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Klapmuts district, Western Cape

John Stockwin CLELAND: Restoration Architect
Rangton van BALI: Artisan 1700s

Date:1700s : 1915
Style:Cape Dutch


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33°50'52.21" S 18°50'11.95" E

Sometimes also spelt Elsenberg.

Near Klapmuts is the farm of Elsenburg, named after Samuel Elsevier, second-in-command to Governor Simon van der Stel (Wikipedia). However, Secunde Elsevier was one of the officials banished to the Netherlands along with Willem Adriaan van der Stel (Wikipedia). 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 (Wikitree) 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. The original door might very well have been the work of a slave called Rangton van BALI. 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 although its brassware was faithfully replicated.

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. 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 which adorned the chimney of the fireplace in the agterkamer. This was rescued during the fire that razed the thatched roof of the manor house in 1915. The roof was replaced during restoration by Cleland of Public Works by a red tile roof. The inlaid panel was then relocated in the chimney breast of the voorkamer, when the porte visite located between the gallery and the voorkamer was removed.

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.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 68)

For further information on the measured drawings see Pearse Collection.

Writings about this entry

De Bosdari, C. 1953. Cape Dutch Houses and Farms, their architecture and history. Cape Town / Amsterdam: AA Balkema. pg 68-69
Fairbridge, Dorothea. 1922. Historic houses of South Africa. London: Oxford University Press. pg 125, 180 ill
Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pg 207-209
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
Serfontein, Jozua (Redakteur) . 1986. Elsenburg. [Stellenbosch]: [Serfontein]. pg 20-27
Trotter, Alys Fane. 1928. Old Cape Colony. A chronicle of her men and houses from 1652 to 1806. London: Selwyn & Blount. pg 151, 287
Trotter, Alys Fane. 1900. Old colonial houses of the Cape of Good Hope : illustrated and described. London: B. T. Batsford. pg 10, Plate IV (bottom)
Walton, James. 1974. Water-mills windmills and horse-mills of South Africa. Cape Town and Johannesburg: C Struik Publishers. pg 38-39