Visit South Africa’s oldest restored house during the ’BoschFest
Visitors to the first ’BoschFest hosted by Stellenbosch University, can take part in a night walk through the historical central part of Stellenbosch that will included a visit to South Africa’s oldest restored house, Schreuderhuis. This historical house, on the corner of Church and Ryneveld Streets, was built 300 years ago on 10 December.
Mr Pietman Retief, well-known in conservation and heritage circles, and recently voted South Africa’s top tour guide, coordinates the walk presented by the Stellenbosch Museum.
Night walks through the historical part of Stellenbosch usually take place twice a year but there will be three walks this year in order to make it possible for those attending the ’BoschFest to take part in this popular walk that is an integral part of Stellenbosch’s cultural calendar.
On 10 December 1709, governor Louis van Assenburg, granted the plot, bordered by the current Ryneveld and Church Streets – available to the secretary of the public mill of Stellenbosch, Sebastian Schröder. He built a modest pioneers house on the plot.
Schröder hailed from Saxony in Germany and was in he employ of the V.O.C. (Dutch East India Company). Originally sent to Stellenbosch to act as the secretary of the public mill of Stellenbosch, he was promoted to court messenger of the Company in Stellenbosch and Drakenstein. Typical of the period, his name was written in its Dutch form and he would be known as Sebastian Schreuder.
A year after being granted the plot, Schreuder had to partly rebuild his house, as the first big fire that wreaked havoc in Stellenbosch in 1710, also damaged his modest dwelling. In 1711, Schreuder, accompanied by his wife, moved to Cape Town and then to Europe in 1712.
Since Schreuder sold the house in 1712 and up to 1910, when the house was owned by the well-known Stellenbosch resident, Mr Willem Lubbe, there were some 18 owners of the house and property. Mr AP Lubbe, the well-known shoemaker who provided shoes to thousands of residents and students shoes, bought the house in 1940. His son, Willem, inherited the house upon his father’s death in 1970. The Lubbe-family ran their shoe business from the property.
Through the ages, almost all owners made a few changes to the original house. From a simple flat roof three roomed house, by the end of the 19th century it has grown to a much larger house with a wolf nose gabled roof. In 1900, the house was extended to some 18 rooms and given a Victorian look.
In May 1970, the Lubbe family requested that the house, which became rather dilapidated, be demolished, rather than paying a hefty sum of money to have it restored. The community of Stellenbosch however felt that the house needed to be preserved for future generations and in 1972 the house, with the assistance of the then Cape Provincial Administration, was bought by the Stellenbosch Museum. It was then restored to its appearance of the period 1710 – 1720.
Between 1973 and 1975, it required a great deal of detective work by the Cape conservation architect, Mr Gawie Fagan, to find out exactly what the house must have looked like. Based on his findings the house was then restored. In 1988, Mr Hennie Vos, well-known historical archaeologist, made some further excavations in and around the house, after it was decided to replace the house’s original dung-smeared floors, with floors that wouldn’t give off such a lot of dust. Mr Vos made some interesting finds that lead to the house being restored even more and is in appearance very true to life as it must have been in 1709, when the residents of Stellenbosch in fact made a pioneering existence.
During this early period the most rooms in the house were used for general living purposes. We therefore find, in the same room, a bedstead for sleeping purposes, a work bench and tools for woodwork, as well as signs of other activities. The room that was used to sleep in, was also used as a dining-room and to receive guests in. Specialized rooms which were used for one purpose only, e.g. a bedroom, were just about unknown to the colonists. The only room which was exclusively used for one specific purpose only was the kitchen, for the preparation of food.
Due to the fact that glass and timber were extremely scarce and costly around 1700 only the wealthiest citizens had glass panes in all their windows and wooden floors and ceilings. From descriptions given by early travellers it is clear that the ordinary burghers often had earth or dung floors, sparretjie (sapling sticks) or reed ceilings and loose frames in some of the windows of their homes. The loose frames were covered with cotton cloth and waterproofed with whale oil. These windows coverings not only kept dust and to a large extent rain out, but admitted a wonderful soft light at the same time. In really bad weather and at night, the wooden shutters were, of course, closed. Another type of window which was popular in Stellenbosch at that time, was a wooden casement with small glass panes set in leadcames such as can be seen in the front windows of Schreuderhuis today.
The Stellenbosch Museum currently has four houses that each represents a different era of the town’s history. Within one walk, visitors can thus get an overview of the life of Stellenbosch’s foremost residents from the earliest times to the Victorian times.
The night walk on 9 December will be dedicated to the oldest restored house in South Africa.
- To take part in the walk, contact Ms Esmé Adriaanse at the Stellenbosch Museum at tel. 021 887 2937. The cost is R150 per person and includes dinner at Erfurthuis. The walk begins at 19:00 at the ticket office in the Museum in Ryneveld Street.