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Drostdy Museum Complex
Swellendam, Western Cape

Client:Drostdy Museum Trust


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34°01'05.52" S 20°27'10.98" E

Background and context

The Drostdy Museum Complex (DMC) comprises five sites, namely:

[See Appended consolidated Title Deeds, 1.1-1.5]

Six of these structures and their four (as consolidated) sites are previous National Monuments now, since 1999, Provincial Heritage Resources, namely:
The Drostdy,
The Gaol,
Administration Building
Mayville House,
[See Appended declarations 2.1-2.6]

The earliest portions of these structures date from the time of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and are directly related to the founding of Swellendam as a Drostdy in 1743 to serve as administrative and judicial centre to the Overberg up to the then far eastern frontier which stretched as far as Mossel Bay.

The structures are directly related to the founding and townscape of Swellendam and still form the heart of this heritage, lying now within the recently proclaimed Local Area Overlay Zone : Swellendam Conservation Area (Swellendam Municipal Scheme Integrated Zoning Plan Byelaw 4.6.1; 2020:165-167) deemed:
A heritage area for the protection of the historical and architectural character of the town.
[See Appendix 3]

Drostdy Museum Complex Conservation Management Plan

The Drostdy Museum Complex Conservation Management plan is available here for your scrutiny and comments in compliance with the requirements of Heritage Western Cape for public engagement.

Please advise here if you have accessed and scrutinised the documents even if you have no comment. This opportunity is available from the 5th October 2022 until Friday 4th November 2022.

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1 Background and context
2 Drostdy Museum Swellendam: Approach
3 Heritage Value, Assessment and Statement of significance
4 Buildings, structures and elements
5 Collections
6 Oral History
7 Drostdy Museum staff interviews
8 Recommendations
9 Specialist Heritage Contributors; 10 Acknowledgements; 11 List of Annexures

Annexure A Timeline of the Overberg in the vicinity of Swellendam with particular reference to the Drostdy Museum Complex
Annexure B Consolidated Title Deeds
Annexure C Declarations
Annexure D Heritage Area Overlay
Annexure E Constitution of the Friends of the Drostdy Museum
Annexure F Drostdy Museum Conservation Management Plan Phase One: Site History
Annexure G Drostdy Museum Conservation Management Plan Phase Two: Identification and Assessment
Annexure H Drostdy Museum Conservation Management Plan Phase Three: Inventory
Annexure I List of Building Structures of the Drostdy Museum Complex
Annexure J Maintenance Procedure
Annexure K Maintenance Method
Annexure L Inspection
Annexure M Data Sheets (Example)

A hard copy of the DMC CMP is deposited with the Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu Public Library, Station Street, Swellendam.


The district of Swellendam, created in 1743, was the third one to be established by the Dutch colonists at the Cape (the first two being the Cape and Stellenbosch). Within four years a Drostdy had been built for its Landdrost. For the next century this building was a frontier seat of justice as well as the Landdrost's residence. During this time a cluster of official buildings developed around the Drostdy. Most of these have survived and they now form the major part of the Drostdy Museum complex. In the middle of the 19th century the Drostdy became the private home of the Steyn family, which it remained until it became a museum in 1939.
The most important feature of the museum, however, is the magnificent group of historical buildings which houses it: one of the finest architectural complexes in South Africa. It includes: the Drostdy with its cellar and barns; the old Gaol with its enclosed courtyard; the houses of the Landdrost's secretary, of the Bailiff and of the Gaoler; 'MayVille', a mid-19th-century town house; and 'Zanddrift', a mid-18th-century farmstead moved to its present site from the Drew area when threatened with demolition in 1976. Since the early 1970's the complex has also included a Crafts Green , conceived by the previous Curator, Dr Mary A COOK, to display traditional crafts. The Green is surrounded by a srnithy, a waggon-maker's workshop, brass and copper-smith's workshop, a cooperage, a shoemaker's workshop, a charcoal kiln and a threshing-floor. The convincing, living atmosphere of the museum is enhanced by the actual functioning of a watermill, whose stone-ground flour is available to the visitors, and by the horses and cattle which browse in the extensive grounds and contribute to the pastoral air of the place.
An outstanding collection of local cultural history material was assembled by a Swellendam businessman, Mr Lance Tomlinson, who acted as honorary curator for the first twenty years after the museum's opening in 1943. … Most of the rooms in the Drostdy building are furnished much like they must have been at the beginning of the 19th century. In addition, there are impressive collections of domestic utensils, farm implements and vehicles, tools and weapons; of old costumes; of pictorial material relating to the area (including five magnificent Bowler watercolours, done for the Overberg trading firm of Barry and Nephews, of their settlements in Swellendam and the inland port of Malgas nearby).
… An auditorium was completed in 1977. Research undertaken includes the rich and varied social history of the local community and a study of its buildings.
(Fransen 1978:98-100).

Writings about this entry

Fransen, Hans. 1978. Guide to the Museums of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Galvin & Sales (Pty) Ltd, for the Southern African Museums Association. pg 98-100
Naudé-Moseley, Brent & Moseley, Steve . 2009. Route 62 and Overberg [Getaway Guide]. Cape Town: Sunbird. pg 206-207, 211-212
Schoeman, Chris . 2017. Historical Overberg, The. Cape Town: Zebra Press. pg 52-55
Thomas, Beverley, van Hemert, Marena & Cochrane, Colin . 1997. The Drostdy Museum : Guide Book. Swellendam: Drostdy Museum. pg All