Swellendam was initially established as a trading post by the Dutch East India Company and declared a magisterial district in 1743. It is the third oldest town in South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) and named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel, the first Governor of the Cape actually born in the country. The nearby Breede River was navigable and so the town quickly became a significant trading area, with goods being transported up and down the river to Port Beaufort at the mouth, and from there to Cape Town or Europe.
The Drostdy in Swellendam was built in 1747 as the official residence for the Landdrost, the Chief Magistrate for the district. The building was sold in 1846 and in 1855 when it was bought by the Steyn family as a family residence. In 1939 the property was sold to the government to establish a museum, one of several buildings in the museum complex.
The Drostdy was originally a small, T-shaped building with a front gable and the main door in the cross-section of the T. The building was changed and enlarged several times during the 19C.
Inside the building is quite simple. The dining room is laid out with blue and white china on stinkwood furniture, and there is a kettle on the hob. The adjacent kitchen is laid out with implements which I remember from my childhood on the farm.
The beautiful furniture in the house is stinkwood and yellowwood, made in South Africa. All the furniture dates from the 18C.
The courtroom is at the front of the building.
Outside there are interesting details on the building, such as the shutter fastenings; the columns outside the front door, and the carving on a wooden post on a corner of the building – this was the post of the wine cellar. The roof is thatch, of course.
In the garden I found wild iris and waterlilies.
Behind the Drostdy is a stable block and a barn.
You may be interested in
A travel blog which includes Swellendam
Now and then views, including the Drostdy
Lu-Gerda de Klerk
My husband an I visited the museum in 2013. We enjoyed it. He loved the maps in the hall.