The Heemkring is a local society concerned with Stellenbosch’s heritage. They host a presentation every two months and last night I attended to listen to the archeologist Hennie Vos about excavations made at the Stellenbosch Theological seminary.
Thanks to the wonderful ooms and tannies there were plenty of tea and cake afterwards.
The origin of Drostdy street
The Eerste River once had a streamlet running past the Drostdy – therefore the residents had to cross a bridge to reach the front door. In front of the Drostdy there was a square called the ‘planted square’.
This square later became Drostdy Street.
The first drostdy was built in 1687, which makes it one of the oldest developed pieces of land in the Western Cape. This was also the seat of local management and justice, at one stage for the whole of the country’s interior.
The original building
Unfortunately few early floor plans were drawn, but from paintings and old photographs we can surmise that the drostdy was rebuilt and altered quite a few times. It later became the home of the theologians Hofmeyer and Murray, and their families.
Some of the old documents and photos relating to the drostdy’s history is now exhibited in a small museum exhibition on the upper floor of the Kweekskool. The first drostdy was three stories high. By 1707 the river had carved away at the foundations of the drostdy to such an extent that the whole building started to sink in.
The artifacts that Vos found came from the time of the landdroste (1700s) and from the period of the theological seminary (after the 1850s).
Among the items that were found were:
Oyster and mussel shells, pipe stems, a lot of Chinese porcelain as well as some very rare Japanese porcelain, a fish hook, a rusty lock, medicine bottles, needlework tools from London
It is interesting that many of the artifacts are Eastern in origin, something that Mr Vos explores in his work. Many of the slaves came from countries such as Jakarta, Java, Bali, Timor and the Malay peninsula. The Cape of Good Hope was truly a cosmopolitan melting pot of Eastern, European and African cultures.
Interesting items that were found:
- Ds Murray was apparently fond of writing, as seen in the numerous ink pots discovered below the drostdy. A number of slate pencils were also found, (a “lei” and “griffle” was used before pencil and paper). The area along the outer wall (at the back of the kweek), seems to have been the garbage piles of the Hofmeyer and Murray families.
- A pipe stem presumably belonging to Ds Murray was found, complete with the name of a Glasgow brand on it. The Murray brothers came from Scotland.
- A large number of ceramic bowls were found. These could have been the tableware of the workers/servants/slaves, who often came from the East and was fond of eating rice.
Did you know: The wife of the landdros was known to have carried a watch as well as the house keys – she was the ‘manager of the house’ and had to make sure everything ran smoothly.