Smuts House Museum, Gauteng
If you haven’t already visited the house in which Jan Smuts lived, then take advantage of staying in the vicinity and go and see the Big House, as Jan Smuts and his family used to call their home in Irene, half way (more or less) between Johannesburg and Pretoria. In similar fashion to the Kruger House Museum in Pretoria, Smuts House is another relaxed, slice-of-life museum in contrast to other cities, where museums are big, ornate buildings.
Interestingly the house began its life as a prefabricated wood and iron officers’ mess in Britain. It was then dismantled and taken to India, following which it made its way to South Africa, where it was bought by Smuts and taken to his farm, Doornkloof, where it stands today.
The popular Irene Village Market takes place on the shady grounds of Smuts House on the first and last Saturday of every month, and the setting alone is enough to warrant a visit to this particularly pretty part of the highveld. The house oozes appeal and one can easily feel that it was once a loved and well lived-in family home – Smuts went on to have seven children, and it was constantly busy with guests, and later grandchildren. The drawing room, where formal visitors to Doornkloof would have been ushered, is the only room that conformed to conventional European ideas.
Smuts chose this home over the Libertas mansion in Pretoria, now known as Mahlamba-Ndlopfu, as he wanted his family around him and loved to live, for all practical purposes, in the middle of nowhere. And yet Smuts, the statesman, made time for his responsibilities and he was a renowned naturalist and philosopher.
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