Muizenberg’s historical gem

Chris Taylor, vice-chairman of the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society, looking at exhibitions inside Het Posthuys.

The oldest building along the False Bay coastline, Het Posthuys, meaning the Post House in Dutch, re-opened its doors to the public on Wednesday November 1.

Chris Taylor, vice-chairman of the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society, said it is suspected that the building was built around 1743 as a lookout post for enemy ships entering False Bay.

He said the building features in early photographs and drawings of Muizenberg and the Battle of Muizenberg.

However, Mr Taylor said there was no proof when Het Posthuys was built as the Dutch records for that time period are missing.

One of the early post holders was Sergeant Muys (meaning mouse), from whom Muizenberg (formerly Muysenbergh and Muys Zijn Bergh) got its name.

Wolraad Woltemade, who died while rescuing sailors from the wreck of the ship De Jonge Thomas in Table Bay on June 1, 1773 was also a post holder at Het Posthuys.

According to information in the museum, a typical outpost would consist of a small house, built from readily available materials near a supply of water.

It would be manned by a “posthouer”, a few men and slaves. It would have a corral for animals and a vegetable garden. In addition to its use as an outpost, it was also used as accommodation for British soldiers, a toll house which was used to toll farmers en route to Simon’s Town, and a naval storage facility.

In the late 18th century it was sold to JA Stegmann of Claremont who turned the building into a holiday home called Stegmanns Rust.

Mr Taylor said evidence that the site was occupied by Khoisan people were found during excavations so the possibility that Het Posthuys was once home to the First Peoples cannot be ruled out.

In 1922 the building was upgraded by the South African Defence Force and used as accommodation until 1929.

It was during this time that alterations such as the concrete beams in the walls were made.

In 1929 the structure was sold to a Mr W Leon who made large additions to the structure and in turn sold it to the Anglo American Corporation in 1969.

Mr Taylor said Anglo American intended to knock the building down and build a block of flats there, but when they discovered what they were demolishing, the projects was abandoned immediately and an archaeologist was appointed to examine the site in order to restore Het Posthuys to its former glory.

It was recognised as a heritage site in the 1970s and was let to tenants until restoration commenced in 1979.

Once it had been completed, Anglo American Corporation donated it to the then National Monuments known today as South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA).

The Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society has entered a Memorandum of Agreement with the SAHRA for the management of Het Posthuys and volunteers from the society are currently running the museum.

Shortly after the re-opening, On Sunday November 5, a cannon owned by the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society was mounted onto its carriage and moved to the centre of the stoep of Het Posthuys.

Gerry de Vries of the Cannon Association of South Africa built the carriage and the wheels were made by Peter Wright, a long-time member of the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society.

Glenn Babb, chairman of Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society, said Mr Wright undertook this work with his own unique tools and lathe and provided for the mounting of the cannon which can now be seen right in the middle of the stoep of Het Posthuys.

The cannon fired cannon balls of 8 pounds. Cannons similar to the society’s cannon formed part of the arsenal of the British and the Dutch in the Battle of Muizenberg of August 7, 1795.

Mr Taylor said it is suspected that the cannon was used on an east India cargo ship. He said considering it was buried for so many years, it was beautifully restored.

Het Posthuys is open from Fridays to Sundays from 9.30am until 12.30pm and a donation is requested for entry.