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Discovering De Rust 

Ailsa Tudhope on behalf of the Prince Albert Cultural Foundation for the May 2019 issue of the Prince Albert Friend

 

Most of us slow down to 60km per hour and coast through De Rust’s main street on our way to Oudtshoorn. On Saturday 30 March 2019 some Prince Albert Cultural Foundation members attended an event organised by De Rust Heritage which took us along roads less travelled.

Eighty guests, from historical and cultural associations across the Southern Cape, enjoyed coffee and rusks on the lawn at Voëlgesang, listening to stories from the past from Pieter Schoeman, the current owner of the original farm De Rust, home to the family since 1899. Then they set out on the tour. 

The Old Mill on Voëlgesang has a huge overshot metal wheel which was powered by water channeled from the furrow system. The wooden flume has long gone but Alan Tonkin of de Rust Heritage believes the mill, a Heritage site, could be restored, if sufficient finance could be raised.  

The NG Kerk in de Rust was designed by George Wallis, the architect of the Anglican Chapels in Prince Albert and Klaarstroom. Built to accommodate 600 parishioners, it was consecrated in 1902 and when the congregation grew to a thousand, balconies were installed. The stately carved pulpit provides the focus point. The time capsule interred behind the foundation stone in 1899 was recently unearthed and the contents: newspapers, a Bible, hymnbook and shillings and pence, are on display. A modern time capsule, which includes currency, a cell phone and computer memory stick, was installed in its place.

The Pastorie has a dry stone foundation, with not a scrap of cement - and not a single crack in its walls. Two mud houses near by were constructed by the wives of the three men from de Rust who joined the Transvaal army during the Anglo-Boer War.  

We drove past numerous, sensitively restored Victorian houses in the back streets as we headed for the Vredelus homestead. The 19th century house has been extended over the years but the original section with its wide yellowwood plank floors and ceilings and bread oven, has been beautifully preserved. Pieter recalled a childhood memory: eating steaming fresh bread, almost straight from the oven, laden with dripping and honey.

A delicious, traditional lunch was served at the “Tante Maria” venue on Domein Doornkraal: bobotie with spicy yellow raisin rice and salads, followed by Cape Malay sugar and cinnamon koeksisters, served with melon. 

After lunch Swepie le Roux, owner of Doornkraal, entertained guests with stories about his family arriving in the district and establishing the farm. A water pump was imported from Scotland and Mr Gush, the engineer who came to instal it, was persuaded to bring his family and stay. Swepie's grandmother chose the design of the magnificent Ostrich Palace farmhouse and granddad beat down the price by making the bricks on the farm and insisting Karoo weather did not combine rain and wind, so a half overlap of the corrugated iron sheets would suffice for the roof. The ‘crowned’ turret was the source of great discussion in the district, “does Mr le Roux think he is the Prince of Wales?” and along with the minaret-styled ventilator, the teak balustrade on the veranda and the delicate olive leaf patterned facia trim, has been carefully maintained.

The De Rust Heritage Walking Trail booklet was launched at the lunch. With its map it is an ideal guide for anyone wishing to explore this interesting little village. It is available from De Rust Heritage at a cost of R35.00, contact Alan Tonkin: 082 777 1519 e-mail: rickety@iafrica.com.  Find out more about de Rust on their website: www.derustheritage.org.za.