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Drostdy Museum Complex - Zanddrift
Swellendam, Western Cape

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

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

 


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

Part of the Drostdy Museum Complex.

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 in 1974, it was completed in 1976.

The Reconstruction
From the outset it was decided that the project would be an exercise in authenticity. Consequently the building was approached as a historical relic and each stage of the project was studied and documented. While the building was still in situ a complete photographic record was made, detailed measurements were taken and all the woodwork was coded. Interior and exterior plaster was removed, and the sequence of construction and alteration was worked out. This documentation is now housed in the Archives of the Conservation Building.
Zanddrift had been constructed on a slate-and-clay foundation, but the reconstruction allowed for a metre-deep concrete foundation to be laid first. A damp course separates it and the traditional one and this has proved most advantage in controlling rising damp in the clay walls.
The walls are clay and were done in the fashion of mud filled timber shuttering. The original material for the walls was transported from the original site to the museum and re-trodden before it was re-used. The walls were surfaced with a mixture of clay, earth and dung and coated with traditional white lime wash.
The original doors, windows, beams, lintels and sills were retained wherever possible and installed back in their original positions. Replicas were made of all metal work. The garden was kept the same and cuttings of the original plants were made and used.It served as the administrative centre for the museum for several years and in 1987 was converted into a restaurant. It served as the administrative centre for the museum for several years and in 1987 was converted into a restaurant.
By reconstructing Zanddrift the museum achieved that:
the building was saved from inevitable ruin the building now functions and serves as an exhibition piece in its own right. The building provides additional accommodation for the museum and it can be used for whatever the need may be. (Edited from Drostdy Museum website)

The Garden
The front garden was recreated by Dr Gwen FAGAN after the fashion of an English informal cottage style containing plant material collected from the original garden and neighbouring farms where Zanddrift had originally been located. One of the Botha descendants, Jacobus van Zyl had married a Marquard daughter Susan who had grown up in the elegant Vicorian society of Sea Point and brought with her these gardening sensibilities in creating the Zanddrift garden. FAGAN (1988:124) records that:
When the Zanddrift homestead was eventually demolished and rebuilt ... daughter plants of the old 'Céline Forestier' [rose] 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.

Fagan recalls that the presence of these roses brings to mind
... thoughts of the many women who had each in their own way helped to shape this family home; women with intrepid courage and the will to create for their families a safe environment of order and beauty ...


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