A walking tour of Sutherland’s Architecture

A walking tour of Sutherland’s Architecture

Sutherland’s pioneers quarried the area’s distinctive grey stone for many of their buildings and architectural features, such as walls, gateposts and reservoirs. Building methods varied from dry packed stone to large dressed blocks, set in pointed mortar.

Together with the use of corrugated iron roofs, the stone walls give the town a textural, earthy appeal while the later addition of stoeps (verandas) in timber or steel adds a delicate touch to the otherwise sturdy houses.

Early photos of the town show that most buildings were gabled in the Cape Dutch fashion. As the Victorians swept in, gables and thatch or clay roofs went out of fashion, to be replaced by verandas and corrugated iron roofs. The remains of stone walls and other stone buildings are dotted around town, giving Sutherland its warm, rustic character.

A walking tour of the town will take you past most of the architecturally prominent buildings

Many of the more notable houses are now used as guesthouses serving the town’s thriving tourism industry. A stroll will take visitors past The White House, originally a boarding house named Dagbreek (Daybreak) and later a garage and a museum; Sutherland Inn, which was the first pastoral residence and later a doctor’s office; Primrose Cottage, built in 1905, one of the only houses with an intact gable; Cluster d’Hote, now a restaurant, was once an overnight station for farmers staying in town for Communion; and Sutherlandia. All these are examples of local architecture over 60 years old.

What: The Dutch Reformed Church. This is probably the most important of Sutherland’s heritage buildings, representing the reason for the town’s existence.
When: Built in 1899.
Where: Piet Retief Street, the main road in town at both the physical and spiritual centre.

Architecture and design:
Designed by Charles Freeman (who also designed Cape Town’s Standard Bank building and the Graaff Reinet Dutch Reformed Church). This is a cruciform straight gabled church built with pointed, rough stone. It has a square, two-tiered tower with a plastered spire topped by a bracketed cornice. The design is classical and restrained with round-headed openings.

More info:
The church houses a German-designed organ in its original casing, although the interior has been converted into an electrical instrument. During the Anglo Boer War the church was occupied by troops and used as a fort. Some damage was caused to the interior and graffiti from the occupation is still visible in the clock tower, tangible evidence of the town’s cultural heritage.

What: The Church Hall. Situated on the same grounds as the Dutch Reformed Church.

Architecture and design:
A rectangular stone structure featuring scalloped bargeboard ends and similar decoration along the roof space.

What: The Original Church Building (known as the Ark).
When: This building was moved from its original site and re-erected in its present position after being demolished in 1899.
Where: Piet Retief Street

Architecture and design:
A rectangular stone building with Gothic-style fanlight tracery.

More info:
A Dominee Conradie bought the demolished building for a hundred pounds, contributing the money to the church coffers. It was rebuilt stone by stone and used as accommodation for farmers who travelled to town and stayed overnight for monthly Communion (Nagmaal).

What: Magistrate’s Court
When: Built in 1905
Where: Piet Retief Street

Architecture and design:
Painted rough stone with a hipped, double-storey central block. The ends on the central block have three-bay fenestration upstairs with a three-bay plaster-pedimented portico at the front. The building is finished with single-storey, pitched-roof wings slightly set back.

What: Bank building
When: Built in 1880.
Where: Opposite the Magistrate’s Court on Piet Retief Street.

Architecture and design:
Built from the local grey stone, the bank building boasts a hipped stoepkamer and a dentilled pediment over one third of its width and a plain bullnose front veranda. Attached to the main building is a wide hipped stoepkamer with a small entrance porch.

What: Typical Karoo townhouse
When: Circa 1880s
Where: Piet Retief Street across from the Dutch Reformed Church.

Architecture and design:
This is a good example of a Karoo village dwelling based on a simplified Cape Dutch townhouse design. The walls are made from clay bricks plastered in whitewashed rough cast. The roof is the traditional brakdak, a clay roof, finished on the interior by reed ceilings supported by wooden poles. This example sports windows dating back to the 1880s and a decorative fretwork ogee (doubled, continuous S-shaped curve) along the veranda.

What: The Karoo Hotel
When: Built in the 1880s
Where: Piet Retief Street

Architecture and design:
This was among the most important landmarks of the town, providing accommodation to travellers as well as being commandeered as a barracks for soldiers stationed here during the Anglo Boer War. The hotel bar is still in use as a local watering hole. A double-storey building with a pitched roof and balcony.

What: The partially demolished remains of Bismarck von Moltke Louw’s offices He was a wealthy lawyer and father of the famous South African poets NP van Wyk and WEG Louw.
Where: Piet Retief Street

Architecture and design:
Victorian building with a veranda and stoep.

What: Louw House, home of the Louw family and now the local museum
Where: 30 Jubilee Street
When: Built in 1860

Architecture and design:
The house’s association with the poets NP van Wyk Louw and WEG Louw makes this an important cultural landmark. It is a stone building, two rooms deep, with a centre gable and originally a thatched roof. The gable was removed and the thatch replaced with iron roofing as was the fashion at the end of the 1800s.

What: Other houses on Jubilee Street
Where: 32 Jubilee Street, next door to Louw House

Architecture and design:
Similar to the Louw House, this is a five-bay dwelling, two rooms deep with quoined openings and corners. The house once had a gable which was removed.

Where: 14 Jubilee Street
When: Around 1880

Architecture and design:
A four-bay home with double-arched doors and blocked surrounds.

What: 23 Jubilee Street
When: Around 1880

Architecture and design:
A rectangular house with double-arched doors, quoining and a simple veranda.

What: Prokureurshuis (lawyer’s house)
When: 1930s

Architecture and design:
This is one of the few remaining examples of gabled stone houses. In this case the gable has a particularly striking stepped design.

What: The Mill House
When: 1930s

Architecture and design: The only wheat mill in Sutherland, this is no longer in use.

What: The School House
When: Built in 1908

Architecture and design:
The school house is one of a handful of buildings still used for its original purpose. It reflects the local style, with dressed stones and thick walls.

What: Corbelled houses
Where: Only a handful of these corbelled buildings survive in the district. Two of the best examples are on the farms Uitkyk and Matjiesfontein (about 20km from town).

Architecture and design:
Corbelled houses are regarded as the first architectural style in the north-west Karoo. They were built by migratory farmers (trekboere) who settled the Karoo in the 1780s. These beehive-shaped structures were built entirely from unquarried loose stone, with flat stones forming scaffolding protruding from a domed stone roof. The resourceful design was a response to the Karoo’s lack of wood for the making of roof trusses.

What: Old Homesteads
Where: The homestead on Windheuvel farm, about an hour’s drive from Sutherland, gives some indication of how the pioneer settlers lived.

Architecture and design:
The remains of a homestead show a circular kitchen adjoining what may have been a corbelled house that was later extended to form a larger house when the government allowed farmers to own their properties. The remains of the walls are smeared on the interior with clay over which whitewash was painted.

What: Tuinplaas Buitekerk
Where: 55km from Sutherland on the farm Tuinplaas

When: The exact age of this structure is unknown, but records show it already needed “reparities” in 1843, which makes it one of the oldest buildings.

Architecture and design:
A rectangular thatched-roof structure between straight gables. It was used by trekboere as a gathering place for church services and is still in use for baptism, weddings and special services.


By: Jolene du Plessis | Published: 09/02/2017

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