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Swellendam, Western Cape

GABRIËL FAGAN ARCHITECTS: Restoration Architect 1976
Gwendoline Elizabeth (Gwen) FAGAN: Landscape Architect 1976

Date:1734 : 1769 : 1976
Client:Widow Botha
Style:Cape Dutch : Cape Vernacular
Status:Extant but relocated
Street:32 Swellengrebel Street


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34°01'07.39" S 20°27'09.24" E Alt: 146m

On the Drostdy grounds now stands a fine T-shaped homestead, in use as a restaurant, which is a reconstruction of one of the finest houses in the district, Zanddrift, which stood near Ashton. The story of this farm begins with a tradition, and this tradition seems to agree with ascertainable facts. The house is said to have been built by a certain Widow Botha, who had two daughters (and later a son) by her second husband. (Fransen, 2004:456)

The FAGANS were approached by the then curator to advise on the feasibility of relocating the building, when the family could no longer afford its maintenance.
FAGAN (1988:124) records:
... we walked through the dimly lit rooms, admiring the solid stinkwood and yellowwood doors and shuttered windows, the fine ceilings and wall cupboards, and marveled at the thick clay walls ... .

Purely on grounds of style, the house can be dated to the third quarter of the 18th century; circumstances point to c1768 as the probable building date, although part of the front may be slightly older. In those days it was customary for women to sign legal documents with their maiden names. This custom persisted until killed by the German-English influence of Victoria's reign, and in the Cape was sometimes used as late as c1850. It is therefore no surprise to find that Zanddrift was a loan-farm held by Elsje Botha, eighth child of Jacobus Botha, widow of Jan Harmansz Potgieter, and later wife of Daniel Lombard, by whom she had two daughters and a son.
The adjoining farm Jan Harmansgat was at that time held on loan by Jacobus Botha, who by 1768 would have been fifty years old (possibly more) and may have employed Jan Harmansz Potgieter to help him. Botha also held Zanddrift on loan, but in 1769 relinquished it in favour of his daughter Elsje. We may well assume that the house was already built [FAGAN (1988:124) records that in fact Elsje extended the house by adding the 'T' leg, built by herself with the assistance of two slaves and her daughters] a year was none too long for a request for such a transfer to reach the Cape from so remote a place and for a reply to be received. Elsje Botha did not get on with her second husband, and the pair separated. But she and her many children prospered on Zanddrift, for she is recorded as having held other loan-farms too.
The house, built on a T-shaped plan, has at some time been added to while retaining the T-shape. One front wing is longer than the other, while behind the kitchen an extra room has been built on. There is no front-gable, though there are signs that there was once a dormer gable over the front door; the end-gables are straight and without mouldings. In several respects the house is one of the most authentic in the Cape. The windows in front, two double and two single casements with board-and-batten shutters, are certainly the originals. Inside there are some fine stinkwood and yellowwood doors, as well as some delightful and unusual small inlaid muurkassies [wall-cupboards]. There are typical Overberg sparretjiesolders [clayed-over lath ceilings], on fine moulded yellowwood beams. The use of coloured clay, peculiar to the district, is an interesting feature. The front door lock is of great interest and possibly as old as the house. In from there is an attractive stoep paved with stone.
It seems likely that a certain Bernardus Vrey described as a 'huistimmerman' [domestic carpenter], helped in the building of Zanddrift; descendants of his still live in the neighbourhood. The two wall-cupboards can hardly be ascribed to anyone else, and the doors too, unusually fine for this outlying area, should be his work. Vrey married Anna Margaretha Botha, a niece of Elsje's.
The fine homestead had been standing empty for many years and seemed destined to go to ruin, when the Drostdy Museum decided to dismantle it and transport it to Swellendam. Rebuilt on a site opposite the Drostdy, it is a very convincing reconstruction.[Fransen, 2004:456]

The building was demolished and reconstructed behind the Drostdy Museum.

FAGAN (1988:124) records that:
When the Zanddrift homestead was eventually demolished and rebuilt ... daughter plants of the old 'Céline Forestier' together with a hedge of Monthly roses were planted in the front garden to give visitors a glimpse of the rose fashion of the mid-19th century.
... the oldest ['Céline Forestier'] tree I know is the one that Susan Marquard planted at Zanddrift in 1876 which still produces flowers as beautiful as it did over one hundred years ago.

These notes were last edited on 2022 06 14

Writings about this entry

Fagan, Gwen. 1988. Roses at the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town: Breestraat. pg 124-125
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 456
Swellendam Heritage Association. 2018. Treasures of Swellendam. Swellendam: Swellendam Heritage Association. pg 16