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Some Interesting Sites & Buildings in Prince Albert

Included in this page are a sample of some of the more historic buildings in Prince Albert.  We wish to give credit for the information supplied to Dr. Judy Maguire who kindly supplied both the photographs and notes.  

 

We will be adding additional photos and information on Prince Albert as we go forward.  However, for further information we suggest that you contact Prince Albert Tourism on 023 541 1366 or  office@princealbert.org.za

 

Alberts Mill

 

Alberts Mill, Prince AlbertAlberts Mill, Prince Albert   A millstone outside the Alberts Mill, Prince AlbertA millstone outside the Alberts Mill, Prince Albert
     

 

"Proclaimed a National Monument (now a Provincial monument) in 1965, the Albert's Mill was erected in about 1850 by a Mnr. H J Botes, who also built the little mill-house with its wooden clasp-arm wheel, which is 2.4 metres in diameter. He also constructed a furrow to lead water to the mill from the mountain stream, an extension of a furrow from the mountain which had been in place since before traveller Robert Gordon painted the town -  at that time represented by the farm 'De Queeckvallei' - in his famous painting of 1778.

In 1865, the mill was taken over by Mnr N A A Alberts, after which it passed to descendants, with the last Mnr Alberts working the mill until 1972. He packed the ground meal in white cotton bags on which there is a picture of the mill and the miller himself wheeling a bag of grain on a hand cart across the wooden bridge leading to the mill itself, which has a study wooden platform above a stone floor (see sketch). The wooden launder (water channel) which feeds the overshot mill was replaced in 2000 with funds raised by the then 'Friends of the Mill' chaired by D Metcalf but the wooden mill mechanism is now too worn and weathered to take the full force of the falling millstream. The mill is visible from the main road entering Prince Albert from the south.  One of the huge millstones has been mounted outside." 

 

Dennehof

 

Dennehof, Prince AlbertDennehof, Prince Albert
 
Dennehof, Prince Albert. Drawing by John WhittonDennehof, Prince Albert. Drawing by John Whitton

 

The Dennehof Opstal,now a guesthouse, Christina De Wit Street Prince Albert.

Dennehof in the late 1990s. The farmstead is considered to be one of the oldest in the town. In the foreground, next to the Gearing windpump, is the old blacksmith's forge, now converted into tourist accommodation. Behind the opstal rises the Oukloof range and behind them, the ramparts of the Swartberg. Considerable changes and growth of vegetation since the 1990s had made this property difficult to observe from street level. Architect John Whitton's sketch shows the fine building - a Grade II Heritage Site -  from the front. 

 

The Helmuth Leibeurt Dam in Spring 

 

Leibeurt dam at Helmuth, Prince Albert. Photo: R DedkindLeibeurt dam at Helmuth, Prince Albert. Photo: R Dedkind
 
Leiwater dam at Helmuth, Prince Albert, photo R DedekindLeiwater dam at Helmuth, Prince Albert, photo R Dedekind

 

Above are two photos of the Helmuth grade II Monument leidam. The main house is just off to the left. The main point to make heritage-wise is that Prince Albert is one of the very few towns left that still has a fully operational leibeurt system - the water flowing in the many water furrows is a huge source of fascination to the tourists, apart from being a key heritage resource.

The water is channelled from the mountain stream, plus several boreholes, to the town where it is distributed to those properties which still 'own' a leibeurt or irrigation turn. Each owner of such a property needs to construct a dam with the capacity to hold the amount of water for the leibeurt time - measured by the hour or fraction thereof- which is allocated to that property.

Helmuth used to be one of Prince Albert's many town farms and had several hours' worth of leibeurt time, hence the large dam.  This grade II Heritage Site, both house and dam, can be seen in Church Street, Prince Albert. Due to the recent drought years, the flowers are almost a thing of the past." Photos R. Dedekind. 

 

The Swartberg Pass

Photos to follow

Prince Albert lies at the entrance to the 27km Swartberg Pass, considered one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world: an untarred road winds to the summit 1 583 metres  above sea level in steep zig-zags and sudden switchbacks,  with breath-taking views at every turn. The turn-off to Gamkaskloof lies near the summit of the pass. 

The entrance is through a narrow Cape sandstone kloof where the eye is drawn upwards by the convoluted rock faces to the sparkling sky above. The only sounds are bubbling water, the wind in the trees and birdsong. Several picnic sites near the river provide tranquil spots to stop and absorb the peace and splendour. 

As you drive on you gain your first sight of the valleys and peaks of the Swartberg Pass. The natural characteristics of the Pass are magnificent – as are the man-made features. This was Thomas Bain’s last engineering masterpiece. His construction philosophy, which has stood the test of time was: “A good hat and good boots”. 

The dry stone packed retaining walls are amazing, in one place on the southern side the wall is 2,4kms long. They range in height from ½ metre to 13 metres. Laws of friction and cohesion govern the pressure on retaining walls. The bed (ledge, base or shelf) measures up to 1 metre plus up to 300mm at the top. Selected stone was used and laid with grain at right angles to the natural bedding line. The walls were battered (sloped inward) in a rise of 1:6. To illustrate the scale of the highest sections of the walls, Boegoekloof measures 13,1 metres vertically and the second hairpin on the north, 7,3 metres. Pressure on the roadway through traffic has compacted and secured the walls and roadway. 

The larger stones on the ledge bedding provided good drainage but further provision was necessary. Bain’s original specifications give “rule of thumb” measurements and clear instructions as to how many culverts, side drains etc. there were to be, but it is not stated how these were arrived at. What is clear is that they appear adequate, for after over a century of rain the walls are essentially still in place and until recently, with little or no damage. 

In September 2000, a concerned group of design and construction professionals from Prince Albert initiated a crisis meeting with the Provincial and District Roads Engineers to discuss their difficulties in providing adequate maintenance of the Pass after the bouts of heavy rains over the past three years. The meeting resulted in all concerned walking the Pass to discuss specific problem areas and a folio of photographs and drawings was handed over. The Pass underwent specialist maintenance and Prince Albert residents were delighted to see their old friend (declared a National Monument in its Centenary year 1988) receiving such a comprehensive facelift.  A further maintenance project was started in 2012. 

Along the way there are relics of an old prison, toll hut, hotel and other interesting historical sites. 

Often covered in snow in winter, the mountains’ unique micro-climate supports fynbos and a rich bird population, in contrast with the arid zone flora and fauna outside its cool, shady kloofs. Watch out for black eagles and klipspringers. 

The Swartberg Pass is now part of a World Heritage Site.