LOCATION: Tulbagh – Changing Perpsectives
LEADER: Henry Aikman
Continuity, change and loss. The theme of our outing will be the changes that followed the 1969 earthquake when much of the valley was damaged or destroyed. Reconstruction followed – in selected areas – while others were totally obliterated, to remain only in folk memory and oral histories.
Klipfontein – is one of the most interesting and authentic of all Tulbagh homesteads – beautifully situated in the Winterhoek Valley. It is an exceptionally long thatched house measuring almost 58 metres but originally the dwelling was at one end to which were added storerooms, a stable, fermentation vats and a wine cellar with just a narrow passage (now roofed over) in between.
The Drostdy – now a museum – which was designed by LM Thibault in the early 19th century. Here we will have a walkabout of this much-restored house, at one stage the home of Sir Meiring Beck. Adjacent to the Drostdy is the Drostdy Village, which was also largely destroyed and replaced by 1970s houses. We will look at the remnants of this once-historic settlement including the historic Jackson’s Cottage.
Church Street walk. The 32 reconstructed buildings now constitute the largest concentration of National heritage sites in a single street in South Africa. We will pass many buildings including Ballotina – acquired and restored by the late Dr Mary Alexander Cook, the authority on the history and architecture of old Cape Houses; Monbijou (De Wet House) believed to have been designed by Louis Michel Thibault and Paddagang which is set well back from the street down near the Kliprivier. It is a long, low house which may originally have been used as stables or slave quarters.
We will end up at the Tulbagh Museum where Calvin van Wyk, the curator will speak to us about the historic settlement known as Helpmekaar, the former Coloured settlement of Tulbagh, which, with Steinthal Mission were the sites of most of the deaths during the earthquake. Both, badly damaged, were totally demolished- apart from the Steinthal school building- and the former residents moved to the ‘Skema’- the apartheid-era ‘township’.
A worthwhile place to visit is number 26 Church Street which leads into the Christo Coetzee Gallery that abuts Van der Stel Street. The restored Rhenish Missionary house where the well-known artist Christo Coetzee lived with his wife Ferrie, features some of his paintings that are part of the University of Stellenbosch collection as well as some from private collections.
Also, a walk along Van der Stel Street in the relative quiet of a Saturday afternoon is worthwhile as a showcase of the changes and continuity that is Tulbagh today. Historic gems are interspersed with contemporary buildings.
Our sincere thanks to Henry Aikman – heritage and restoration architect who lives in Tulbagh, for his willingness to lead this outing and share his views on the changing cultural landscape of Tulbagh.
The Tulbagh Earthquake
The earthquake occurred at 22:03 on the 29th September 1969.
The quake measured 6,3 on the Richter Scale and as far as is known 11 people died.
In the oral histories of the people who lived in Steinthal Mission Village Oom Piet recounts: “Die meeste mense het ná die skudding na die nuwe woonbuurt in Tulbagh getrek of na ander dorpe. Selfs die murasies van die ou rouklei-en-klip-rietdakhuise is weg. Al daai dinge is tot niet. Daar’s nie ’n teken oor nie. Die grond is omgewerk. Hulle maak tuin daar”. And ‘John’adds:“Ná die aardbewing was baie van die Steinthallers se drome ook daarmee heen”.