With Valentine's Day almost upon us, we thought we'd dig into the enchanting stories of the Graaff family and share them with you. De Grendel farm is also a popular spot for romancing couples thanks to its incredible view of Table Mountain. What a great location to pop the question, while toasting your love with a glass of our MCC!
Where the love story begins
Sir David Graaff, the first in the family to receive the baronetcy title and the man who founded De Grendel, was directly related to one of the most beautiful love stories that enriches the romantic history of De Grendel. Sir David Graaff’s father, the farmhand, was able to win the hand and heart of the farmer’s pretty young daughter, despite a few obstacles. It all happened in the middle of the 19th century, among the bushes of Wolfhuiskloof, where the herdboy Petrus Norbertus Johannes Graaff, generally known as Nort, worked. Fortuitously for him, Wolfhuiskloof was situated adjacent to the farm Radyn owned by Pieter Hendrik de Villiers, who had a very pretty daughter, Anna Elizabeth.
As the herdboy, Nort had to go to Bo-Radyn to work, which was often enough to fall in love with Anna. But De Villiers didn’t like him, and banned him from seeing his daughter. Nort was a man of tenacity, so he made sure he and Anna saw each other. After a love letter or two, Anna eventually built up the courage to elope with Nort, and they lived happily ever after… and so did one of the love letters, which was found in a secret drawer of a large armoire; an heirloom that came from Wolfhuiskloof.
Love against all odds
Nort’s son, Sir David Graaff (the first baronet), who inherited the land, carried on this air of tenacious romance when he married a much younger woman, very much out of his league, and at an age that everyone reckoned was too late. He was a bachelor when the British honorary title of baronetcy was awarded to him, which was probably because it was thought that he would not have any heirs. But two years later, at the age of 53, Sir David Graaff, a member of the nobility, married a clergyman’s daughter, Eileen van Heerden, who was 30 years his junior. Her mother was initially opposed to the courtship due to the age difference, but was convinced after a visit to Graaff’s glorious farm, De Grendel. And so Eileen became the much admired Lady Graaff, who eventually proved herself a match for her husband’s business acumen, and raised three sons to carry the legacy even further.
Love for the garden
The Graaff romance extends across all aspects of life; with Lady Graaff pouring her tender love and care into the lush fauna, fauna and furniture that gives life to De Grendel. Lady Eileen’s daughter-in-law, Lady Ena, described how Lady Eileen would often, while they sat drinking tea on the front veranda of De Grendel overlooking the grounds, tell her how, as a young bride, she had lived out her passion for gardening. Loads of soil had been brought in to transform the inhospitable landscape into a Garden of Eden. The formal layout of the garden included lawns, terraces, hedges and herbaceous borders, Italian statues, and the flowers a riot of colour in the different seasons.
Although the show garden was her main interest at De Grendel, she also had a deep love for the antique furniture in the house, tracing their history as if they were family members, like the armoire for example, in which her husband found his father’s love letter to his mother, Anna.
The greatest bond of all
The love a mother has for her child is one of the strongest connections to exist in the human heart. It is this kind of love given to all of the Graaff children throughout the generations that must have come to fuel their success. When Jannie, the youngest of Lady Eileen and Sir David’s (the first baronet) three sons, was only three years old when his father died. In these trying circumstances Lady Eileen’s motherly instincts never wavered. Jannie had to go to boarding school, so she gave him a basket with five doves, which he put under his bed. Each day a dove with a letter from Jannie would fly back to De Grendel where the butler, Frikkie Esau, fetched it from the dovecote to give to his mother.