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A Brief History of Tigoni

Tigoni is a small, lush green suburb in Kiambu County that is filled with luscious green tea fields.  Home to a small moderate community of both locals and expatriates. The green leafy highlands coupled with a cool climate provide a fertile land for tea growers. Set in a serene and quiet area bordering Limuru town & Karuri – Ruaka Neighborhoods, Tigoni is only 30 minutes from the City Centre. For adventure lovers, there is a lot of spots for horse riding, wine and cheese tasting sessions & cycling trips. The misty and often cold Tigoni area in Limuru boasts a rich colonial history, most of which is still preserved and plays a significant role in the society.

 

THE HISTORY

Kiambethu Tea Farm

The late Arnold Butler McDonell commonly referred to as AB among his friends traveled to Kenya in 1904. He was an avid farmer and an architect.  In 1910, he bought 350 acres of land in Tigoni, a small town in Kiambu from the then British government and establishes some of the largest tea plantations in the small neighborhood. McDonnell went on to become Kenya’s and Africa’s first commercial tea farmer and the tea tradition for which the country is now famous.

His farm, Kiambethu, has been hosting tea tours since the 1960s and McDonnell’s granddaughter, Fiona Vernon, has continued the tradition even though Kiambethu acreage has shrunk to 35 acres.

Brackenhurst Hotel and Conference Centre

In 1914, the family of Hudson Cane emigrated from England to Kenya and arrived in Limuru by train from Mombasa then traveled by an ox-cart to what is today the plush 270-roomed Brackenhurst Hotel and Conference Centre, so named after Cane’s home area of Brackenhurst, England. They lived at the present-day Farm House Cottage, then named Rose Cottage, from 1914 when World War I was starting, until 1927 when it was converted into a Christian retreat and hotel.

 

Limuru Girls High School

In 1922, Limuru Girls’ was founded by Arnold Butler McDonell for his four daughters and any others who might join on his farm. His governess became the first Headmistress and his oldest daughter Evelyn Mitchell became the first old girl of the school. Evelyn Mitchell, the Mother of Fiona Vernon (current host of Kiambethu tea tours), died in 1998.

The Kentmere Club

Established in the 1920s, Kentmere Club was founded at a time when horse carriages took men to shooting parties. Most of the white settlers who lived in Tigoni at the time mingled at the members-only Kentmere Club.

 

ACK All Saints Limuru

Between 1936 and 1938, Arthur B McDonnell was asked to submit designs for a new church as the initial building was proving too small.  His plan, based on an English country church, was approved and he was asked to supervise the building.

Construction started in 1939 and was completed a year later. The Church finally cost a princely sum of ₤ 1200.

 

Thayu Roundvales

Did you know that the current Thayu Farm Hotel was initially owned by King George IV? He is/was the father of the current Queen Elizabeth II. The main house was built in 1948 and the original title deed was in his name. After several ownerships, the farmhouse was acquired by the present-day owners in 1986.

 

Browns Cheese Farm

Brown’s Cheese was established in 1979 by David Brown and his wife Sue. They managed the cheeses farm up until 2010 when they transferred the ownership to their daughter, Delia Stirling. Delia and her husband Andrew Stirling bought the business & took over 8 years ago but still follows the path David and Sue took when they started – crafting natural cheeses using the utmost care and passion for cheese. The farm has grown to become a leader in the cheese gourmet category as you’ll you will find Brown’s Cheese products on supermarket shelves all over East Africa.

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2018

Today, Tigoni is majorly a tea growing zone.  Fiona Vernon has continued the tradition by regularly hosting tea tours across the Kiambethu Tea Farm. Brackenhurst Hotel and Conference Centre has stood the test of time to become one of the best hotels in Kiambu county. Limuru Girls High School has grown to become one of the leading National high schools in Kenya. ACK All Saints Limuru still the oldest church in Limuru and a mausoleum for world-renowned paleoanthropologist and conservationist, Dr. Richard Leaky. Thayu Roundvales has since upgraded to a full-fledged farm hotel with beautiful grounds featuring well-manicured lawns and indigenous trees.

 

 

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