Verlorenvlei Heritage Settlement

Cultural / Heritage Routes / Landmarks in or near Elands Bay, Cape West Coast in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Western Cape Tourist AttractionsVerlorenvlei Heritage Settlement

Where? Elands Bay, Cape West Coast, Western Cape

Overnight? Accommodation in Elands Bay, in Western Cape

The coastal Sandveld and the rugged mountain passes and valleys of the Piketberg have been described as the 'Wild West' of early South African history, by the Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa (VASSA).

The 'highway' to the north passed through the Sandveld, attracting fortune-hunters, charlatans, and explorers in equal measure. Some got no further than the Sandveld, and established homesteads and farms in this harsh environment, where water was scarce.

Unfortunately most of the fragile buildings typical of the region, made from reeds and unbaked clay, have been completely lost.

What was once a thriving little hamlet on the shores of Verlorenvlei (40 buildings or ruins were still in evidence in 1992) is only a few surviving langhuis (long house) structures today.

These houses are of cultural significance and protected by law. The four surviving building structures include the langhuis bought by actress Sandra Prinsloo, reconstructed using straw bale. The others are Pelican cottage, another langhuis, and the Van Zyl farm outbuilding.

They were not the familiar T, U and H plans of the classic Cape farmhouse. Instead they were simple rectangular buildings, known as the langhuis, or long house.

At the mouth of Verlorenvlei the houses developed a singular style of architecture. The earliest thatched farm buildings of the 1770s were built from plastered unfired clay brick, and thatch.

A grain and fish production boom in the area led to the development of a large hamlet around the original farm buildings on Verlorenvlei. Soon after 1800 long houses became as long as 40 metres.

The average house was a row of single-depth rooms, starting as a two or three-cell home and extending linearly to six or seven cells; hence their name. These houses averaged 5.3 metres in width with collar-type trusses and reed and rush thatch over the top.

The thatching took on a regional idiosyncrasy; people used a whole reed plant turned upside down to form the roof ridge. Walls were randomly placed sundried brick and the original floors were misvloere, or dung floors.

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