LOCATION: Wolmunster, Rosebank
LEADER: Trevor Thorold
Wolmunster is a rare early nineteenth century Cape Regency residence; one of the few substantially intact remaining examples of a “gentleman’s residence” in Cape Town’s southern suburbs.
The Barnard’s establishment of a country residence at the Vineyard in 1799/1800, during the first British Occupation, perhaps started the changing trend.
Comparisons may also be made between Wolmunster’s pigeon house and the Vineyard’s free-standing ‘cool room’, which was “a picturesque feature in its own right, following the Repton principle of combining ‘utility with beauty’” (as described by Ronald Lewcock in his seminal work Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa, a study of the interaction of two cultures, 1795 – 1837, 1963: 38.
Curiously, Lewcock makes no reference to Wolmunster:- presumably he was unaware of its existence).
There is a remarkable simplicity, clarity and symmetry, fine proportioning and elegant detailing to the plan-form and organisation of the core historical residence, built by Carel Arnoldus Becker, the first owner of the property, which he purchased in 1834.
The pigeon house, set on the rear boundary and terminating the central approach axis, is a powerful architectural element within the overall composition. It may be a quirky Cape Georgian transmutation of the elaborate generally free-standing Cape Dutch dovecots.
Fransen & Cook 1980 describe it thus: ” Behind the house stands a pigeon-house, 2-storeyed, with fenestration like the Cape warehouses: round-headed openings flanked by smaller ones”.
James Walton Cape Dovecotes and Fowl-runs 1985 has no references to Georgian examples.
William Porter, owner from 1852 until 1875, was Attorney-General of the Cape Colony for 34 years. He is regarded as the father of Cape Liberalism. He is significant also as having funded the founding of the Porter Reformatory, originally at Valkenberg Estate, Observatory, later moved to Tokai.
(Much of the outline history was also extracted from Adele Keen’s unpublished manuscript Under Devil’s Peak; A glance at some old Houses and the people who lived in them, c1991.)
Wolmunster, since its acquisition by UCT in 1970, was a UCT self-catering residence for some 15 to 20 senior students until 2001. Thorold Architects were appointed by UCT in 2002 to renovate the property so as to reasonably house as many senior, self-catering students as possible and the conservation, renovation and alterations were undertaken during 2006/07.