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Elsenburg: Old Manor House restoration
Klapmuts district, Western Cape

John Stockwin CLELAND: Architect

Style:Cape Dutch

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33°50'52.21" S 18°50'11.95" E
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Near Klapmuts is the farm of Elsenburg, named after Samuel Elsevier, second-in-command to Governor Simon van der Stel. However, Secunde Elsevier was one of the officials banished to the Netherlands along with Willem Adriaan van der Stel. During the 10 years Elsevier had spent at Elsenburg, he built a simple house, where his son continued to live until his death in 1709.

It was Martin Melck who, during the latter half of the 18th century developed Elsenburg into one of the Cape's finest farms. In 1761 he enlarged the homestead to a U-plan, giving it impressive gables and a fine front entrance. This front door was removed by Sir Herbert Baker when, as RHODES' architect, he wished the beautiful entrance to adorn Groote Schuur. Unfortunately it was badly damaged when Groote Schuur burnt down and was then replaced by a copy. An outstanding and still remaining feature of the interior is the chimney panel, inlaid with ivory and ebony depicting the Prussian eagle, emblem of Melck's native land. The outbuildings of Elsenburg together with the tall bell tower, also date back to the time of Martin Melck, and perhaps most interesting of all, is the millstream, channelled between thick, wavy walls interspersed with piers of unusual design.

In 1898 Elsenburg was acquired by the Victoria College (now the University of Stellenbosch) as an agricultural college. Then in 1915 the homestead was gutted by fire and unfortunately when it was rebuilt and reroofed with red tiles, much of the fabric and character of the once beautiful house was lost.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 68)

Writings about this entry

Hartdegen, Paddy. 1988. Our building heritage : an illustrated history. South Africa: Ryll's Pub. Co. on behalf of the National Development Fund for the Building Industry. pg 29
Pearse, Geoffrey Eastcott. 1957. Eighteenth century architecture in South Africa. London: Batsford. pg 26, 27, 46, 47, Bell Tower: Plates 85, 86; Front Plate 82, 83,; door at Groote Schuur: Plates 84, 85
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 68
Trotter, Alys Fane. 1928. Old Cape Colony. A chronicle of her men and houses from 1652 to 1806. London: Selwyn & Blount. pg 151, 287