An historic building in Skeerpoort.
by Susan Rothbletz, owner and proprietor of the property.
Die Ou Pastorie is on the R560, adjacent to the Dutch Reformed Church in Scheerpoort.
What can be seen
The main building has been retained in its original state and is now an excellent fine food restaurant and lodge. Alterations are restricted to the addition of a functions room on the west end of the house, but the entrance, the veranda and the interior rooms have not been changed.
DIE OU PASTORIE
Petronel Fourie interview with Vincent Carruthers – 20 December 2020.
- The Ou Pastorie was recently awarded a Blue Plaque by the Magaliesberg Heritage and Culture Association – what qualified the building for this honour?
- The famous old site falls within the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve, one of the richest areas of South African heritage and the unveiling ceremony was on 13 December, the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Nooitgedacht which took place within sight of the Ou Pastorie.
It was listed as a heritage site by the Hartbeespoort Environment and Heritage Association (HEHA). It was provisionally dated 1883 or 1896 by the HEHA but no evidence was given for either date. Before awarding Blue Plaques MACH insists on properly researched evidence. Three things bothered me when I looked at the provisional dates: a.) there appeared to be no specific event during either of those years that might have led to the building of a parsonage or a church in Skeerpoort, b.) I was surprised that the Pastorie had not been burned by the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902.) Almost every other building in the Moot had been destroyed and this was close to Rietfontein, one of the biggest British camps in the Transvaal. And c.) the building appeared to be much more modern than the dates suggested. With a few well-documented exceptions, houses in the Magaliesberg were generally very primitive before 1900.
Then Ds Rudolph Momberg lent Mike Benn a copy of NG Gemeente Skeerpoort in Beeld 1910-2010 and Mike lent it to me for use in my talk. It is a meticulously thorough history compiled by six members for the Centenary of the Church. It includes references to Kerkraad minutes and is clearly a reliable source. It showed that the Skeerpoort Gemeente was authorised and founded in 1910. The book also showed that the Pastorie had a fascinating history that made it much more interesting than just an earlier date.
- Can you give me a brief history of the building – the dates that you mentioned when the people of the region started talking about establishing a “gemeente”, when it was actually built, the region that gemeente had to serve, the number of “lidmate”, prominent “lidmate”, for how long it functioned as a pastorie and what became of it afterwards?
The founding of the Gemeente Magliesberg was authorised at a meeting of Die Ring van Rustenburg at Brits Station on 18 April 1910 and another at Skeerpoort on 22 April. It subsequently came to be known as the Gemeente Skeerpoort. The boundaries of the gemeente included an enormous area from Nooitgedacht in the west to Rietfontein (now Hartbeespoort Dam) in the east, and from Tweefontein (now near Lanseria Airport) in the south to the Pienaars River (now Klipvoor Dam) in the north.
Almost immediately there was dissension between those in the north of the area and those in the south. Land for a church was identified at Krokodildrift and Roodekoppies, both in the northern part, while Nagmaal and baptisms were celebrated at Scrooby’s Barn at Skeerpoort in the south.
By May 1912, sufficient money had been raised to start building a wood-and-iron church (“sinkgebou kerk”) at Skeerpoort and that church remained in use until the mid 1950s. The first Pastor was Ds J le Roux Hauptfleisch. I believe that some of those who attended the Blue Plaque unveiling at Die Ou Pastorie might have been offspring of marriages that took place in that church.
A wedding at the old ‘Sinkkerk’ in 1948. The church was demolished in 1952. (From NG Gemeente Skeerpoort in Beeld 1910 to 2010. Courtesy of Minnie le Roux)
The north-south division came to a head in 1912 when the decision was taken to raise funds for a parsonage at Skeerpoort. Johan Schoeman, son of General Hendrik Schoeman, called for a tithe (kerkskuld) to be raised among the community to fund the parsonage. The members from the north refused to contribute and after much debate it was decided that those who lived south of the Magaliesberg would contribute and those to the north would remain part of the gemeente, but would be financially independent. The Pastorie was built “ ‘n paar jaar later” i.e. in 1914, the date given on the Blue Plaque, and Ds Hauptfleisch took up residence.
The original parsonage soon after its construction in 1914.
The year the Ou Pastorie was built was a traumatic one for South Africa. In September 1914 Louis Botha’s parliament agreed to go to war with Britain against Germany. Many Boer veterans of the SA War were vehemently opposed, especially to the invasion of German South West Africa and the 1914 Rebellion broke out. General Christiaan Beyers, victor of the Battle of Nooitgedacht in 1900 and subsequently head of the Union Defence Force, resigned his position, and assembled his rebel army at Damhoek, not far from Skeerpoort and right in the middle of the gemeente area. Joepie Fourie, well-known as the only rebel to be executed, was from Rietfontein and he, or his parents, were probably members of the gemeente. Church members were divided between government loyalists and rebels and church meetings were heated with Elders shouting abuse at one another. The stoep at the Ou Pastorie must have been host to some interesting conversations!
Hartbeespoort Dam was in the early planning stage at the time and it was both an irrigation project and a poverty relief scheme. Many of the “poor whites” working on the dam were baptised at the Skeerpoort Church and joined the gemeente.
- When the Pastorie wasn’t used for that purpose anymore, did the congregation of Skeerpoort also cease to exist?
- The Skeerpoort church appears to have been perpetually in financial trouble and in 1936 the congregation amalgamated with that of the Magaliesberg NGK. The Pastorie was sold off and served as a police station. Later when a permanent police station was built, it was sold into private hands and became the restaurant it is today.
- Has the building undergone any drastic changes over the years?
- There have been some alterations, notably the addition of the functions room on the west end of the house, but the main building including the entrance, the veranda and much of the interior space remains as it was.
- Do you know of any tales or anecdotes about the people who formed part of the Pastorie’s history? Any human story that gives heart and soul to the history of the building?
- I was amused to read that in January 1912, before the church had been built, there was “groot konsternasie” because one of the members had held a concert in the old church (i.e., Scrooby’s barn). He made matters worse by claiming he had received permission from the kerkraad, which was untrue. The matter was resolved when the unnamed offender agreed to hand the proceeds of the concert over to support the building of the new church.
During the Second World War, old divisions re-opened and conflict arose between those who supported South African participation in the war, and those who were opposed. The NGK had no formal political involvement, but the Skeerpoort congregation was strongly divided between Smut’s United Party and D.F. Malan’s Herenigde Nationale Party. One of the Smuts supporters accused Dominee P. de B. Kok at the Ou Pastorie of electioneering for the National Party and he was brought before the Synod. He had preached in favour of Christian National Education, one of the pillars of Malan’s HNP doctrines. However, the Synod ruled that CNE was a scriptural philosophy, not a political one, and Ds Kok was exonerated. The member who had laid the charge, however, was severely reprimanded by the Church.
Is the future of this heritage building secure?
The building is privately owned and operated as a restaurant and lodge by Susan Rothbletz. She and her family are dedicated to preserving and celebrating its history. For as long as it is in their hands I believe the heritage is secure.