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Voortrekker Museum (Previously Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk - Voortrekker Kerk / Geloftekerk - Church of the Vow)
Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal

John Collingwood TULLY: Architect

Date:1841 : 1861 : 1916
Style:Cape Dutch Revival : Vernacular Style
Status:Adaptive re-use


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29°35'56.55" S 30°22'56.35" E Alt: 647m

The church was erected in fulfillment of the 'vow' made by the Voortrekker leaders that if God granted them victory over the forces of Dingaan that day would forever be commemorated as holy. A portion of land belonging to the widow of Piet RETIEF was apportioned for the purpose. Initially Hoofkommandant Pretorius speedily erected a temporary building of reeds. The construction of a more permanent building was a true community endeavour with the widow Retief, although of straightened circumstance, giving five riksdollars, while others gave free labour. Local English inhabitants also donated materials with the local John van der Plank promising that: I will give to the Church of Pieter Maritzburg 2 kegs of White Paint of 30 lbs. each and one Keg of green paint 14 lb. weight and ten loads of building stone. Its walls were of shale 600 mm thick and 3,9 m high, gabled either end with a thatch roof. It was completed early in 1841, and consecrated in April 1841. By 1855 it had become too small for the community and was replaced by a Tower Church a distance away. As the Boers deserted Natal after British annexation in 1842 the church lost its congregants and was eventually sold, conditional to it not being used for a hotel or canteen. After 1861, this building was used as a school for a while. In 1908 the Dutch Reformed Church decided to buy back the property and restore it. It was speculatively and retroactively brought back to a Cape Dutch style, to serve as a museum. The restoration was inaugurated on 16 December 1912. Walton (1952:83) notes that: ... its outward appearance is far different from that when it was the chief place of worship in Natal. The walls and timber work are substantially original ... . In 1938 it was declared a National Monument, today a Provincial Heritage Resource. In 2008 it became part of the Msunduzi Museum complex

For more information on the NG gemeente Pietermaritzburg visit Wikipedia.

For more on the history of the building visit the Msunduzi Museum website.

Writings about this entry

Bassett, Brian (Editor). 1986. The buildings of Pietermaritzburg (Volume 1). Pietermaritzburg: Pietermaritzburg City Council. pg 312
Gordon, Ruth & Louwrens, Mat. 1984. Victorian Pietermaritzburg. Springfield: Village Publishers. pg 92 ill., 93
Hillebrand, Melanie. 1975. Aspects of architecture in Natal, 1880-1914. Pietermaritzburg: Unpublished MA. Dept Fine Art and History of Art, University of Natal. pg 164
Maeder, GA & Zinn, C. 1917. Ons kerk album van Hollandsche kerken en leeraren. Capetown: Cape Times. pg 259-260
Oberholster, JJ. 1972. The historical monuments of South Africa. Cape Town: Rembrandt Van Rijn Foundation for Culture at the request of the National Monuments Council. pg 239-241
Oxley, John. 1992. Places of Worship in South Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers. pg 92-95
Thom, HB . 1949. Geloftekerk; Die en ander studies oor die Groot Trek. Kaapstad: Nasionale Pers. pg 1-42
Van Riet Lowe, Clarence & Malan, BD. 1949. Die Gedenkwaardighede van Suid-Afrika. Pretoria: Staatsdrukker. pg 99-101
Van Riet Lowe, Clarence, Malan, BD & Commission for the Preservation of Natural and Historical Monuments, Relics and Antiques. 1949. The monuments of South Africa : Second, Revised and Enlarged Edition. Pretoria: Government Printer. pg 99-102
Walton, James. 1965. Homesteads and villages of South Africa. Pretoria: J.L. Van Schaik. pg 83