The museums in Graaff Reinet are in significant Cape Dutch buildings and so I urge you to spend time exploring them and understanding the town’s history. There are several museums: Reinet House, Urquhart House (including the Military Museum), the Old Residency, and the Old Library, and there are also two Art Museums – the Hester Rupert Art Museum and the Jan Rupert Centre.
Reinet House was built as the Vicarage of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1812 and has famous double stairway at the back of the house. Inside it is filled with beautiful stinkwood and yellowwood furniture, and down below the cellars are packed with exhibits. In the yard the functioning Mill and a Wagon House are contemporary buildings, dating to the 1970s, but built in style.
Urquhart House was built between 1806-21. It became the Midland Hotel (with an additional wing) and c.1878 (below) probably was close to the original building. It was later modernised into a Victorian style and by 1988 (below) was unrecognisable. Restoration returned the building to its original appearance. The house is named after Herbert Urquhart MBE (1867-1943), who was born in Kensington, UK, and became Graaff Reinet’s longest serving Mayor.
The Old Residency dates from c.1820 and houses two interesting collections: the William Roe Photography Exhibition and guns from the Jan Felix Lategan Collection. William Roe was very active, photographing troops during the Anglo-Boer War, Graaff Reinet and its citizens, and the surrounding countryside. and some of his wartime photos
Millions of springbuck used to roam in the Karoo but as farming expanded the need to preserve the sparse grazing for sheep and cattle increased and the buck were hunted out, as the photographs below show in the collections of hunting rifles.
And in a corner this beautiful painting by Jimmy Boonzaier about whom I can find no information on the internet. Help?
The Old Library dates to 1847 and houses a number of exhibitions including fossils, bushmen paintings, fracking, Robert Sobukwe, and carved furniture. I posted quite fully last year so here is just a reminder – do visit!
All this visiting and exploring was hard work and refreshments were sorely needed!
Graaff Reinet – excellent source of information!