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TROTTER, Alys Fane (Mrs)

Born: 1863 12 12
Died: 1961 12 31

Artist, author


Born in Teffont Evias near Salisbury, Wiltshire, England where she also died. She was educated both there and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. During her studies there she visited the Victoria and Albert Museum where she broadened her knowledge of historical styles of furniture, china and silver as well as studying further in Rome, from where she travelled extensively in Italy and France.

On 30 June 1886 Alys married Alexander Pelham Trotter, at St James's Church, Paddington, London, UK. In 1895 he received an appointment by the Cape Colonial Government as electrical engineer, to where she accompanied him in 1896. They stayed two brief, but for her, productive years until 1898. At the Cape they became part of the English social set which included the likes of Cecil Rhodes and Herbert BAKER, who by then had already executed his designs for Groote Schuur. This introduced her to the subject of the Cape Dutch houses which she then visited by bicycle (one of the first ladies' bicycles seen at the Cape!) sketching and recording these as she went. She was encouraged to publish these in a special Christmas number of the Cape Times of 1898. This proved so popular that she was encouraged to expand this into a book reflecting a more comprehensive survey, to which Baker contributed an essay, Old colonial houses of the Cape of Good Hope : illustrated and described, dedicated to her bicycle as her 'silent companion'!

Back in England Alys wrote for numerous journals and produced her second book (1903, 1928) Old Cape Colony. A chronicle of her men and houses from 1652 to 1806.

Alys Trotter can be considered as pioneering in changing local attitudes from Victorian indifference to broadening an appreciation of the local Cape Dutch legacy. She presaged the formation of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. While many of the buildings she recorded were demolished, others became National Monuments. She was awarded the Gold Medal of the National Monuments Council in 1951. Most of her original sketches form part of the William Fehr Collection housed by the Iziko Museums of SA. She can be considered of the first to author an extensive work on South African architecture, and forebear of a number of female architectural writer critics such as Dorothea Fairbridge, Doreen GREIG and Désirée PICTON-SEYMOUR. Her work no doubt also inspired and encouraged the amateur turned professional photographer, Arthur ELLIOTT on his venture to document these buildings prolifically.

(Leverton, 1987:782-783), Wikipedia)

Books by TROTTER

Trotter, Alys Fane. 1900. Old colonial houses of the Cape of Good Hope : illustrated and described. London: B. T. Batsford

Trotter, Alys Fane. 1928. Old Cape Colony. A chronicle of her men and houses from 1652 to 1806. London: Selwyn & Blount

Books citing TROTTER

HSRC. 1987. Dictionary of South African Biography Volume V. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council. pp 782-783

Potgieter, DJ (Editor-in-chief). 1974. Standard Encyclopaedia of South Africa [SESA] Volume 10 Sle-Tun. Cape Town: Nasou. pp 637