The History of Pontac Manor Hotel & Restaurant
The property Pontac was named on the 5th of August 1723 by the first owner, Pierre de Labuschagne. A native of the Bordeaux region in France, Pierre was a keen admirer of the courtly du Pontac family which governed the area at the time. He named the estate after his mentor Francois Auguste du Pontac. The extent of the Estate at that time was 2 Morgan 6 roods and 5 feet of land below Paarl Rock.
The ownership of Pontac can be divided into three main periods:
Labuschagne 1723 - 1817, 94 years
Le Roux 1817 - 1926, 109 years
Van Niekerk 1926 - 1993, 67 years
Restoration 1994 - 1997, 4 years - Pontac Guesthouse 1998-99
Restoration 1994 - 1997, 4 years - Pontac Manor 1999 to date
The Labuschagnes received a piece of virgin land which they had to clear and cultivate. The back wing of the manor house is believed to be the first permanent dwelling erected on Pontac. This would have been a simple early Cape Dutch farmhouse with thatch roof. In 1733 additional land was added, 8 morgan. Although the Labuschagnes were never very wealthy and in their time Pontac would not have comprised more than one dwelling, they were nevertheless acknowledged as producers of good local wine.
The Le Roux Period
Not much is known about the Le Roux family other than that the most significant expansion and growth occurred during their ownership. Most of what we see today stems from that period. The old Labuschagne Cape Dutch Homestead was enlarged to H-shape Late Cape Dutch House (around 1820). Between 1840 and 1860 the old Cape Dutch Home was converted into a villa in the high Victorian style. (Pontac has been restored to this period).
The van Niekerk Period
This paved the road to decline and subdivision. The only change was that an Art Deco concrete verandah and supporting towers replaced the Victorian wood and iron structure. By 1990, all the vineyards were sold and replaced by houses and only the rundown manor house, wine cellar and a number of outbuildings remained of the once beautiful Wine Estate.
In 1994 the redevelopment of the property commenced under a Canadian investor, but the project faltered. The Swart family from Namibia continued the restoration, and by 1997 the manor house and cellar wings had been restored and converted into a beautiful guest house, with tranquil gardens and inviting atmosphere. The company started trading as a bed and breakfast guest house.
In 1999 the Orrill-Legg family bought the property and the development of Pontac Manor as seen in its current state of restoration commenced.
The first phase of the project was the conversion of the former estate outbuildings into a gourmet restaurant. Careful construction work led to the uncovering of the original brick work and some interesting facets which have been retained in some areas as a feature. The following year saw the development of the conference centre (housed in what was presumed to be the old stables). Eighteen months later, further restoration work took place with the conversion of two additional buildings on the property, resulting in an additional 7 guest rooms in other annexes on the estate.
Simultaneously, in the course of 2002 and 2003, the gardens were re-laid, paying particular attention to original Victorian plant selections, landscaping and layout practices. In 2004 the entire interior of the Manor House was redecorated and the Café du Pontac and Duke’s Bar at Pontac were introduced. The décor in all the guestrooms was refreshed and new decorations and amenities were added throughout, with great attention to detail and individuality – each room is unique, just as it should be in a true boutique hotel.
The property was officially re-launched as Pontac Manor Hotel & Restaurant in 2000, and was graded as a four-star boutique hotel. Today the grounds comprise approximately one hectare of beautifully laid out gardens & lawns with 2 swimming pools & private seating areas. "The Restarant at Pontac" is ranked amongst the TOP 100 in South Africa.
The Orrill-Leggs are closely involved in the development of their establishment. Says Deseré Orrill-Legg, "Maintaining Pontac Manor is a labour of love: the restoration has taken place over a period of several years and is a continuing and ongoing process, with every phase leading to new discoveries, no matter how small and insignificant, that add to the charm of this truly special place."