Meerlust

6 May 2021

Article by Artefacts.co.za

The earliest deeds for Meerlust are signed by Simon van der Stel and dated 1693. These lands extended much further than the present farm, and there were grazing rights as far afield as Saldanha Bay. The original T-shaped house of plastered stone was built by Henning Hüsing, an illiterate German stockman, whose wheelings and dealings in sheep and cattle with the Dutch East India Company earned for him the possible distinction of becoming South Africa’s first millionaire.

Hüsing was one of the settlers instrumental in precipitating the Burghers’ uprising against Willem Adriaan van der Stel, and for this he was banished to his homeland. However, when, in turn, van der Stel was sent back to Netherllands in disgrace, Hüsing returned to the Cape and to Meerlust.

After Hüsing’s death in 1713, lands changed from owner to owner until 1757, when Meerlust became the property of Johannes Albertus Mijburg, remaining in the family to this day, Meerlust is the oldest surviving grand farmhouse in the Stellenbosch district. The gabled facade was added in 1776, when the house was enlarged to an H-plan. Much of the original teak woodwork remains, and the front door is especially beautiful with its brass door handle and escutcheon plate, dated with the year of the embellishment of the homestead. As authentic as the exterior, the interior has all its woodwork intact, including an unusual staircase and a pair of elegant muurkaste, Meerlust is a truly outstanding example of a Cape Dutch homestead. At the rear of the homestead the outhouses of the werf stand in a row, which is usual arrangement. Each building is of great interest. Most famous of all the Meerlust buildings is the gabled pigeon loft, a delightful small, double-storeyed structure with enclosed yards on either side, presumably for cock fighting. Also on the property are an interesting walled graveyard, a particularly beautiful slave bell and a sundial dated 1732.
(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 68-9)

Slave bell. Photo by Nicholas Clarke

Dovecot Photographer: Marieke Kuijpers – 2016

Front entrance Photographer: Nicholas Clarke – 2016

Oblique view from right Photographer: Roger Fisher – 2016

Front elevation Photographer: Nicholas Clarke – 2016

Plan, elevation and section of the bell tower at the Cape Dutch homestead of Meerlust, measured by L.R.F. Bustin and redrawn by E.G. Tucker for prof. Geoffrey Pearse’s book “Eighteenth Century Architecture in South Africa” – see page 44 for a description, and Plate 71 for the drawing. Plate 70 features a photograph of the bell tower and homestead by Arthur Elliot. Source: UP Space

Plan and elevations of the pigeon house at the Meerlust homestead. Measured by Rex Martienssen and drawn by John Fassler for prof. Geoffrey Pearse’s book “Eighteenth Century Architecture in South Africa” – see Plate 71 for the drawing, and pages 44-45 for a description. The hybrid gable appears to be a straight gable embellished with Baroque scrolls. Source: UP Space

Drawing, with details, of the wall cupboard and fireplace of the Meerlust homestead. Originally done by G. E. Pearse from measurements by John Fassler, the final version appears as Plate 23 on p. 94 of the 1960 edition of prof. Pearce’s book “Eighteenth Century Furniture in South Africa”. See also Fig. 116 for a photograph by Edrich, and p. 89 for a description of the wall cupboard. Source: UP Space

Built-in wall cupboard (sketch) Source: UP Space

Photograph depicting an armoire at Meerlust. The bottom part has canted corners and three bombé drawers (shaped in section). The moulded feet are linked by a shaped apron. The cornice is broken around the meeting stiles and splayed angle frames. It is the same piece described on p. 130, and shown in Fig. 160 on p. 134, of the 1960 edition of G. E. Pearse’s book “Eighteenth Century Furniture in South Africa”.
Source: UP Space
Photographer: Edrich

For further information on the measured drawings see Pearse Collection.

Writings about this entry

Cloete, Nini Bairnsfather & Fraser, Craig . 2016. Remarkable heritage houses of South Africa. Rondebosch: Quivertree Publications. pg 126-139
Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town – Calvinia – Colesberg – Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pg 225-228
Hartdegen, Paddy. 1988. Our building heritage : an illustrated history. South Africa: Ryll’s Pub. Co. on behalf of the National Development Fund for the Building Industry. pg 26
Hoefsloot, Ted (illustrations) & Pama, Cor (text). 1980. Cape Wine Homesteads. Johannesburg: AD Donker. pg 78 & 79 (ill)
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 68-69
Simons, Phillida Brooke. 2003. Meerlust ; 300 years of hospitality. Cape Town: Fernwood. pg All
Trotter, Alys Fane. 1928. Old Cape Colony. A chronicle of her men and houses from 1652 to 1806. London: Selwyn & Blount. pg 120, 121, 155-157
Trotter, Alys Fane. 1900. Old colonial houses of the Cape of Good Hope : illustrated and described. London: B. T. Batsford. pg 12-13, Plates XII, XIII

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