Parkes Manor - A piece of history

A gem along the Western Cape’s Garden Route, Knysna was established during the eighteenth century and was originally the home to both wood cutters and stock farmers alike. 

Although the word Knysna is derived from the Khoi language, the exact meaning remains unknown, however it is said to symbolise water - an apt description considering both water and wood played an intricate part in the history and development of Knysna. Evidently, it was the demand for wood from the British Royal Navy in the early nineteenth century, which resulted in the town’s vast expansion.

Around 1797, the famous George Rex had arrived in Knysna. Rex was involved in the Royal Navy and believed to be of Royal descent. It was through his encouragement that the Vice Admiral of the Royal Navy, Sir J. Benton, saw fit to ship wood from Knysna using its lagoon as a Port. This resulted in the first attempt to ship timber through the Knysna Heads to the Atlantic Ocean in 1817. However, due to the fact the passage was extremely hard to navigate and often treacherous, it was only many years later in 1831 that the first ship was able to make the voyage successfully, carrying a cargo of 140 tons of Stinkwood.

George and Fanny Parkes arrived in this small Wood Mecca in 1891.  Also from a timber and Steelworks background, George Parkes stumbled upon Knysna quite unintentionally and was so impressed with what he saw that the Parkes family never left.  In fact, they opened up a Sawmill and became the first people to export manufactured wooden items from Knysna.  The Geo Parkes & Sons Log Yard remained operational in the town’s centre, where Woodmill Lane now stands, until as recently as 1984.  It was then moved to the industrial area, where it remains to this day.  The family initially stayed on a farm outside of Knysna called Hoogekraal until 1927, they then decided to build the the Parkes Manor, which was completed in 1929.
The Parkes Family resided in this manor house for three generations, raising their children and enjoying the peace and tranquillity that the 1 200m2 house and 12 658m2 of land had to offer.  Although George Parkes first bought the land and started building the home, he was never privileged enough to live in it.  The manor house was owned by the Parkes Family until it was sold in 1997 where after it was converted into a guesthouse.

The Parkes Manor is once again for sale and is currently on the market for R15 million. Schalk Van der Merwe, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Coastal, the office which is currently marketing the property, says: “This property is absolutely magnificent and is at present the last of the mansions from the glorious twenties that have been preserved. It offers a discerning buyer the opportunity to own a piece of unique history, while enjoying a home that is nestled among beautifully manicured gardens on the lagoon. The spacious, classical rooms with high ceilings and exceptional atmosphere remind one of timeless elegance and luxury.”
The nine-bedroom home features a reception hall, nine bathrooms, two lounges, a dining hall, two cloakrooms, kitchen with pantry and staff accommodation. “The property offers an opportunity for possible further development such as an upmarket and exclusive retirement village. It is ideally placed and has been beautifully maintained, in my opinion it is an excellent upmarket investment,” concludes Van der Merwe.

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