|DROSTDY MUSEUM, SWELLENDAM
|Phone:||+27 (0)28 514 1138
|Fax:||+27 (0)28 514 2675|
|Address:||18 Swellengrebel Street, Swellendam, 6740|
The Drostdy was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost. Soon after a gaol, a house for the secretary, a mill and various outbuildings were erected.
The first Landdrost to be appointed to this district was Johannes Theophilus Rhenius and he was assisted by a board of burger heemraden and subordinates like secretary and a gaoler as well as many slaves. From 1827 the Drostdy was occupied by the civil commissioner who, with the resident magistrate, replaced the board of Landdrost and heemraden when they were abolished by the British colonial government.
In 1846 the government sold the Drostdy and the property was subdivided. In 1855 the former Drostdy was bought by the Steyn family and it remained in the hands of this family until 1939 when it was bought by the government of the Union of South Africa for the purpose of establishing a museum.
This is essentially a Cape Dutch building, except it no longer has the facade gable. The original Drostdy was a small T-shaped building with a front gable. Between 1812 and 1825 the Drostdy was extensively renovated and enlarged to almost twice its original size.
The present plan of the building, based on an H-plan, is unusual in that the main entrance was not retained in the centre of the transverse wing, but moved to the middle section between the two wings when the building was enlarged.The Drostdy now looks as it did in 1844 and has a thatched roof which is merely raised in a gentle curve above the front door to allow the inclusion of a dormer window to light the loft.
The Drostdy was built using clay and unbaked brick in earth mortar. In later additions stone, or a mixture of stone and soft-burnt brick, was used. This produced the thick walls, that were then plastered with clay or lime mortar and was regularly whitewashed.
Nearly all the timber used in the construction of the building is yellow-wood. These trees grew abundantly in the indigenous forests in this district and Knysna. This wood is not a durable wood and it had to be protected with several layers of paint. The customary colour at the Cape and throughout the colonial world was dark green.
An interesting feature of the Drostdy is the painted lime-plaster floor in the parlour, made to imitate tiles or marble. The interior walls were painted with a tinted lime wash.
The wine-cellar was the last major addition made to the Drostdy while it was still an official building and is the only section with decorative plaster-work.
The Drostdy was the most important building in the town for many years.