It was overcast and damp when we set off along a narrow dirt road, travelling through a portion of Mpofu Game Reserve, to reach the fort at Post Retief, used during the 8th Frontier War of 1850 both as a base supplying the campaigns of the surrounding areas and as a hospital for the wounded. The road winding through the hills was very rough and muddy in places. It was comforting to be in a 4 x 4 vehicle with a high clearance!
This is no place for a history lesson, yet the remains of the barracks and the loop holed stone walls capped with a double pitch to make it difficult to climb over provide an interesting insight to the building materials and styles of 1836.
Post Retief Barracks was designed by Major Charles Selwyn of the Royal Engineers and constructed from local sandstone – which is notorious for its poor quality – as well as bricks made from the local clay.
The kingpost trusses clearly visible in the Cape Corps stables are typical of the construction by the Royal Engineers.
In one building, the stone lintel is actually bending as it is not thick enough – one needs to bear in mind that these buildings were not meant to last forever – compared with another which remains straight, thanks to the thickness of the stone used.
Next to the officers’ kitchen is the officers’ stables, still containing a fully boarded roof covered with zinc sheeting.
A large tree is now growing in what were the officers’ privies at the end of this row of buildings.
The narrow gate in the wall opposite the officers’ quarters – facing the Katberg Mountain – was used to draw water from the Koonap River below.