13 Sep


At the beautiful Crowhurst Manor, TWIMS provides structured programmes with the aim of developing Africa’s manufacturing leaders.


Story: Greg Arde

Pictures: Rogan Ward


Crowhurst Manor in Everton Road looks like something out of Downton Abbey. Beyond the imposing gates lies a beautiful garden surrounding a stone manor house. It’s not as posh or as imposing as the Yorkshire country estate of the aristocratic Crawleys in the BBC series, but it makes an impact and its appearance belies its significant function.

In 2018 the building was purchased and remodelled into the campus for TWIMS – the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies. Albert Wessels brought Toyota to South Africa in 1961, and in the decades that followed became one of the country’s leading industrialists.

Donations from his family trust helped establish TWIMS, a not for profit initiative dedicated to the development of manufacturing executives in Africa.

The formation of TWIMS was spearheaded by Dr Justin Barnes, perhaps the country’s foremost expert on manufacturing, and it teaches graduate students from all industries.

Crowhurst was built by the Hulett sugar barons at the turn of the 20th century. It was later bought by Sir William and Lady Firth and named after their Elizabethan homestead in Surrey, England.

The manufacturing management institute has been crafted around the heritage building and interior changes were kept to a minimum. Landscaper Jenny Dean transformed the gardens from a shady and sterile spot dominated by exotic shrubs and trees. Now it is enchanting and full of life, a “haven for bees, butterflies and birds and full of colour year-round”.  Jenny says she kept this mantra in mind in the metamorphosis: to provide feeding, breeding, nesting and resting places in an enticing space. The garden has wide walking paths flanked by colourful borders. Succulents, aloes, grasses and small trees mingle close to the old stone walls and create a wild space that is a magnet for insects and birds. “There is a mini woodland of lavender trees underplanted with seasonal bulbs; blood red Scadoxus in spring, and orange flaming Crocosmia in autumn. Crossberry is host to 19 moths, two butterflies and has little yellow fruit for birds. “The African Dog Rose has beautiful white flowers and is host to the Acraea butterfly.  Its leaves are decimated by caterpillars every year – and this attracts cuckoos – the emerald jewels of the garden,” says Jenny.

Crowhurst and the institute of learning it is home to, is a wonderful place to work. Research head Glen Robbins says not many people associate the tree-lined roads of Kloof with the hustle and bustle of manufacturing, so it is often a surprise when people discover what goes on there.

“This grand old building and its wonderful gardens, thanks to those that have supported TWIMS, is emerging as an African centre of excellence in manufacturing management development and research.

“Every day we have the privilege of interacting with an incredible diversity of MBA students, company leaders and those working in the broader manufacturing ecosystem, drawn not just from South Africa, but also from across the continent.”

Glen adds that by locating TWIMS outside a major industrial or office estate, the institution has been able to give those working in industry a space away from the hectic factory floor to reflect and learn.

“The neighbourhood sounds of the Trumpeter Hornbills might at times interfere with online teaching, but they are a pleasant reminder that our campus, and the firms we work with, share a fascinating planet,” says Glen.

Dr Lisa Kinnear, head of academics at TWIMS, says the initial move to Crowhurst campus felt a little like working at Faulty Towers. Before the renovation, the grand old building needed lots of tender loving care. “We rotated through a number of the impressive rooms as office spaces while the renovations were happening, all crammed into one room as we worked at getting TWIMS off the ground,” she says.

In October 2019 a modern state of the art Harvard style auditorium and break away stable rooms were completed, creating an engaging space with the feel of a real academic institution.

Lisa says she feels privileged to work in a space that has the best of both worlds: a dynamic modern teaching facility and the magnificent stone manor house. “The offices, meeting spaces, cosy nooks for reading and spiral staircases are somewhat reminiscent of a magical Hogwarts at the southern tip of Africa.

“But the best experience of ‘both worlds’ on the campus is being able to take a stroll to think and reflect in the peaceful gardens while experiencing the buzz of learning that takes place amongst the manufacturing community in these wonderful surroundings.”


FOR MORE INFO: www.twimsafrica.com



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