The historical development of Laborie and Picardi begins in 1691. Simon van der Stel gives the farm Picardi to Isaac Taillefert, a hat maker from Chateau-Thierry, a village located in the province of Champagne, France. Laborie is given to Isaac’s son, Jean Taillefert, who was only 15 years old at the time. The farms were both 60 morgen (51,4ha) in size and stretched from Paarlberg to the Berg River.
Isaac’s wife, Susanne Briet, seems to be the one responsible for the actual development of Picardi and Laborie as a wine farm. She was descended from a well-known family of winemakers from Monneaux and apparently also trained the winemakers of Simon van der Stel on Great Constantia.
Even in that period, the farm is described by travelers as a farm with good wine, beautiful gardens with a variety of birds in cages and a kraal with many cattle, horses and sheep.
Susanne passes on her knowledge of viticulture and winemaking to her daughter Elisabeth Taillefert and also bequeaths the farms to her.
In 1735 Jean de Villiers inherited the farms from his mother Elisabeth Taillefert and the wine production skyrocketed. A year after his takeover, the farm is listed as one of Paarl’s farms with the largest vineyard. His widow, Hester Meilius, doubled after the death of her second husband, Pierre Pieter Loret, the vines to
80 000 vines which at that time were by far the most in the Paarl area.
For the second time in history, the farms were bequeathed to a woman when Hester bequeathed the farm to her daughter, Hester Loret. Hester Loret’s husband, Hendrik Louw, bought the farms from his mother-in-law’s estate in 1774. Hendrik and Hester were both aiming to be an exemplary wine farm. Hendrik was also responsible for the development of the Picardi site.
After his death, Hester married Johannes Jacobus Haupt, a baker by profession. Haupt built in 1800 the present Manor House of Laborie. At that time, the farming on the farms was quite volatile, which can be attributed to the fact that Haupt was actually a baker and Hester became older. Haupt was also responsible for the first piece of land that was cut-off from the original farms, Laborie and Picardi.
Pieter Roux, married Hester and Hendrik Louw’s daughter, Elisabeth Maria Louw and he bought the farms from his mother-in-law Hester Loret (Louw / Haupt)’s estate. He then makes the first brandy on the farm and this distillery seems to be the forerunner of Paarlsche Stokery.
In 1842 Adriaan Jacobus Louw bought the farms at an insolvent auction of Jakob de Villiers. De Villiers’ widow owns part of the land she sold to The Paarl Distillery Company in 1843. Adriaan Louw plants Southern Paarl’s famous pine avenue.
After Adriaan’s death in 1877, the two farms became the property of his widow, Charlotta Louisa Maria Herold. The same year she sold four plots between the Berg River and Paarl station and his son, Tobias Johannes Louw took over the farm. Tobias was a great horse lover and the horses of Laborie often won first prize at the Paarl Shows. During the Second War of Independence, he had to say goodbye with regret to his 6 horses when they were commanded. Transport was then temporarily by ox cart. During the war, the four colors hung above the top of the giant lukwart tree to the annoyance of the Town Guard khakis who inhabited the blockhouse on the corner of Main and Station Roads.
Tobias’s period as owner of Laborie was marked by attempts to loosen capital trapped in property by selling parts of the estate.
Tobias’ son Louis Hofmeyr Louw was helpful with the farm because Tobias spent more time on business and politics. Louis was one of the first vineyard farmers to export grapes abroad. The bunches are rolled in paper and tightly packed in boxes with wood wool.
In 1863 the farm was subdivided again when land was needed for the new railway line between Cape Town and Wellington.
The first Paarl agricultural exhibition was held at Laborie and was also the meeting place of several congresses shortly after the Second War of Independence. In the oak forest that adorned the gorge, hundreds of people came by train from far away to discuss the emergencies resulting from the war.
The farm is divided in 1925. Louis Hofmeyr Louw moves to Picardi and his youngest brother, Ebenezer Louw stays at Laborie. After Ebenezer’s death in 1931, his widow and their son Pieter Eksteen Louw farmed on Laborie until the sale of the farm in 1972 to the KWV.
The Louws of Laborie were a close-knit family with many family traditions. Among other things, there was the birthday celebration of Charlotte Louw’s birthday every year at Laborie. Family traveled to Paarl by train and then walked from Paarl station to Laborie for the big lunch.
The family also went on holiday in March / April with a six-horse-drawn carriage on Onrus or elsewhere along the coast.
The Louws, like most families of that time, were self-sufficient. Before there were shops in Southern Paarl, the farm’s workers had to be provided with all foodstuffs such as bread, milk, meat, wine and groceries.
Tobias Louw’s children received their schooling up to std 6 on the farm. A governess performed the task in special rooms set aside for schooling and church services. The school was in one of the three rooms of The Cottage. The other two rooms served as bedrooms for the boys.
All of Laborie and Picardi’s land between Main Street and the railway line was sold by the late 1900s for the development of the business and town area of Southern Paarl.
A portion of the farm Picardi was also sold to Joseph Allen after the war. This section was west of Main Street and east of the distillery.
The mountain stream that flowed from the Victoria Gorge was Laborie’s main water source. The water flowed in a canal along the farm’s northern boundary on a contour that more or less follows the Jan Phillipsberg Road.
The dam was about 60m x 20m large and 5m deep and was built of coarse granite blocks. From the dam, water flowed with gravity to the Laborie homestead and was used to water the home garden. A lead pipe supplied water to a basin on the homestead’s veranda. The Victoria Dam was built in 1880.
Tobias Louw has allowed granite cutters since 1877 to extract stone on Laborie. Railway lines were used to transport the granite from Paarlberg to Paarl station. The first track of a quarry ran near a large oak forest on Laborie’s northern border along a narrow road to the opposite side of Clift Street. There, the track crossed the Main Street to the station. Trucks were transported to the station by gravity, after which the empty trucks were pulled up to the quarry by mules. It is not generally known, but the foundations of the Parliament House are built of granite coming from a quarry on Laborie.
On 10.11.1900 a protest meeting was held at Laborie. Just under 2,000 women attended. A monument was unveiled at Laborie in September 2005 to commemorate the general public’s protest against the war. The monument consists of a life-size man and woman and seven relief panels by the sculptor Johan Moolman.
In1972 KWV bought Laborie. The purchase of the farm was twofold. Firstly, it was about preserving the rural and traditional atmosphere of the typical Boland wine farm that was in danger of subdivision into townships. Secondly, with the aim of propagating selected virus-free vines. Laborie’s fruit trees and table grape vineyards were cut down and replaced with wine grape cultivars. At that time, the KWV wanted to make a red wine blend similar to the famous Roodeberg.
The KWV also saw the historic farm as a showcase of Paarl’s cultural landscape and a major tourist attraction. Laborie would also serve as a guest house for overseas visitors, tasting room, restaurant and entertainment facility.
Laborie’s mansion was declared a national monument in 1977.