancourt in 1918. He and his family,
which included four daughters, brought music
and laughter back to Fancourt. Legend has it that
performance of the band members at their
dances depended on the liquid refreshment they
consumed. Too little and they refused to play, too
much and they were unable to play!
A number of owners followed, and a century after
Henry Fancourt White built his home it fell into
disrepair due to neglect. Dr Krynauw bought
Fancourt in 1960 and through his skill and
excellent taste, the property became a symbol of
high-class living once again.
In 1969 Fancourt was sold to a property
developer who went into liquidation soon after.
Andre and Helene Pieterse became the new
owners and in 1987 they decided to transform
their country house into an hotel and golf estate
and on 23 March 1989, the Fancourt Hotel
opened in grand style.
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.
The heart of Fancourt is now the modern
clubhouse, but the old Manor House will always
hold its soul. When you visit the estate spend
time in the stillness of the reading room,
appreciate the gardens and walk along the quiet
passages. Imagine life as it was then, with
Panama hats and buttonholes, grand pianos,
campher-wood kists, antique silver and wild
mushroom dinners