The Drostdy Museum in Swellendam celebrates its 80th Birthday in October 2023. Mayville House is an important part of the Museum – it’s a historical treasure that has stood the test of time. It offers a glimpse into the rich history and heritage of the region.
The ground on which Mayville House stands was originally part of the Drostdy property before it was sold to the Cape government in 1846. The property on the south-western side of the old highway, which included the Drostdy building, was bought by Daniel de Bruyn for 1350 pounds. De Bruyn lived there for a few years then divided the lower part of the property into six portions and sold five of these plots in 1853. He built the house known as Mayville in 1853 on the plot which he had kept for himself. Most of the outer and interior woodwork is intact.
Over time, Mayville House changed hands many times. However, in 1974, the Drostdy Museum received Mayville in a bequest from Nita Steyn. It has since been restored to its original appearance with half-hipped thatch roof and dormer front, and is now an early-Victorian period house museum.
The house is filled with artefacts that reflect its rich history.
The Rose Garden at Mayville House is particularly noteworthy. It was established at the behest of benefactor Ms Nita Steyn for the pleasure of visitors. The garden was designed by Gwen Fagan in 1978 and a policy to plant heritage roses was adopted. The rose is one of the most ancient flowers and an attempt has been made to reflect something of its development towards the modern hybrid tea rose. Old varieties of shrubs, flowers and herbs were used for interplanting.
For a while the Rose Garden became somewhat neglected but at the end of July 2020 Carol Podd, committee member of the Swellendam Heritage Association had an idea to revitalize it. She convinced her fellow committee members to make a donation to the Friends of the Drostdy Museum for this purpose.
Residents of Swellendam were invited to sponsor heritage roses and the Friends worked hard to bring the vision to life . By October 2022 the rose gardens had been returned to more than their former glory and Gwen Fagan was invited to the opening of a Gate created in her honour.
Pictured above is a “kweperheining” which was woven by one of the Museum staff.
Mayville House in Swellendam is more than just a historical building; it’s a testament to South Africa’s rich cultural heritage. Whether you’re a history buff or just someone who appreciates beautiful architecture and gardens, Mayville House is definitely worth a visit.
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