Richmond House, on the east face of Wesley Hill in Port Alfred, formerly known as Cock’s Castle, was built in the 1840s by William Cock.
Today it still nestles in thick coastal bush overlooking the Kowie River. The rather grand entrance boasts an old pillar post box.
The gate is flanked by two VOC cannons.
The boundary fence hints at some of the treasures within.
This brass door knocker marks the entrance to an interesting collection of VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) – Dutch East India Company – artifacts.
Such as a document box
And a tobacco jar
Some background information about this property can be found at http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/port-alfreds-historic-castle
Today is Ascension Day, one of the earliest Christian festivals, dating back to the year 68. It marks the end of the Easter season and is celebrated on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter Sunday because, according to Christian beliefs, Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after he rose from death before he ascended to heaven.
There was a time when Ascension Day was a public holiday in South Africa, but this fell away when the number of public holidays were rationalised to twelve – although the Public Holidays Act (Act No 36 of 1994) determines that whenever a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the Monday following on it shall be a public holiday!
The windows shown above are in the chapel of the Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown.
With it no longer being a public holiday, everyone has to go to work as usual in this country. I was interested to read, though, that according to Welsh superstition, it is unlucky to do any work on Ascension Day!
The average visitor to Grahamstown wouldn’t know of its existence, unless they had been taken there by a local resident. To tell visitors that the Bible Monument is just off Strowan Road wouldn’t be of much use either: for even if told to turn right at the T-Junction that comes off the N2, visitors could be forgiven for not seeing anything and being horrified to find themselves instead at the litter strewn approach to the municipal dump!
Yet, the Bible Monument isn’t small; merely that it is beautiful in its simplicity so that it blends easily into its semi-rural surroundings. The surrounding veld grass grows tall in season; the aloes bloom in season; birds perch on the sturdy walls; and doubtless little animals scurry around it in the dark and when no-one is about.
Few people visit it – not regularly anyway – so there is not even a dedicated road or well-trodden path leading to it: it is simply there. Yet, it is no ordinary monument; rather it is one that represents an extraordinary event. During April 1837, a group of trekkers under the leadership of Jacobus Uys encamped on the outskirts of Grahamstown, on their way to the interior. It was here that they were met by a party of British settlers from the town, who presented them with a Dutch Bible. This is why the monument has been built to represent an open Bible. It faces the direction towards which the trekkers departed, and marks the place where this exchange took place.
This exchange was, above all, about friendship. It was a gesture of friendship between two groups of people who were often in conflict in those turbulent times of our history.
Friendship, such an all-embracing word suggesting a relationship of mutual respect and affection between people. Perhaps it is because of its fairly remote location, or because the monument is so seldom visited, but fifty-five years after the erection of the monument, the brass plaques were stolen – probably to sell as scrap metal! The wall remained empty and faceless, rendering them meaningless to any casual observer.
Fortunately, replicas of these plaques were erected in April this year. They have been made from black granite sourced in Zimbabwe and etched using laser technology. Arranging this, and paying for it, was no simple task and required the goodwill of many individuals and organisations within the community of Grahamstown.
The actual Bible handed over all those years ago is now on display at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.
One cannot pass through Swellendam without admiring the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church that elegantly presides over the town. Situated on the corner of Church and Voortrekker Streets, the eclectic fusion of its architectural styles is striking.
This church, also known as the Moederkerk (Mother Church), sports Cape Dutch gables and Gothic windows mixed with an Eastern dome, Renaissance entrances, and a Baroque spire, along with a replica of a Belgium wooden tower.
There is so much to take in. Look at this detail on one of the gables.
It has a fascinating history too:
Coming across this porcelain wash basin and jug in the Prince Albert museum jogged my memory back to when I was about ten years old, visiting my Great Aunt Mary in Colesberg.
Even then it was like walking through a living museum for every bedroom was equipped not only with such basins and jugs, but there was a porcelain potty discreetly tucked under every bed! I swore blind that I could feel the ghosts around me and the creaking wooden floorboards during the night convinced me I was not far from wrong. How I wish I could own one of these now!
My Great-Granny Joan Donald lived in that house until she died at the age of almost 101. Her daughter, Mary, continued living there until her death in her eighties, after which some artifacts from her home ended up in the Colesberg museum where I saw them many years later.
Their family name lives on, for that house has been renovated completely and is now run as Donalds Guest House – looking very different from when I first visited it and yet still strangely familiar.
There was an intriguing sign outside the Calitzdorp post office:
It was so odd that I halted for a closer look:
This is what the sign announced:
Why would the post office be closed for that length of time?
It turned out that the sign did not actually relate to the closure of the post office, but to the small hair salon tucked behind the arch in the same building. The hairdresser found it amusing that so many people would pop in to ask why the post office would be closing!
I hope she gained a few more clients as a result.