“ Address: Erfurthuis Ryneveldstreet 37 / Stellenbosch 7600 / South Africa „
The Village Museum in the South African Cape Winelands town of Stellenbosch was one of my highlights of a morning spent in this pretty, historic town. The museum has four historic houses from different periods of history which show how the people lived in the day. Each house is attended by a different 'guide' in traditional costume. They will tell you a little about the origins of the house and answer any questions. There is a small gift shop and information area where you purchase your ticket and access the first two houses. This is based on Ryneveld Street.
The first house I came to was the oldest, known as the Schreuderhuis, as I believe that was the name of the family that lived here. It dates from circa 1709 and is decorated in a typical style of that era. The main room (and the most interesting room for me) was the kitchen area with its large fireplace and living area. There are lots of herbs drying and a ladder to the loft where they kept the coffins, according to the guide. Fortunately she elaborated further and explained that due to the heat bodies had to be buried quickly, so they kept the coffins ready. Until needed dried herbs would be kept in them. There are other rooms you see here, such as a bedroom, but these didn't seem to have the character of the kitchen. I could imagine a family all sitting round the large wooden table eating a humble meal. This was a warm, inviting yet simple home which did not have the opulence of the other homes you can visit here.
Just across the courtyard is the next house, known as the Blettermanhuis, owned by a magistrate of the same name and was built in 1789, and is decorated in mid-late eighteenth century style. At the time such a family would have kept slaves and there is a small exhibition talking about this and the slave trade in South Africa which I found very informative. As a house, it was a little bit more sophisticated that the first one, but the family were wealthier and times had moved on.
The third house is just around the corner from here and again you are welcomed by a guide who gives you a bit of info. I found the guides varied in how much they told you at the beginning, but were happy to answer any questions. The third house - Grosvenor House) was originally built before the Blettermanhuis but was adapted in the early nineteenth century, to how it looks now (décor based on a typical 1800-1830 merchant's home). It was given the name to sound more English. Upstairs you will find more information on slavery in the region and a timeline. Slavery was finally abolished toward the end of the period this home is set in. There is also a unique upright piano here, one of very few that survive today.
The final house is opposite and is known as the Bergh House and is considered to be an example of a mid-nineteenth century house. It was a larger house but without a slavery exhibition in it, you just viewed the house, so I spent less time here than in Grosvenor House. The children's bedroom with toys (such as an ark) was a highlight, as was the dining room with the desert oasis table centre-piece.
At R25 (£2.20/US$3.30) admission this is a very reasonably priced attraction that can appeal to all ages. I would allow at least an hour, ideally more if you want to take in all the information about slavery, as well as browsing the houses.
09:30 - 17:00 Monday - Saturday
14:00 - 17:00 Sunday
Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch