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Notes on the Geography of South Africa: Swellendam 2: Museums

Swellendam has a splendid historical museum.

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The Drostdy, which served as the home plus offices and court of the Landdrost, was begun in 1746, one year after the Colonie in de Vergeleegene Districten (the far-off districts) was proclaimed. Timbers came from the Langeberg, the mountain behind the town. Originally the house had a T-shaped floor plan, but it was enlarged in 1813 to form an H. Perched on the frontier, the Drostdy was "a landmark in the history of South Africa. Hardly any event of importance passed it by. Moreover, it was a rendezvous for the travellers and governors on their journeys to the far east..." (Oberholster, The Historical Monuments of South Africa, 1972, p. 114). The building was sold in 1855 to raise money, and it remained private until 1939. Perhaps the building looks fine as is, but it originally had a front gable, lost during the period of private ownership.

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Inside, a fine old cabinet organ.

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Safe.

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It was opened with three keys, each held by a different person.

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When it came to fine cabinetry, these people knew how it was done.

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Wonder what they'll say on Antiques Road Show.

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Martha has nothing on these people.

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Don't waste your time guessing; it's a sausage maker.

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Across the street, there's another part of the museum, the Old Gaol. It dates from 1828.

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There's a courtyard behind with (in the shaded doorway) a pitch-black cell for recalcitrants. Apparently it was used for non-compliant Boer wives, too.

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View from behind of the Ambagswerf or trades' yard.

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Various shops are here, including tools for metalwork.

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Carpentry.

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Carpentry.

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Cobbler's lasts.

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Smithing.

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Tinsmithing.

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A re-created grist mill.

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It works.

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The museum extends to a nearby house reached through this backyard path.

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And past this perfect bit of thatching.

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Could anything be neater?

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The house in question.

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Stove.

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Globalization even then.

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And more.

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The ensemble. Can you date it? Surprise: it was purchased in 1930.

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No Jacuzzi.

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Beautiful joinery.


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