19th century home for sale
Klippe Rivier, the historic Cape Dutch homestead described by Cosmo de Bosdari in his classic work “Cape Dutch Houses and Farms” as probably the largest and most attractive of the Swellendam homesteads, has come on the market
KNOWN as the historic heart of the Overberg, Swellendam is situated halfway between Cape Town and George. After Cape Town and Stellenbosch, Swellendam is the third oldest settlement in SA. Founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1745, Swellendam lies at the foot of the beautiful Langeberg Mountains and was named after the governor of the Cape and his wife, Hendrik Swellengrebel and Helena Ten Damme. In time, a village was established opposite the Drostdy, across the Koornlands River, where artisans, including numerous wainwrights, and traders settled. To travellers and explorers, the services of these village folk were indispensable, as Swellendam was the last outpost of civilisation on the eastern frontier.
By the middle of the 19th century, the eastern districts had been colonised by British settlers and Swellendam was thriving.
It is in this town that is known for its youngberries, historic architecture and as a great getaway destination, that the guest house, Klippe Rivier, is situated. The homestead is situated at the southern end of the town, 2,2km off the R60 Swellendam-Ashton road, is a fine example of Cape Dutch architecture, was built around 1820 to 1825.
Cape Dutch architecture is a blend of elements of European architecture that were popular at the time that the Dutch East India Company arrived in the Cape in 1652, which were adapted to suit the local climate and terrain.
The large rooms and the unusual shapes of the homesteads are what make Cape Dutch homesteads so unique. It is said that the size of the rooms can be directly related to the temperate climate; large rooms were cooler. It is also believed that the early Dutch settlers were unused to such large plots of land compared to Europe, and so made the most of the newly found space by building large houses. These houses were constructed in the form of a T-plan, Uplan or H-plan. Klippe Rivier is a classic example of the H-plan.
The most impressive feature of the Cape Dutch homestead is, undoubtedly, the ornamental gable. In the case of Klippe Rivier, the gable design is attributed to LouisMichel Thibault, who studied at the l’Acedemie Royale d’Architecture in Paris, and is considered to be one of the foremost architects in the Cape in the late 1700s.
The thatched Cape Dutch homesteads were designed to last, with walls built with layered clay or clay bricks designed to keep the
The home has had a succession of owners, many of whom were well-known Cape personalities
houses cool in summer, and warm in winter. The floors in the Cape Dutch Homesteads were generally of polished wood, and Klippe Rivier retains the original yellowwood flooring and ceilings, which is quite unique. External doors were panelled in the best wood, as panelling was considered to be a sign of wealth and splendour. In the case of Klippe Rivier, the highest standards were realised, and the homestead became the family home of past-Presidents Steyn and Reitz of the Free State Republic.
The typical outhouses for Cape Dutch homesteads were barns and stables, and in the case of Klippe Rivier, these have been converted into six luxury guest suites, preserving the ambience of a bygone era. The current owner of Klippe Rivier, Liz WestbyNunn, has personally decorated the interiors with her impressive collection of Cape antiques, coupled with a fine selection of paintings. The interiors have a definite “English country house meets Africa” ambience which works beautifully with the architecture.
The home has had a succession of owners, many of whom were well-known Cape personalities. From 1904 to 1914 it was owned by Alfred John Baary, a member of the illustrious trading and banking family that served this area so well. Denys Reitz, author of “Command” and a cabinet minister in Smuts’ governance carved his name on a window frame in 1891 and Olive Schreiner, the novelist, was one of the famous guests to stay there.
In 1990, the Westby-Nunns, founders of Portfolio of Country Places and related hospitality publications, bought the property and spent two years restoring and furnishing it with their eclectic collection which has pieces from Cape Dutch, Victorian, Colonial and Art Deco periods. They then opened it as a guesthouse and it very soon qualified for five stars.
Both the home and the garden, says Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank who are handling the sale, are in pristine condition — and guests have always, she says, testified that this country house is among the most gracious and relaxing of all the Cape’s best known rural retreats.
All the furniture will be included in the sale. Price: R25m Contact: Anne Porter Knight Frank Lanice Steward 021 671 9120