Stoep Stories No 3

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Saturday, 3rd May 2014


Published by the Graaff-Reinet Heritage Society  December 1998


THE OLD HOUSES OF GRAAFF-REINET – 44 Somerset Street – Erf 1235 by Marj Noel

In the early 1800`s it took a while to obtain registration of a property transfer, documentation was accumulated and then sent en masse to Cape Town for the formalities to be completed. Consequently a number of the original grants all bore the same date of registration. This applied also to the registration of Erf No 6 into the name of Ferdinand Hartzenberg, the date being 9 September 1818. He had an additional problem: the grant had been made in error to “Fredrik” Hartzenberg and Ferdinand had to ask Stockenstrom Jnr for a sworn statement as to his real name in order to get eventual transfer. The Erf was large, over 450 square roods and, being a “watererf” (that is, with the right to draw water from the communal furrow) Hartzenberg, like all burghers at that time probably established a garden and, of course, a vineyard, at once!

In 1851, Hartzenberg`s widow, Cecelia (born Coetzee), sold 228 square roods of the Erf to the widow of HF Papenfus, Catherina (born Boshoff) Her portion was an empty piece of ground: in 1852 she sold half of it and remained on the other half. She seems to have undertaken the construction of most, if not all, the existing old buildings on Erf 1235. When she sold the property in 1857, the transfer deed clearly states Erf with Buildings thereon”.

During the last part of the 1800`s the property went from the possession of the widow Papenfus to van Blommenstein, to Isabella Ross (minor) – it sounds as if there could be a story there – to John Luscombe and then to the Therons. They owned and farmed “Vreede”in the Camdeboo; they probably used 44 Somerset Street as a “tuishuis”, that is, a house in town to serve as a residence when attending “nagmaal” or for other purposes which made an overnight stay essential. The custom of a “tuishuis”, because of the ready availability and efficiency of modern transport, has largely died out although a number of properties still remain in the hands of distant farmers.

In the 20th century the property went from the Therons to Wagner, then to Johanna Olivier (born Brummer) to Alfred Luscombe, to Spingies and to Brenda Horwitz in 1983. She sold to the next owner Mrs Beth Minnaar who then sold to Lily Stroobach. The house today has a basic Karoo or Graaff-Reinet appearance, front door in the middle flanked by two shuttered windows, but a Victorian veranda ornamented wirh wooden “broekies” lacework has been added. An unusual feature is the cast iron railing with encloses the lower part of the veranda.