The land on which Simbithi now stands was once a farm, owned by two British officers who named it ‘Beverley’ after their hometown in Yorkshire, England.
In 1919, George P Ladlau, whose father had settled in South Africa during the Anglo-Zulu war, bought the farm for 2000 Pounds Sterling, a wagon and a span of oxen. Several years later, Ladlau purchased the adjacent farm – Beachcroft – from Cecile Richie and formed ‘Beverley Estate’. This was, ostensibly, the land that would eventually become Simbithi.
The farm boasted a vast acreage of indigenous forests, bush, natural wetlands and two artesian wells, all of which Ladlau left untouched. He believed the only way to protect the farm’s water supply was to keep the surrounding vegetation in place. This proved to be an inspired decision, further enforced by George’s son, Winston I Ladlau, when he assumed control of the farm on his return from the Second World War. The forests that characterise Simbithi today are those saved by this policy. The Beverley Estate homestead still stands firm today, near the Estate’s South Gate. The home was rebuilt in 1955 on the site of the original wattle and daub construction. Today, the house is magnificently framed by Rosemary’s world-famous garden.
The scientific name of the tree after which Simbithi is named is Milettia grandis. In isiZulu it is called ‘Umzimbeet’, ‘UmSimbithwa’ or ‘Umsimbithi’. There are large, established groves of these trees on the northern and southern sides of the Estate and the erect, spearhead flower sprays provide a purple lining to the forest between November and March. A direct translation of the isiZulu name is ‘Ironwood’ (the name of one of the roads in the Estate) because of the extreme density of the Umzimbeet’s wood.