The historic Constantia homestead of Bel Ombre, which dates back to 1728, is on the market for R35 million.
The Victorian-styled home is set on a corner half hectare with dual access from Rathfelder Avenue and Avenue Provence, next to Bel Ombre meadow. The price is up from R20 million in 2008 when it was previously sold.
Is it haunted? We asked Victoria Engelhorn, the present owner since 2007, who said, “No, but I always felt like there is a young woman floating around who actually protects the property. But that is just my feeling. A very old ghost…”
The rambling house has three large bedrooms, multiple living rooms, two pools, an entertainment deck and a loft converted by Ms Engelhorn, as well as a separate one-bedroom cottage overlooking the tennis court. It has a staff suite, garaging for four cars and extra storage.
Francois Venter, luxury property specialist with Seeff Southern Suburbs, said the original farm measured 60 morgen, which is about 51 hectares, and was granted to two brothers, Jan Zacharias and Jan Christoffel Beck, in 1728. It originally included the neighbouring Goedgeloof property.
In 1744, Jacob van Reenen bought Goedgeloof, as the farm was known before it was subdivided from Belle Ombre as it was originally known.
In 1775, it was owned by Josephus Anthonius Becker followed in 1870 by an Englishman, Dr James Hutchison, who changed the name from Belle Ombre to Bel Ombre. At this time, the farm had grown to almost five times the size (250 hectares) when it was originally granted.
In 1872, the farm was bought by Johannes Rathfelder of the well-known family who owned Rathfelder’s Inn in Diep River. He left it to his son, Otto, in 1902. The farm was owned by the Rathfelder family until November 1970.
According to The Great Houses of Constantia, by Philippa Dane and Sydney-Anne Wallace (1981), the home offers authentic architectural detail such as original yellowwood beams, Oregon doors, sash windows, wooden floors, verandas, authentic fireplaces and the original farmhouse eat-in kitchen with a pantry and laundry. The parquet flooring was added at a later period and other changes were made in the late 19th century in keeping with the lifestyles of the time. These include replacing the thatched roof with Welsh slate, adding two chimney stacks and changing the front façade to French windows.
Living up to its name, Bel Ombre, meaning beautiful shade, the garden is well-established with lawns and two swimming pools, one of them, an eco-pool with an entertainment deck.
“This one has frogs and fish, and you can swim in it, but is more to chill and have a beautiful water point. The one in the back of the house was built by my sister to do laps in, and it is heated,” said Ms Engelhorn.
She said the original entrance was from Avenue Provence and got changed to Rathfelder Avenue, although she is not sure when or why.
“You enter the house through the kitchen, which makes it less formal than when walking through the former entrance,” said Ms Engelhorn.
There is also a tree house and a sunken trampoline, solar geyser and solar panels with inverters and backup batteries.
Ms Engelhorn said she is putting it on the market but also looking for rental. “So we’ll see what happens. The house has been great for me and subsequently to my sister, but now we don’t really see anymore direct usage. If the right buyer comes who will love and take care of the property better than us, we will sell, otherwise we will keep it.”