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Huguenot Memorial Museum
Franschhoek, Western Cape

Brian George Lewis MANSERGH: Architect



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33°54'49.42" S 19°07'28.29" E Alt: 287m

A partial reconstruction of the original Saasveld.

From Cape Town mansion to Huguenot museum at Franschhoek.

Edited from the English summary in Lantern, June 1959, p. 343.

Saasveld is the first time in South Africa's history that an attempt was made to reconstruct a house in its original condition but in new surroundings, a house that has already been demolished.

Some thirty documents exist in the Cape Archives recording the history of this house.

In 1743 Pieter van Reede van Oudtshoorn, senior merchant and fiscal, received a piece of land from Governor Swellengrebel; it lies near what is now Kloof Street, Cape Town. Pieter called it 'De Tuin van Oudtshoorn'. Later he acquired plots, making in all an area of six morgen and 85 square meters.

In 1766, before leaving for the Netherlands, he sold the land.

In 1755 a son, Willem Ferdinand, had been born to Pieter's wife in Cape Town, and in 1791 this son bought back a piece of the land.

A strong personality, Willem Ferdinand described by Lady Anne Barnard: 'I know of no greater superiority at the Cape one person has over another, except the Baron van Oudtshoorn, who is a bold Baron of Seven Tails,' likening him thus to an important Turkish pasha.

About 1791 Willem Ferdinand built a Town house and outbuildings on his land, which he called Saasveld, a name taken from Saasveld Castle, in the eastern Netherlands, in the possession of the Van Reedes from the 14th century.

The style of Saasveld shows THIBAULT to have been the architect. Thibault's father-in-law and the father of Willem Ferdinand's first wife were brothers, so Thibault and the baron were cousins by marriage.

Saasveld was much ornamented, with garlands over the windows of the house and over the stable doors. Other ornamentations existed too, apparently designed by Thibault and executed by Anton ANREITH. It was one of the finest mansions ever built at the Cape.

After the baron's death in 1822 the estate passed to his son-in-law; the land was later divided and the portions sold.

Eventually, the portion with the house and wine cellars was bought by the Dutch Reformed Church, in 1913, which demolished the cellars and built in their places a house of some storeys attached to the old dwelling. This was used as a hostel for girls and later a private hotel. In 1954 the old dwelling with the private hotel attached was demolished. Dr DP de Villiers tried to collect money to buy the two plots near Saasveld and exchange them for it with the church, but failed. Professor Bax had already obtained permission to remove portions of the dwelling for use in a reconstruction.

A committee was then formed by Dr Mary COOK, Mr LA Steens, Mr Brian Mansergh, Professor Bokhorst, and Professor Bax. Professor Pryce-Lewis and his students had meanwhile measured and drawn the entire building, and during the demolition the committee was able to determine how many of the original parts had looked. Photographs were taken and parts preserved.

In the following years Dr Cook, Mr MANSERGH, and Professor Bax were able to ascertain how the group of dwelling, wine cellars, and coach house had looked.

In 1957 the committee approached the Huguenot Association, with Mr MA Smuts as chairman. The association wished to build a museum at Franschhoek, to tell the history of the Huguenots from 1688 to about 1725.

Saasveld and its outbuildings would be ideal for such a museum. The numerous small rooms and the great hall are suited for intimate exhibitions. The committee's proposal to rebuild Saasveld as a Huguenot Museum was acceptable to the association.

Mr Gideon Hugo, of La Provence, had given land for the purpose, and the Huguenot movement, under Dr de Villiers, had delegated the collection of funds to the Huguenot Foundation, under the chairmanship of Mr CH Brink, of Cape Town.

The [then] four provinces and South West Africa [now Namibia] promised support, as well as donations sought through public subscription.

Visit the Museum website.

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 46-47
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 31