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Notes on the Geography of South Africa: Swellendam 3: Community Buildings

Here are some of the town's churches and a school.

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South Africa: Swellendam 3: Community Buildings picture 1

The town's much-photographed Dutch Reformed Church is late, completed in 1911 on the site of an older church, of which the only survival is the small gate at the lower right. Critics have taken the building to task as more suited to a town hall than a church.

South Africa: Swellendam 3: Community Buildings picture 2

The interior is a square with elegantly curved pews. Getting in most days requires the equivalent of an act of congress.

South Africa: Swellendam 3: Community Buildings picture 3

It didn't take long after the takeover of the Cape by the British for them to start dying.

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The Oefeningshuis, from 1838, was built to to "instruct the heathen and convert them." The upper clock, in plaster, is immovable and shows the time of service.

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A more churchly church, St Luke's, also on Voortrek St. The oldest church in town, it was built in 1865 as a mission church, that is, a church for blacks. It served as such until the infamous Group Areas Act forced the removal in the 1960s of Swellendam's black population to Railton, literally across the tracks. The church was then deconsecrated.

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Still, it is being scrupulously maintained.

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Well-laid thatch is waterproof and needs no underlayer.

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English residents attended Christ Church, built in 1913 to replace an older church. The street was widened in the 1960s, squeezing the church.

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The nave.

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The church relied on donations from the Barry family.

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The view at this point is pretty grim.

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A co-educational public school opened in 1906 with just a hint of a Dutch gable.

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This was Utopia, the school hostel; bay windows mark the rooms that housed teachers. It's since been converted to apartments.

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Nostalgia at work.

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The train station, proudly modern but no longer offering passenger service.


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