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Mayville Rose Garden
Swellendam, Western Cape

Gwendoline Elizabeth (Gwen) FAGAN: Architect

Client:Drostdy Museum Trust
Type:Garden of Remembrance
Status:Extant but altered


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34°01'05.18" S 20°27'05.22" E Alt: 137m

This forms part of the property of Mayville.

Kathy Dumbrell, in 'Drostdy Museum Conservation Management Plan Phase Two : Identification and Assessment ' 2019) records:

In the terms of the bequest by Miss Nita Steyn in 1970, she directed that "the angle formed by Swellengrebel Street and Hermanus Steyn Street be maintained as a Rose Garden for the pleasure of visitors to the Museum; no buildings are ever to be erected in this angle where the Rose Garden is situate". The garden was designed by Dr Gwen Fagan as a "period pleasure garden with old varieties of roses growing in it" and not as a restoration of a garden that once stood in that spot. (Museum Annual Reports 1978:5). Dr FAGAN’s involvement began as advice in 1976, but grew into providing a design for the whole Mayville garden (Museum Annual Report 1976: 9) and, later, conceptual landscaping plans for the rest of the complex.
In 1977 cuttings of old roses received from Dr Fagan were being propagated in a preliminary nursery. A sizeable collection of plants grown from cuttings of old roses and other plants in Swellendam, Suurbraak and environs had been gathered. The rose trees that had been in Mayville in Miss Nita Steyn’s time were transplanted and used as parent stock to cultivate new trees for the new rose garden. (Museum Annual Report 1977: 5)
The rose garden was completed in time for the 1 December 1978 opening of Mayville to the public with the assistance of a special grant from the Cape Provincial Administration (Museum Annual Report 1978: 5).
In 1981, four garden benches were installed in the rose garden. These were made from two pairs of original 1843 cast iron bench ends and two pairs cast from the originals. (Museum Annual Report 1981: 18)

FAGAN (1988:111), in her book 'Roses at the Cape of Good Hope' reminisces:
My first meeting with the 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' took place one evening at dusk when i was walking in the garden of the late Miss Nita Steyn of Swellendam. This well-loved old lady had bequeathed her home Mayville to the Drostdy Museum and had stipulated in her will that a rose garden in memory of herself and her sister Nina should always be maintained in a corner of the property. I was turning over ideas for this memorial garden (which I had been asked to design), when I was astonished to see, glimmering in the failing light, a large flat bloom the size of a saucer on one of Miss Nita's few remaining old rose bushes. When I bent down for a closer look I was met with the most delicious fragrance of any rose I had ever experienced. The following morning, when sunlight revealed the silky, light-pink petals beautifully folded layer upon layer into a perfect large rosette, I too became enamored of this old Cape favorite, and immediately resolved to include a few plants in the memorial garden.
'In the same garden i have also planted the climbing variety, which was introduced by Bennet fifty years after its parent. ...

Of roses in Swellendam FAGAN (1988:16) has this to say:
In Swellendam too, there were admirers of the Moss rose. Miss Rothman, in writing of old roses there, noted that the pink and white Moss roses were considered to be rarities and not planted on the same scale as the 'Old Cape Roses' or the Tea Roses.

These notes were last edited on 2022 06 13

Writings about this entry

Fagan, Gwen. 1988. Roses at the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town: Breestraat. pg 111, 265