I would not have had this opportunity of travelling to the Cape of Good Hope without the support of Bucknell University. I thank the office of the Provost for awarding me the Harold and Gladys Cook Travel Award; and I thank Harold and Gladys Cook for their enlightened recognition that scholarly work is imbedded in the rich, complex networks of ordinary living, and for funding interesting ways of making that connection. I have had a rewarding experience, which has also given me much food for scholarly thought.
I came to Lady Anne Barnard through Sir George Macartney, first British governor of the Cape Colony (1797-99), whose diplomatic writings and travels are a current subject of my scholarly research; and I had the pleasure of discovering in Lady Anne an adventurous, intelligent and fascinating person—full of wicked and wise wit—whose diaries provide wonderful insights into the people and places of the Cape Colony at the end of the eighteenth century. Following in her footsteps has been more than a historical or anthropological undertaking—though it has been that too. It has been a self-discovery, a meeting of new friends, and a reconnecting with old ones.
There is, of course, more to Lady Anne at the Cape than I have been able see and acknowledge in a two week sojourn.
There is the Castle of Good Hope (http://www.castleofgoodhope.co.za/), home to the Barnards from 1797 to about 1800, when they built their country house the Vineyard in the “new lands,” the present suburb of Newlands. Even in its present incarnation the Castle suggests what it might have been in the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries.
There is the also the Vineyard itself, now a hotel (http://www.vineyard.co.za/), elegant, refined, relaxed–and nestling right under a sublime and ever changing Table Mountain. Here are a couple of Lady Anne’s watercolours of the Vineyard with my photos of it and the view from the back verandah.
A gallery at the Vineyard displays many of Lady Anne’s drawings, watercolours, and excerpts from her diaries and letters. The gallery alone is worth a visit to the old hotel.
But my journey in the Western Cape could never have happened as successfully and as pleasurably as it did without my old friend Michael D, whose interest, support, adventurousness, knowledge, and generosity made all the difference.
In a big old house bathed in the cool light of autumn—with its lovely gardens (showing its fall changes and colours), its chickens, cock, Egyptian geese, peahens, large rooms (some wonderfully filled with TV and computer screens and enough electronic wires to stretch from the Cape to Cairo)—we planned the details of our trip, and then recorded and discussed its various stages afterwards.
My interest in walking in the footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard was prompted by my admiration for her extraordinary and rather eccentric gesture of walking up Table Mountain. Table Mountain was also on my bucket list: even having lived in Cape Town in my (very) early years, I had still never been up the mountain, something most tourists do as a matter of course.
In May 1797 Lady Anne wrote in her diary:
“All I asked as a reward for my correspondence in his [Lord George Macartney] absence, which I had two opportunities of continuing was that he should accompany me to the top of Table Mountain before he went, where no white Woman had ever been … This he agreed to with Joy, as a Botanist & Mineralogist and Barnard to render the plan still more interesting to me, procured a dozen Slaves to carry up a tent … mattress … Blankets, a little Table and a camp stool together with provisions that we might sleep on the top of the Mountain and see the Sun set & rise, when I could have the opportunity of making what drawings I pleased.” (217-8)
She would be the first white woman (as far as we know) to undertake the climb. It was one thing, however, for a middle aged, aristocratic Scottish woman of the late eighteenth-century to fantasize about climbing Table Mountain, and another for her to do so. At 3558 feet high, and with a very challenging terrain and wild life in 1797, Table Mountain would have represented a real threshold for most people. Would Anne Lindsay have taken on the challenge so blithely had she not grown up in a wild countryside in the East Neuk of Fife? Perhaps not. But dressed in her husband’s trousers, her shoes tied on with tape and carrying an umbrella, in May 1797 Lady Anne climbed up Platteklip Gorge to the top of Table Mountain in the company of her husband, Sir John Barrow (colonial administrator, global explorer, and author of Mutiny on the Bounty), two naval officers, her maid, a couple of servants and several slaves (straining under the weight of fish, cold meats, Port, Madeira and Cape wine).
Below (in 4 contiguous photographs) is Lady Anne’s panorama watercolor of Cape Town and Table Mountain as she saw them from the Castle, her home in her first few years at the Cape, painted between 1798 and 1802. The dimensions of this beautiful panorama are extraordinary – it consists of 7 sheets each measuring 2’ 3½” x 1’8½” – and a copy can be seen in a small gallery devoted to Lady Anne’s paintings in what is today the Vineyard Hotel (http://www.vineyard.co.za/), once a summer house built by the Barnards in 1800 in the “new lands,” now the suburb of Newlands.
We had explored the possibility of sleeping up on the table part of the mountain, but the entire area, from Cape Town City centre down the Peninsula to Cape Point (about 70 km), is now a National Park, and overnight camping is carefully controlled, only possible in designated and, for our purposes, inconvenient areas. The following image gives a sense of the extent of the main mountain range, taking in Lion’s Head on the right, Table Mountain in the centre, and Devil’s Peak on the left, with the Twelve Apostles extending into the distance on the right. Our point of ascent, Platteklip, is on the far right of main “table” section of Table Mountain itself.
On a cold, rainy, and foggy Saturday in mid-May an old friend, Lawrence H, and I climbed up Platteklip Gorge, as Lady Anne Barnard had done 218 years before. Our plan was to ascend very early, in order to see the sunrise, and to take the last cable car down, in order to take some photographs of the sunset. But the best laid plans often come to naught. Because the day was rainy and foggy, we ascended almost entirely enveloped in fog, and the clouds that often hover on the brow of the mountain in inclement weather or when a south east wind is blowing, hovered for most of the day (see image below)—but cleared sufficiently in the afternoon for us to have some spectacular views and get some good photos.
Platteklip Gorge is the most direct route up the mountain (there are several others), but it is probably the most difficult—very steep, very rocky, but (once the clouds cleared) offering spectacular views over the city and Table Bay and of the sheer mountain face on both sides of the gorge. We set off each carrying a back pack with extra clothes, rain coat, water and various liquids to replenish electrolytes, and our lunch. (Click on the images below.)
Though Lawrence H and I are both deep into our middle age, we are fairly fit and energetic; but “walking up” Platteklip Gorge was extremely difficult. Very soon we realized that we needed to break our climb up into short intervals, manageable units to give us something to aim for; so we stopped every 15 minutes for some liquid replenishment and some talk.
Among other things, our talk returned to the extraordinary Lady Anne Barnard, whose eccentric desire to walk up this mountain, at the age of 47, quickly took on a different significance for us, as we faced the limitations of our own bodies struggling against this sharp, unforgiving terrain, but limitations that eventually gave way to an almost blithe sense of freedom.
Lady Anne had a similar response when encountering this terrain (which would, of course, have been more wild and unformed in 1797): “The ascent became so tremendously steep that we were obliged to dismount and send out Horses back to the Castle, scrambling up amongst rocks where hasty Cascades tumbled down and lost themselves in gullies beneath” (220). She nonetheless had the awareness to notice and record the natural beauties: “The air was perfumed with the most delicious fragrance of numberless bushes which composed a concord of Aromatic harmony perfectly wild and such as no one can imagine to themselves” (220).
Fresh (and sodden) as the air was we did not have access to the same “perfumes” as moved Lady Anne, but we saw some of the same flowers as she did. “We ascended for the first mile by a winding path thro rocks each side of which was clothed with the Waggombomb [Protea grandifora] with its bright yellow flowers … the Silver tree, whose leaves have the appearance of white satin, and the Sugar Tree [sukerbossie—protea mellifera] which was covered with beautiful pink flowers with pink seeds …” (219-20).
“While Barrow,” Lady Anne says, “darted at plants & fossils in hopes of finding something to report favourably to the Governor, I got out my pencil to draw the Rocks and Jacalls” (220). She also drew the chameleon, locust and “Cokimacranchi,” pictured here.
Arriving at the summit of the mountain, after more than two hours of physical exertion, is something of a triumph, and a rather expansive feeling. This is how Lady Anne Barnard put it: “After crawling up an immense sheet of small stones, almost perpendicular (stones broken into powder by the force of the torrents which the clouds discharge in volumes during the rainy seasons) we proceeded up thro’ the gulley which nearly cuts the Mountain in two and began to rise above the World” (220).
As one emerges from the increasingly narrow gulley on to the plateau, “the weather was mild and charming, the Sun now fully risen warmed us with his fervent rays which the mountain threw back on us with intolerable heat … What a wide extended bareness presented itself all around! … Oceans … points of Coast … and hills were the only objects the eye had to dwell on … The Lions head (a high Mountain) appeared a mole hill beneath …
… to behold a considerable Town more invisible than the smallest miniature which could be painted of one … to feel the pure air raising one up, it gave me a sort of unembodied feeling such as I conceive the Soul to have which mounts a beatified spirit leaving its atom of clay behind. The view the sensation was full of aether …” (220-21).
Lawrence and I had our own sense of light headed and light heartedness on alighting on this great mountain after a climb of about 2 hours and 15 minutes.After allowing our limbs to unwind, and our eyes to take in the expansive views extending down the peninsula towards Cape Point and across Table Bay towards Blauberg, we changed our clothes (sodden as much by our perspiration as by the mist) for clean and dry ones. The warmth of the clean sweater after physical exertion was a comfort and pleasure.
We found a spot, with a view over Sea Point and Clifton, to have our lunch–cheese, tomato and pickle sandwiches, miniature spinach quiches, energy bars, fruit, and a fresh bottle of Cape white wine. We were so dehydrated that we scarcely felt the effect of the bottle of wine.
While eating we were visited by some of the local wild life.
After lunch we strolled around enjoying the view on all sides of the visitors area of the upper cable station; a few visitors had come up by cable car. We read a plaque commemorating World Environment Day 1998 bearing the words of Nelson Mandela bequeathing the Table Mountain and Cape Pensinsula National Park to all the peoples of the earth for their enjoyment and their protection.
This view straight down to the place from which we had started was steep enough to instill vertigo.
We could see the Castle that had been Lady Anne’s home at the time of her climb.
… the harbor Victoria waterfont …
… and the football stadium that featured in the World Cup of 2010.
The Barnard party made the most of their day on the mountain. They explored some caves “where Slaves who had run away for crimes hid themselves” (221), collected plants and fossils, hunted “there was a gun to shoot birds,” hunted for plant specimens (“here was spade for me to dig bulbs” (221)—“not on its grassy or rocky top, but on its watery top, it being almost entirely covered with a thin pool about two inches deep where succulent plants grow in abundance, but pebbles of a very pure white, some of which I carried away with me seemed to be the chief product of the Soil” (221).
Guided by Sir John Barrow—author of Travels in Southern Africa (1806), among other works of exploration, who produced the first published map of the Cape Colony, and described by Lady Anne as “thou Man of infinite Charts and Maps”—Lady Anne identified all of the geographical features she could from the summit of the mountain, including Robben Island, “not above a mile or two round, and it is here that Vessels perform quarantine when suspected of having infectious distempers on board, particularly the small pox of which the inhabitants of the Cape have a horror beyond all belief, owing to its having on two occasions swept away the greatest part of the Settlers” (222).
Quarantined ships in Table Bay feature frequently in Lady Anne’s diaries, as they do in her drawings … her response to these events powerfully imagined by the poet Antjie Krog in “Lady Anne Barnard looks out on Table Bay:”
A new ship arrived
I prepare parcels and letters
(oh the coming and going of ships
‘latest’ newspapers, letters
— the written word the only harbor
of the traveling heart)
then the smell hits us …
On the mountain, some of the men returned before nightfall, leaving behind Lady Anne, Andrew Barnard, Sir John Barrow, and some others. While “Pawell and the Slaves” pitched our tent on the top of the Mountain on a bit of dry ground” Lady Anne “pitched the little Camp table Barnard had procured for me and with my Sketch book and colours traced the effects of the setting Sun before he dropped into the Ocean, which encompassed us almost in a Zone round the Peninsula where we were placed” (223).
I have, as yet, been unable to locate these drawings of Lady Anne’s in any archive, and hope to find them in the library at Balcarres House, her ancestral home in Fife. I regret too that the weather did not permit us to see the spectacular sunset we imagine Lady Anne to have seen, which might have looked like this:
After toasting the King for dinner they enjoyed “40 Snipes” fried in a pan, and they “begged the Slaves might have our nice rump of beef, fowls and ham, but not one of them would Scoff … they shook their heads with a look of horror … ‘nae … nae’ … and I found that owing to the ham having been put up in the same basket with the other articles evry thing was contaminated to them” (223).
But nothing would dampen Lady Anne’s intrepidity, and she was more than willing to partake of the slaves meal: “But they too had their pan, and their stew, which smelt so savoury, and so odd, that I begged leave to taste it … It was composed of wild herbs fried up with coriander & Many aromatic seeds, to which was added a little mutton tail grease which is more pure than butter and plenty of the fish called snook which I thought when salted and dried was one of the best fish at the Cape” (223). “Moye Scoff yafrouw moye Scoff,” was the response of Lady Anne’s local assistant (223).
Apparently unthreatened by wild animals, the slaves “lay down round the fire” while Lady Anne and her husband “within our tent found a good bed, on which two hearts reposed themselves … truly grateful for all the blessings conferred on them, but most so for their happiness in each other” (223).
On the way down Lady Anne wore a pair of her husband’s trousers (“Hey day Anne … what are these? Yours … myne lieve Friende”) and slid down part of the way on her behind. But she also stopped to sketch the bay from the mountain, a representation [possibly taken from Zorgfliet, the home of Hendrik Eksteen] that stimulated the governor Sir George Macartney to go and look for himself: “he was pleased that I had taken a Sketch at the House of a Dutchman as I had descended the lower part of the Mountain … he had never beheld a drawing of the Cape … except from the bay where the Town and square hills behind, were the only objects, whereas my Sketch faithfully tho’ badly copied from the original gives a perfect Idea of the Town—country …” (224).
One understands Lady Anne’s point. The mountain being so imposing and impressive, the tendency is to direct one’s attention or one’s camera in that direction, as she has done in this watercolour of the Theatre in Hottentot Square (now Riebeeck Square), build by the governor Sir George Younge in 1800.
Late in the afternoon of our climb, Lawrence and I had a cup of coffee at the cafe to warm ourselves, before taking the cable car down.
We talked of times past and times to come; and I read Antjie Krog’s poem, “’I think I am the first women’—Lady Anne on Table Mountain,” which includes these lines:
the climb wipes out
everything between us
we become part of the slippery tongue-talking mountain
my blood pulses thinner than thin
as we go higher and higher
your secure footsteps always in front of me
skullwet rain along our hot throats
from Platteklip ridge the wind bores
down on everything which is small and settler
more dense the route—naked
the abyss forces us closer …
Having, in a sense, wiped out the distance between past and present, we descended.
Our 4th day was our last following in the footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard in the Western Cape. From Tulbagh we planned to cut through Oudekloof Mountains, across the Klein Berg River, locate Leeuklip (in Saron), cut across to Darling and then up to Geelbek, on the Langebaan Lagoon, on the West coast. Lady Anne had stopped at all of these places. We then planned to return Cape Town after the rush hour traffic.
After breakfast the next morning we made our way to the Berg River and the “Roysand Pass” towards Saron. As Joanna Marx explains, before the area was named the “Land van Waveren” it was known as the Roodezand (“red sand”) valley, a name that still survives. There were no less than three passes from the Berg River valley into the Tulbagh valley, all known at some time as Roodezand” (Joanna Marx, “The Roodezand passes to the Tulbagh Valley,” VASSA Journal, 22 [Dec. 2009], 2-10).
The trail taken by the Barnards in 1798 was reminiscent for Lady Anne of the mountain roads in her native Scottish Highlands and particularly challenging: “We … proceeded on to the Roysand Kloof, a very long and very bad pass which we were obliged to walk … it had much the resemblance of one of the roads thro’ the highlands of Scotland, having the banks of each side of the River which descended rapidly between them pretty well covered with bushes and different sorts of low wood “ (395).
According to Joanna Marx the trail taken by the Barnards was the Nieuwe Kloof, which “follows the course of the Klein Berg River in a narrow valley through the mountains, and various routes along it have been in use for two and a half centuries” (2). This pass, as Marx observes, “was made in about the 1750s and ran mainly along the northeastern side (right bank) of the Klein Berg River valley, very narrow in places, with two drifts …. Much later, Thomas Bain built his pass (1859-60) which went along the south-western side (left bank), and subsequently he built the railway (1873-74) on the same side. His road was widened in 1935 and can still be seen” (6). “The current Nuwekloof Pass (1968),” Marx observes, “runs on the north-eastern side (right bank), like the first route through this kloof. Now there are some high rock faces where the road is cut into the mountainside” (6).
We consequently assumed that because the trail taken by the Barnards was inaccessible by car, the road we were taking in our car—R46 from Tulbagh to Saron past La Bonne Esperante—was not the trail taken by the Barnards. But when we re-examined where we had been, and looked carefully at the spot on Google Earth, we realized that our route through the Roodezand Pass had been almost exactly that of Lady Anne’s, and that without quite knowing it we had looked at virtually the same scene.
This is how Lady Anne describes the pass:
“We ascended Roy-sand Kloof, the waggon going slowly on before … the Road very bad, but romantic … as we reached the Summit the Sun was beginning to set with a glowing Orange ray to the left where he was retiring behind the hills, but where he still permitted us to see, and start at the Image which presented itself. A jet black Castle, turreted all round with a strange oddity of a Rock or building at a small distance, on the top of which was placed an enormous Urn which seemed to be the Sarcophagus of some Giant who had been Slain by the Prince of the Castle, who of course must have been the King of the Caffres by its sullen, dark appearance.” (395)
The image from Google Earth below identifies R46 that we took to Saron as well as the rocks that attracted Lady Anne’s attention, in the upper right quadrant of the image.
The following image, from Johannes Schumacher’s, The Cape in 1776-1777: Aquarelles by Johannes Schumacher from the Swellengrebel Collection at Breda (The Hague: A.A.M. Stols, 1951), depicts the view looking westwards from the Nuwekloof Pass, showing the features described in Lady Anne’s diary.
Lady Anne records the spectacular nature of the rock formation, and indicates that she too drew it: “I was grieved to hear that it had no History but was simply a production of Madam natures in one of her peaks, who was determined to throw out something to look like a work of art without Spade or Trowel having been used … I drew it, but have done it no justice” (395-96).
The following image of the Roodezand Pass is identified as Lady Anne’s in Lady Anne Barnard’s Watercolours and Sketches: Glimpses of the Cape of Good Hope (Fernwood Press, 2009), edited by Nicolas Barker (108-09).
Barker and Marx (9) both also draw attention to the fact that the same view of the pass, featured below, was drawn by Henry Salt in Twenty Four Views in St. Helena, the Cape, India, Ceylon, the Red Sea, Abyssinia, and Egypt (London: Henry Miller, 1809).
Indeed, the Roodezand Pass rocks struck Lady Anne’s imagination deeply and she invented a story to go with them: “I’ll give it a History, write an Original Hottentot Song … translate it myself, put it to Hottentot musick & celebrate the fair maid confined by the Cruel giant in the dungeon of the black rock till rescued by her lover the Prince of the Caffres” (396). Indicative of enlightened views of the “Orient” and the exotic associated with it, Lady Anne sentimentalizes the scene and assimilates it to English literary genres (the gothic). But she also gives the indigenous people agency in this fantasy: the fair maid’s lover who rescues her is “the Prince of the Caffres.”
We found Leeuklip in Saron without any difficulty. The contrast between this eighteenth-century Dutch farm and some of the others we had seen on our trip (e.g., The Oaks, Jan Harmansgat), was striking. Saron is a small, poor rural town, situated in a rather bleak and dust-blown landscape at the foot of the Saronsberg. Perhaps, as Michael D observed, its barrenness was partly due to the fact that the rains had not arrived yet. Certainly, Lady Anne compared the landscape of the rea in general to her native Scotland: “Nothing struck me remarkably on the road except the strong resemblance there is in the first part of the country we passed to part of Fife—lands carrying good corn, but there is little plantation… I saw no vineyards or Orange trees here …. Corn and cattle are the Chief commodities” (401).
However, Leeuklip is in a sad state of disrepair, its former beauties now barely recognizable. Mr. van Wijk (from the museum in Tulbagh) had told us that the farmhouse had once been used as the vicarage for the church nearby, where a Mission Station had been established by Johannes Heinrich Kulpmann in 1848 for the Rhenish Missionary Society. The church is still in use by the community as a Dutch Reformed Church, and the house and its outbuildings are used as a daycare centre and as a community centre for the elderly.
Lady Anne was impressed by what she found at Leeuklip.
“After travelling some miles more and passing the Lions rocks, so called from a fierce one having been killed there about 50 years ago, we reached the House of Myneer du Wal, a wealthy Man of rather a higher class than the other Boors, and one of the tallest Men I had seen. He and his Wife welcomed us with cordiality, a tall daughter was of the party who looked rather older than her Mother, a very good looking Brother, but a cub, and a youngish looking tall Man in a calico powdering gown, with a great deal of manner who talk’d Dutch but looked so like a French Man and like the late Prince Louis D’Aremberg that I could by in means translate him… We slept this night in the best furnished and handsomest room we had yet been in, both the beds had curtains and every bed 4 … there was magnificence but our glass still required a Chair to mount up to … ” (396)
The sketch below by Lady Anne may be of Leeuklip. As Nicolas Barker observes, “Perhaps this is an archetypal homestead based on others seen by Lady Anne during their journey. The Barnards stayed at several large, well-established farms between Roodezand and Saldanha Bay, including Leeuklip, with the de Wal family, and Theefontein, with the Slabbert family” (110).
The photo below is provided by Mr. van Wijk: “probably taken in the first two decades of the 20th century, showing the front façade of the building and some school / Sunday school children.”
The architectural details of the present Leeuklip (see below), especially the stable door with fanlight and the decorative gables at the front and side of the house, suggest strongly that Lady Anne’s sketch above is indeed Leeuklip. Compare (below) details of the gable (front and side) and of the wall from Lady Anne’s sketch and from our photos.
At Leeuklip people wondered at our interest in Lady Anne Barnard—indeed, they had never heard of her—but they welcomed us warmly, engaged us in conversation, showed us some of their embroidery work, talked about the financial difficulties of living in Saron and of maintaining the old house, showed us the church, and allowed us to look around and to take photographs.
Though the historic core of the Saron Mission Station was declared to be a provincial heritage site in 2013, there was little left of the original interior—perhaps a doorway, and a lock on a door; little else.
After an interesting and somewhat melancholy hour we took our leave of the old folks at Leeuklip, stopping to look back at the old house from across the rather grim uncultivated field.
The Barnard party visited other farms in the area—in the company of du Wal, for example, they visited Gelukwaard, the farm of Christoffel Leiste, and they found this “a most confortable looking place—plenty of trees—a good garden … All looked wealthy and flourishing here” (398). We were pressed for time, and did not turn in the direction of Gelukwaard (which apparently still exists, and was visited in 1990 by Jose Berman). Instead we headed out over a rather bleak Swartland country towards Darling.
Apparently, the Barnards stopped at Theefontein, near modern day Darling, the home of Johannes Slabbert (who was away from home when they arrived, though at home when they stopped at Theefontein on their way back to Cape Town). At Theefontein Lady Anne remarks on the giant stature of the inhabitants, and is impressed by an old lady of 77 years of age and by “12 to 18 favourite Cats who breakfasted with her every morning and do not appear till next day but hunt for themselves amongst the low bushes, they were very beautiful ones indeed” (402-03). Lady Anne drew the old lady, leaving the original for her daughter—who called Lady Anne “a lieve Vrouw … a dear Lady” (403)—and taking a copy for herself.
Perhaps it is because the old lady and her cats make Lady Anne think of her cousin Anne Keith and her cats, that Lady Anne at this point reflects on the readers of her journal and why she keeps on writing: “Nothing I am sure but the attachment in my heart to those whom I expect will read this Manuscript with pleasure because it is mine could have made me continue to write day after day, locking myself up in my apartment that I may not be interrupted and that the garrison may not see what I am about and quiz me for a Journalist … but it is so sweet to think that tho’ far away I am living with you all … that at this moment while addressing those who I need not particularize for their hearts will tell them who I mean, my pages are read with a softened eye and I am almost looking direct in the face of my Reader and saying God bless you!” (404).
I am unable to find a reproduction of the sketch of the old lady. The following is a sketch of “a grandmother” she took on her visit to Ganzekraal, near present day Grotto Bay, a coastal resort half way between Cape Town and Saldanha Bay, just south of Geelbek.
From Theefontein the Barnards made their way to Stompe Hoek (modern day Langebaan), over difficult sandy terrain, and then to Geelbek, where they were met by the Postholder, Jacobus Stofberg. She says, “We saw no cultivation here or any other foliage but sea plants, the season of flowers being over there were scarce any traces of them to be seen but at the proper time of the year … viz. the months of Sept and October I was told the profusion of beautiful ones pass idea, are charming, everlasting of brightest pink and most delicate form“ (405).
Though we can find a Lady Anne sketch of Ganzekraal, we can find none of Geelbek Farm, now a restaurant (http://geelbek.co.za/new/), positioned, with a number of outbuildings and old ancient walls, on the southern shore of the Langebaan lagoon.
Though they slept “but moderately” (406) at Geelbek, “the day being a fine one, [they] proposed going to the Out Keck [Uitkyk], or look out post, about four miles distant to see the Bay and adjacent country from the highest ground” (407-08). Saldanha Bay, about 70 miles north of Table Bay, is a naturally excellent harbor that attracted interest from colonial powers and saw two important battles in Lady Anne’s time, in 1781 and 1796, the last of which saw the British triumph over the Dutch to establish their jurisdiction at the Cape Colony (in 1806 the British triumphed again in a battle against the Dutch at Blaauwberg, a place at which the Barnards picnicked on their way back to Cape Town, some miles south of Langebaan; this battle issuing in British rule of the colony until 1961). Geelbek is at the southern end of Langebaan lagoon, which in turn is at the southern end of Saldanha Bay, as may be seen from the detail of an eighteenth-century map below (in Tulbagh Church). The Barnards spent their time on the lagoon, and did not venture as far as Saldanha Bay itself.
On their walk from Geelbek they enjoyed the “fragrant … Aromatic scent of many of the wild shrubs which grow here in profusion: (408).” Vlaeberg is the highest point in Saldanha Bay (633 feet), on the eastern side of the peninsula, and here Lady Anne sketched the landscape, about which she reflected: “I sat down on a Stone and endeavoured to take a sort of Panorama view of the place which my position on this high ground rendered easy, the young Ladies sat down on a another and fell to their reveries, while I went on with mine…. My first was to look round the wide extended prospect with wonder at my being here at all” (408).
What Lady Anne drew may be the image below, which she titled “Johnsons Bay,” which (Nicolas Barker suggests) may be a reference to Commodore George Johnstone, whose squadron captured the VOC fleet in Saldanha Bay during the 4th Anglo-Dutch War in 1781 (113).
We, however, did not see landscape resembling the coastline represented by Lady Anne in this sketch, though we too looked with “wonder” at “a wide extended prospect,” suggested by the pictures below.
Back at the Nieuwe Post (Geelbek) the Barnards found dinner ready and Lady Anne was delighted that Stofberg’s son had shot two flamingoes for her, like the birds we had photographed, today protected by government ordinance. One was dead, and one had been wounded in a wing. Lady Anne “formed a hope of his living to be the wonder and delight of all my Friends in old England” (411), but after some moralizing about preferring to keep the bird alive rather than to put it out of its misery, she is persuaded to leave it behind with the Stofbergs.
As Lady Anne’s month-long travels began to draw to a close, after what had clearly been a very rich and informative experience, she reflects ruefully on what feels to her like an absence of knowledge, a limitation:
“I begun to regret that I have not read any of the accounts of the Cape before I wrote this little Tour. I wished to keep myself free from prejudice or plagiarism, to follow my own style and express myself in my own way, which I should have inadvertently departed from to adopt any thing else that I had liked better, the consequence is that I have not had the proper knowledge of many simple points necessary to set off from , and that my Journal is far less accurate , intelligent, or specious as to wisdom than it might have been had I copied from Journals already written, what in reality I ought to have copied.” (409)
Though other eighteenth and nineteenth-century travellers in the Western Cape have been better informed than Lady Anne Barnard, with more geographical, historical, and political knowledge, there is nonetheless an intellectual honesty in recognizing the limitations of her experience in this strange and new land—however much like the county of Fife it sometimes seemed to her to be—while she also embraced its newness and challenges. Having followed in Lady Anne’s footsteps for about 1000 kilometers, as best we could, and having seen many of the places that she had seen, we have been delighted and instructed by the freshness and the insight of her account, and we would not have exchanged hers for the views of another. As she says of herself: “I put down most truly all I saw, and that was only Sea, rock, mountain and heath or underwood far as the eye could reach.”\
Our afternoon at Geelbek was spent in a leisurely fashion. We explored the old house itself—tracing the story of its history and its owners from 1786 in documents, maps, and family trees decorating its walls, and learning about its restoration in the twentieth century (bought up in 1987 by the South African Nature Foundation) and its status as part of a West Coast National Park area dedicated to preserving the ecology and environment of this wild and wonderful part of the coast. We explored the outbuildings, many of which would have been here—in earlier incarnations—when Lady Anne visited.
With quiet pleasure we watched the flamingoes and other bird life from the “blind” on the lagoon.
We enjoyed an excellent late lunch at the restaurant (at which we were then virtually the only customers), having an interesting conversation with the owner about her art collection.
Then we set off back to Cape Town, by a more direct route than the Barnards, satisfied by our short but very engaging adventure in the footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard.
On day three of our journey in the footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard in the Western Cape we planned to move fairly quickly along the slopes of the Langeberg, through the Breede River Valley, from east to north west, past Ashton, Robertson, Worcester, Wolseley to Tulbagh, where we had an appointment with Mr. Calvin van Wijk, the manager of the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum.
Like Lady Anne we stopped at Jan Harmsgat, a fine Dutch farmhouse dating from 1723, and (like The Oaks) now a working farm that offers luxury dining and accommodation (http://www.janharmsgat.com/index.php). We were kindly received, but those running the farm now knew little about Lady Anne Barnard—here there was no local lore or inherited story about Lady as there were in other places—and after looking around the magnificent estate and house, we were on our way.
We were unable to locate the farm of Pieter du Toit, Roodewal, near modern day Worcester, where Lady Anne was well received and “agreeably surprised with a cleanliness as singular as the contrast we had lately quitted, the Staffordshire plates in the inside of their glass Cupboard shone bright, having been well wiped with a clean cloth, no greasy nightcap … the brass spoons & ditto tea and Coffee urns were polished as looking glasses” (390).
Lady Anne attempted to capture the starkness of the geographical location of du Toit’s farm: “What a noble near Mountain, what a nobler distant one, composed of Spiral forms like a Cathedral, and what a capital rock as a fore ground … Trees were wanting but as Margaret would say ‘the bones of the country’ were charming” (389-90).
Detail of Pieter Du Toit’s farm “Roodewal” in the Breede River valley
As we drove on through the Breede River Valley we were able to see and appreciate the extraordinary landscape that stretched as far as the eye could see and that impressed Lady Anne: “The farther we proceeded thro’ the Valley the more bold and picturesque became the Mountains, their form more varied and striking than any I had seen before. These as usual were succeeded by others—and others” (389).
As she drove west Lady Anne “soon crossed the Riviere for the 3rd time, and entered upon the Country called Roysand, or red sand …. After travelling about four hours, we crossed a pretty deep tho’ narrow riviere and stopped at a farm House of good size where Mynheer Prince told us we should dine. Nom invitation on such occasions is necessary from the Farmers, when a Waggon stops at the door he concludes of course that the passengers want to Scoff (to eat) and the Horses the same after they have rolled themselves … here we fell in exactly with the diner hour, 12 o’clock …” (394). And although Lady Anne is often sarcastic about the quality of the food she receives (“to be sure a very greasy one, dressed after the right Dutch fashion” ), she also expresses her appreciation for the generosity of the Dutch farmers—“to say the truth I find all this class of people very hospitable and I hear they are equally so to others who they may be supposed to have less interest in obliging” (395).
It is unclear, however, exactly where they stopped in relation to the present day town of Tulbagh, which they certainly visited en route to the de Waal’s farm Leeuweklip (in modern day Saron), which Lady Anne does identify, and which we visited the day after. Because the names of mountains passes, farms and villages have changed over the years, we were sometimes flying in the dark.
Tulbagh is a beautiful old town in the wine lands of the Western Cape, surrounded by mountains, graced with many fine, old Dutch buildings, and a town that attracts visual and performing artists, wine connoisseurs, and visitors from far and wide. Though the town was named for Cape governor Ryk Tulbagh (1699-1777) in 1795, its general area was initially known to Europeans as the “Land van Waveren” after a Dutch family related to the first Dutch governor Simon van der Stel, and then as Roysand Kloof, the term Lady Anne uses in her diaries. Roysand had been cultivated by settler farmers in the early eighteenth century, and by the early nineteenth century had acquired many notable civic and domestic buildings—such as the church (1743), the Drostdy (1804), the old library, and private Dutch houses on Church Street. Many of these were destroyed in an earthquake of 1969, and subsequently rebuilt and restored to their original splendour (http://www.heritageportal.co.za/article/ashes-south-africas-worst-earthquake-rise-old-buildings-tulbagh. For a list of heritage sites in Tulbagh today see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_heritage_sites_in_Tulbagh).
In Tulbagh we met with Mr. van Wijk at his office in the museum, and after a long discussion about genealogy and local history (on which Mr. van Wijk is an expert), he gave us a long, informed and fascinating tour of the Church, which had been the centre of the town in Lady Anne’s day, and its contents.
There is actually no statement in Lady Anne’s diaries that they visited the church in Tulbagh (Roodezand). But since they went to Roodezand, and since the church was one of the main buildings, they probably did visit it, and attend a service there, as they did in other locations on this trip. Mr. van Wijk pointed out the architectural changes of the church since the 1790s (when the entrance was in a different position, in what is now the south transept — see below right).
And we admired the old ornate lectern that had been operational in Lady Anne’s day, and from which she might have heard a sermon.
Mr. van Wijk was also helpful in explaining to us the continuing existence of Leeuwklip (in modern day Saron), resorting to google earth to identify the old farm for us. We were having difficulty identifying the mountain pass used by the Barnard party to reach Leeuwklip, given that the passes from Roodezand (Tulbagh) to Leeuwklip (Saron) had changed during the nineteenth century, and we discussed the various possibilities that have subsequently been clarified for us by an article on the Roodezand Pass by Joanna Marx in the VASSA Journal (Vernacular Architecture of South Africa) that Michael D found online (more about this tomorrow).
We are grateful to Mr. Wijk, as we are to others on this trip, who took hours out of his work day to share his extensive local, historical knowledge and enthusiasm with us.
The Drostdy in Tulbagh, which (unusually) was built a little distance outside of the town, is of slightly younger date than the Church and would not have been known to Lady Anne, but we decided to have quick look at it, and at a couple of mid-eighteenth century cottages that would have been there at the time of Lady Anne’s visit.
In the late afternoon sunshine we strolled along the remarkable Church Street in Tulbagh—looking a little like a Hollywood set, in its perfection, but feeling also very real and immediate—admiring the many eighteenth and nineteenth-century Dutch houses, reading the architectural notes for each of the homes, and chatting to the residents and some workmen restoring one of the older buildings.
One of the great instructional pleasures of Tulbagh was our lodging for the night—The Cape Dutch Quarters (http://www.cdq.co.za/), on Church Street, dating from 1809, a portfolio of heritage properties now converted for use as a guest house. Our home for the evening was a spacious, comfortable, old fashioned guest house with solid, traditional furniture, works of art and antiques in every room, four-poster beds with deep soft linens, a large dining table at which we were served a sumptuous breakfast, private gardens and courtyards, and a swimming pool (apparently closed for the season, but too tempting for the visitor from the northern hemisphere to resist.
This being the autumnal off-season, we were the only guests in the whole house.
The Barnards seemed not to take full advantage of the farms between Zoetmelkes Valley and Riviersonderend—Jose Berman remarks on their “ignorance of the country and lack of a guide [that] had deprived them of an interesting day visiting farms“(73). Lady Anne’s Diaries are unclear as to whether they stopped at the farms Lindeshof and Het Ziekenhuys. We were pressed for time. We stopped a few miles from The Oaks to see what is left of Het Ziekenhuys—a grotto in the hillside that was once a spot at which local farmers left sick animals. In 1803 Heinrich Lichtenstein (Travels in Southern Africa) notes that “one of the farms, which has a small grotto in the rocks close by it, to this day retains the name of Het Ziekenhuys (the infirmary), because the travellers used to leave their sick in the grotto to be nursed there till their return” (Berman, In the Footsetps of Lady Anne Barnard [Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 1990], 70).
Our maps were not detailed enough to allow us to isolate individual farms along the Zonder End River at which the Barnards may have stopped. We had an appointment with Mrs. Jamien Havenga and Mr. Johan Krieg at the Drostdy Museum in Swellendam and we pressed on.
Swellendam, on the Breede River, is the 3rd oldest town in the country (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch), named in 1747 for the then Cape Governor Swellengrebel and his wife Helena ten Damme. The Drostdy at Swellendam was completed in 1747 in the style of a Cape Dutch T-shaped house. In the eighteenth century the town was transformed from a VOC (Dutch East India Co.) outpost to a centre of farming, travel and civilization; its environs were inhabited by Dutch pioneer farmers, German missionaries, traders and craftsmen of European origin, French Huguenots, Khoikhoi, clans of Hessequa tribe encamped on the banks of the nearby rivers, and slaves; and even under the British the Swellendam Drostdy remained the seat of local government (see Village Life, 14 (Oct.-Nov.2005), 14-18). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swellendam)
Photo by Andres de Wet, at the English Language Wikipedia
The Barnards arrived in Swellendam on Saturday May 12th. Not finding the landdrost Anthonie Faure at home, “after a good Nap” (344) they moved on directly to the farm of Jacob van Reenen at Slangrivier, knowing that that they would return to Swellendam after a (triangular) excursion that took them to several farms further east towards the coast—Rotterdam, Slangrivier, Witsand at the mouth of the Breede River, and back to Swellendam via another van Reenen farm (belonging to Dirk Gysbert, Jacob’s brother) at Rhenosterfontein.
Lady Anne is especially warm and positive about Jacob van Reenen (1755-1806) and his family, and about their reception at Slangrivier. “We saw at once that we were both welcome and expected” (346); the farm was “different from the common Style of Dutch architecture” (346); the women “here had one perfection which to me is a great one, an open and sweet countenance, no solicitude about any thing and tolerable good teeth, a very rare thing” (346); at Slangrivier the Barnards were given the “best Supper I ever eat in my life” (347); Andrew enjoyed the hunting of “Zebras and other wild Animals we had never seen before” (347); the weather was “charming” (352); they picnicked on the banks of the Breede River, sketched by Lady Anne (below) where “there was much fragrance from the bushes, a thousand agreeable but old fashioned smells” and where they saw eagles and “Bucks, Pous, and Ostriches” (352).
The mouth of the Breede River visited with Jacob van Reenen
Furthermore, in Mrs. van Reenen’s dry sense of humour Lady Anne saw “the first sparkle of mind that I have ever read in a Dutch woman’s eye since I came here” (355). Indeed, the Barnards joined in extended conversation with van Reenen and his family (rare in other locations due to the language barrier), while van Reenen told them stories about his romantic and remarkable life in Europe.
Although the Barnards were shocked at the callousness of the farmers towards the slaves (“that [he] was a human creature … a fellow creature … a Man … a Soul … never came into his [van Reenen’s] head” ), yet the Barnards liked the van Reenens: “We both united in liking this Man, his Wife, his Children, his horses, all of his ways, all his Tenets”—and they felt comfortable with them: “but we did not pay him any compliments, he saw we did not, many words are not necessary amongst honest people” (355-56).
For our part, we were unable to follow in Lady Anne’s footsteps around the triangular excursion referred to above (Rotterdam, Slangrivier, Witsand, Rhenosterfontein), contenting ourselves by stopping in Swellendam, where we were warmly received, and where we spent a fascinating and informative afternoon with Mrs. Havenga and Mr. Krieg, meeting them in the museum (http://www.drostdy.com/).
We consulted the museum’s collection of books on local history and typography, traced eighteenth-farms on a huge large-scale map of the area in Mr. Krieg’s office, and learned about the history of the Drostdy and other important historical buildings (such as the church and the goal).
Mr. Krieg and Mrs. Havenga then gave us a very detailed tour of the Drostdy and outbuildings …
… showing us (below) the sitting room, the dining room, the office …
… and (below) the room used for religious worship and legal procedures in the eighteenth century, all known to and visited by the Barnards.
As Leslie Howard notes of the present day Drostdy, “[it] reflects the appearance it had under the occupancy of the last resident magistrate. It is furnished with a remarkable collection of late 18th century and early 19th century Cape furniture. The Ambagswerf or Trades yard houses a collection of tools and artefacts relevant to the trades of centuries gone by, such as those of wainwrights, coppersmiths and blacksmiths” (Village Life, 17).
After the hospitality of the van Reenens, Lady Anne is a little disappointed by what she finds at the Swellendam Drostdy (“we retired to rest and said “this is not van Rhenins” ) …
The building today (used as exhibition space) in which Lady Anne slept in 1798, a short distance from the main Drostdy …
… and Lady Anne was also less able to communicate with her hosts, because “the Landrost could talk only a very little French—the Vrows nothing but Dutch” (360). Still, the entries in her Diary made while in Swellendam are among the most engaging and informative, and Lady Anne also found time to sketch the people and the landscape, sketches that are among the most evocative in her oeuvre.
For example, Lady Anne is struck by the new minister at Swellendam, Johann Heinrich von Manger (1767-1842), who had been actively involved in stirring up republican sentiment in Graaff-Reinet in the months before the surrender of the Cape to the British in 1795, although the inhabitants of Graaff-Reinet were rebelling against all forms of imposed control, and not just that of the British. Lady Anne is interested in Rev. Manger’s rebellious past, and his knowledge of the cultural life of the “Caffres.” “Tho’ his French was no better than my own,” notes Lady Anne, “I could puzzle out anecdotes to entertain me” (362).
Lady Anne is entertained by Rev. Manger’s appearance: “To have look’d at the puritanical round face of him, with an upper lip as long as a petticoat and cambric bands as long as little aprons, one might have conjectured him 50, but I believe it would have been a mistake of 25 years” (361). But her aversion to Rev. Manger’s face did not stop her drawing the young clergyman, but drawing him from behind. She remarks: “The little parson not deterred by his native homeliness next requested me to do him. It was a dangerous measure, I durst not attempt him at first, but his back … in his great Coat, and with a Sermon in his hand which he seemed to be studying I thought I might venture on… Oh how I tried to add charms and diminish ridicules … it was like, but I failed of pleasing … people don’t choose to be done as they are but as they would be, it is a wise measure to take backs as I do, I should sketch myself out of every bodys affection if I was to take faces” (365-66).
Nonetheless, she still seemed to offend the Rev. Manger: “I now saw with grief that I had somehow lost the heart of the predikant, I fancy by my picture” (366). However, to some extent she compensates for this infelicity by expressing her interest in the inaugural sermon he was to preach in the room we visited at the Drostdy (see images above).
In this room, pictured again below and still very suggestive of a life gone by, Lady Anne was impressed both by the occasion and the clergyman himself: “It is odd that this disagreeable predikant should sing so well! … but he does. I must compliment him on that … In compliment to the Clergyman, to the Landrost—the company and the occasion I dressed myself a little as did Anne Elizabeth, the upper seats were left for us and we placed ourselves when the rooms were full. How pleased I was to see this assembly … description could have given me no adequate idea of a Swellendam congregation… The Creatures voice was good, it was a Sermon longer than himself and from time to time he wept at his own eloquence. Mr. Barnard said he understood enough of it to think it was a proper one and well wrote. The audience was reverend and attentive…” (367-68).
Swellendam was also a congenial place for Lady Anne to sketch, and she has left several very powerful and evocative representations of people and place:
“I attempted to take a sketch of the house, after breakfast from the Stables, attended by the little Girl and her Cousin, the place itself has a better view from it than it affords as a view … The House is inferior in size to the Landrosts of Stillin-bosh, being single, the other is double and of a better appearance by much. I tried to find a good place to draw from, but could not, so fixed myself I could find a stone for my seat” (364).
Still, she is able to capture the stunning geographical location of the Swellendam Drostdy and some of the outbuildings (including the building in which she slept – on the right in the image below).
On the same occasion she notes, “The sun shone bright and hot, a couple of African Slave girls, Sisters, stood between me and it, unconscious of any thing but how much pleasure they had in being of the party. I drew them, and they did not know it…” (364).
At the request of “Madam Landrost” Lady Anne draws the “little Girl and her Cousin,” but “as there was no face her Mother did not seem to like it, nor asked me for it which I was glad of” (366).
While drawing the girls Lady Anne “had observed a pretty copper coloured Slave working away on the ground, in the slow indolent way the Slaves work here; … gently pulling out thread as if she could no much [care] whether it came out or no… and throwing me a timid conscious look from a pair of fine black eyes. She was a picture as she sat…”
We wonder what is to be made of the fact that Lady Anne draws the slaves from the front, enabling us to see their faces and perhaps to acquire some sense of their personalities, while she draws the white girls and the clergyman from behind.
Lady Anne’s attention is also caught by the geographical and social situation and natural environment of the Swellendam Drostdy: “I expected Swellendam to have been very different from what I found it, a sort of savage Town or village composed of the Houses of settlers and the Craals of Hottentots, perhaps a few Caffres intermixed … I might have known if I had given myself the trouble to think that there is no such thing in Africa as a village the village of Stillin-bosh [see Lady Anne’s image of Stellenbosch below] expected [sic]…
… or any two families to be seen living near each other, far less a Hottentot or a Caffre to be found possessing an independent Hut of his own near a Dutch mans—each family here is a Kingdom and each Kingdom a monarchy. The Drostdy or Government House with its offices, Slaves Lodges (and at a distance the house belonging to his Secretary and one or two smaller attached to the inferior Offices) compose the whole of the place, there is also a sort of publick prison I believe for felons or deserters, ill secured enough” (365).
But Lady Anne cannot resist remarking on the stunning natural beauty of Swellendam: “The Mountains rise nobly at a couple of miles distance or so, their bases were lost in a blueish vapour, greenish hillocks rose between us and them, ‘tis between them and the Mountains in a glen much the same as at Sweet milk Valley the woods to be found which have been reckoned so luxuriant … Mr. Barnard and the Gentlemen had gone out a hunting or rather shooting, he had passed thro’ those woods, and saw much fertile and well watered country, he said it was the finest Situation for settlers of any he had seen” (365).
We concurred with these generous and appreciative sentiments, having been deeply impressed both by the the natural beauty of the Langeberg and with the kindness of all who had interested themselves in our activities. Our “hunting” was over for the day – a very long, full, and fascinating day.
We checked in to the comfortable (and economical) African Shades B&B (http://africanshades.co.za/), within walking distance of the Drostdy.
We were looking forward to a quiet dinner and some reading and blogging. But suddenly all of the lights went out, part of the nation-wide rolling system of power outages, locally known as “load shedding,” as a way of coping with the shortage in electricity supply due to the number of generator units out of service for repair.
So we resorted to candle light to work at the computer …
… and enjoyed the opportunity to dine by candle light at the Drostdy restaurant.
Our waiter (in an orthography that left something to be desired) noted on the bill the reasons for our having to pay in cash!
Like us, the Barnards were pressed for time—we because of the number of venues we were trying to visit in only four days, the Barnards because they were concerned about the coming rains and the possibility of not being able to reach Swellendam. In Genadendal Lady Anne opines: “I regretted much our leaving this place so hastily, I greatly wished to have spent one day entire, here;” but Andrew points out that “the River [Riviersonderend] which runs at no great distance from Sweet milk Valley is the most hazardous of any, should rain fall to day of which I see a little threatening in the sky…. Should we lose to day by staying here, we may lose all the rest of our Journey” (335).
But after breakfast on Friday May 11th 1798 Lady Anne still found time to visit the gardens of the Genadendal Mission (“with which I was greatly pleased” ), and to visit the Hottentot huts of which she remarks: “I entered one or two of the round ones, the Hottentots were out working in the Field … furniture here was none, a few sticks were in the Centre to boil their kettle, and tied to the sticks of the roof was a few skins.”
Lady Anne proceeds to comment thoughtfully on a wide variety of Hottentot cultural practices, including their exceptional personal cleanliness (“a Hottentot … is washing himself all day long”) (336-37), and reflects on how little she understands about their way of life: “I shall try to inform myself better, my poor little account of things must be very superficial, there are wiser people who will give the deeper informations and that I hope shortly” (340).
Lady Anne also found time to sketch the valley of Baviaanskloof.
“My first object was to take a view of the place from a distance, where I could not only bring in the Church but have a view of a part of the Craals which surrounded it; many of them reached far beyond what my drawing could take in.”
This image may be Lady Anne’s view of Baviaanskloof, but it is commonly identified as “Sweet Milk Valley … a Dragoon Quarter” (see below).
In Genadendal, however, Lady Anne reflects curiously on the difficulty of drawing in the bright sunshine and in handling perspective from a height:
“The Father and I climbed the Mountain to the right, the Sun was warm and shone inconveniently bright on my paper. I put him between it and me, till such time as little Charles should reach me with my Umbrella…. The Sun was too vertical to give me the proper shadows, and I do not understand drawing from a height. However the sketch is just. He [the Father] was transported when I traced the Church Bell the erecting of it I saw had been a flattering Epocha in the calm tenor of time.” (336)
But eventually the Barnard party took to the road in the direction of Swellendam, and so did Michael D and I. We returned to Greyton and picked up the gravel road toward the small town of Riviersonderend (“river without end”) that ran alongside the river of the same name at the foot of a range of spectacular and sheer Zonderend mountains, part of the Overberg area, rising 5000 feet, as this photo, “Solitude” by Pete Mack, indicates (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/33919059).
Of this valley Lady Anne observed, “Sweet milk Fly, or Valley was seen at a distance, or rather its mountains rising over Knotty hillocks” (327). Furthermore, her sense of the natural and abundant richness of this valley, and its openness to cultivation and enjoyment, is conveyed by her appropriation of resonant phrases and images from a famous poem by the great seventeenth-century poet and translator John Dryden:
“More Mountains when we left these and another range beyond—‘ever ending … still beginning … was this country worth the winning? … Yes, here’s climate, soil, besides thee … Cultivate … the Gods provide thee.’” (327-28)
The editors of Lady Anne’s Diaries (Robinson, Lenta, and Driver) do not note, what few readers would know, that Lady Anne here draws on Dryden’s Alexander’s Feast (1697). This is a moment in the poem in which Dryden imagines the ancient musician Timotheus using his music to move the feelings of Alexander the Great to embrace and enjoy (rather than to invade and destroy) the abundance and beauty of the world before him:
Softly sweet, in Lydian measures,
Soon he soothed his soul to pleasures:
War, he sung, is toil and trouble;
Honour but an empty bubble;
Never ending, still beginning,
Fighting still, and still destroying;
If the world be worth thy winning,
Think, O think, it worth enjoying;
Lovely Thais sits beside thee,
Take the good the gods provide thee. (ll. 97-106)
We were pressed for time, driving quickly, and aware that we were unable to stop at most of the farms visited by the Barnards in this valley, even if we could identify and find them, which was becoming increasingly difficult, due to the many changes that have occurred over the last 200 years. Lady Anne identifies the farms by the name of the owners at the time, most of whom have changed over time; her Dutch orthography is neither consistent nor accurate, and she does not clearly distinguish one farm from others nearby. To compound difficulties, Lady Anne’s diaries while providing fascinating insights into the life of eighteenth-century farms in the Western Cape, are digressive, anecdotal, and impressionistic, and chronology and narrative structure are not among her strengths as a writer.
There is thus some ambiguity among scholars and others who have attempted to follow Lady Anne’s route in identifying exactly where and when she stayed on this part of the journey. For example, in his In the Footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard (1990) Jose Berman states that “the farm Hartenbeestekraal, which belonged to Arend van Willigh at the time of Lady Anne, had no building erected on it till 1813” (70). But Hartenbeestekraal was a later name for Zoetemelks Vallei, what Lady calls “sweet milk Valley … a Military quarter for the Calvary, and reckoned the most beautiful situation in the Country” (334-35), which, in turn, became The Oaks, and she apparently did stay at Zoetemelks Valley.
We came upon The Oaks suddenly—a magnificent, beautiful, eighteenth-century Dutch farmhouse with out-buildings, cultivated fields, lawns, lemon trees, and large well-established oaks.
The Oaks is still a working farm while also (like many other seventeenth and eighteenth century Dutch farms in the Overberg and Cedarberg) offering elegant holiday accommodation and a wedding venue (http://theoaksestate.co.za/).
We parked; asked permission of a young man and a young woman to look around, and set off to simply soak up the atmosphere and take some pictures.
But the young man – Gert Ehlers – sought us out and invited us into the elegant (private) house.
He drew our attention to the antiquity of the estate, showed us historical documents tracing its history from 1727, when it was called Zoetemelks Valley, through its change of name to Hartenbeestekraal and then to The Oaks in the 1840s.
Mr. Ehlers also pointed out the extensive additions made to the eighteenth-century farm in 1809, and described the major restoration undertaken by the Ehlers family to restore the dilapidated estate after the Manor House had been unoccupied for 50 years: “The discovery that the old buildings were a truly historic gem was quite unexpected. It initiated a new adventure and extensive project. The three year renovation of The Oaks Farmyard has been a family effort”(http://theoaksestate.co.za/thefarm/restoration/).
The Oaks is now under consideration for Provincial Heritage status.
To our amazement Mr. Ehlers then showed us the room in which Lady Anne had slept in 1798, now renovated to the same high standard as the rest of the complex, and used as a private suite. Mr. Ehlers reported his mother, Marianne, as saying that she felt like Lady Anne on waking up in this room (see below).
This valley and the farmhouse were painted by Thomas William Bowler (1812-69), the British landscape and seascape artist whose images of the Cape from the 1840s to the 1860s have done so much to shape the identity of the 19th-century Cape. But I was unable to locate suitable images online for the purposes of this blog, and those reproduced here are poor photographs taken of Bowler’s images from a volume of artwork shown to us by Mr. Ehlers.
Like us Lady Anne was so impressed by the scene that she settled down to sketch it as soon as she arrived
“I took the view, it is without grace but it is as I saw it from the point where I sat. While ere, and while the setting Sun fell behind the Stupendous Mountains, as I sat alone, how many thoughts succeeded to thoughts of awed, grave, pleasing, but somewhat sad, tho’ calm impression; … at the extreme corner of the World, yet not unhappy…” (341)
Lady Anne was impressed with the house (“built on a better plan than some others, more spacious”), noted the impeding rain, invoked the “good genius of mon mari” and enjoyed “an excellent supper” provided by Mynheer Tunis [Theunissen] (341), who “was more than commonly civil to us” (342).
In the morning, however, Lady Anne was less pleased: “This same sweet milk Valley does not answer my expectations” because she expected a village that did not materialize, and she did not find the “charming woods where the greatest variety of choice timber was to be found,” that she expected to find there. Instead, “I saw not a tree except those I have drawn” (342). They took their leave of Martinus Theunissen and headed towards Mynheer Lindens [Hans Jurgen Linden] whose farm Lindeshof or Gansekraal is situated on the Slang River, a tributary of the Riviersonderend.
Had time allowed, we would have been happy to linger and to discuss the finer points of the cultural history of The Oaks with Mr Ehlers and his mother, Marianne, both of whom have been helpful and kind in furthering our interests. But we too headed in the direction of Lindeshof.
On Monday May 11th we met Dr. Isaac Balie at 10 am in the square of old Genadendal, a few miles from Greyton.
Genadendal is one of several places in the Cape settled by the Moravians in the eighteenth century. Known then as Baviaanskloof, the Herrnhuters’ mission was established by Moravian Georg Schmidt in 1737 (abandoned in 1744 and re-established in 1792) to convert the indigenous people to Christianity.
After 50 years Dr. Isaac Balie has just retired as director of the Genadendal Mission Museum, whose present existence as a world class living history museum is almost entirely due to his passion, knowledge, and commitment, sometimes under difficult financial and political circumstances. (The museum’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GenadendalMissionMuseum?fref=ts)
Dr. Balie is a gentle, generous and humorous man of wide knowledge and an easy and communicative disposition. Over coffee we talked for an hour about Lady Anne Barnard’s time in Baviaanskloof, about the recent history of the museum, and his continuing vision and hope for the site and the history it represents. We were touched by Dr. Balie’s humane reflectiveness — and by his reciting from memory passages from Lady Anne’s diary.
He showed us the various buildings known to be associated with Lady Anne – the chapel at which she attended a church service and the room in which she slept.
He also showed us an original woven Koi mat used in the Church, a sample of which was given to Lady Barnard, a pear tree and a Chinese rose bush locally associated with Lady Anne (of which we can find no mention in her diary).
Taking advantage a warm sunny morning, we walked through the environs of the historic mission station, Dr. Balie showing us his lemon trees, the remnants of a Koi camp dating from the eighteenth century, and the graves of the three clergymen who welcomed Lady Anne to Baviaanskloof.
Lady Anne had undertaken to provide certain kinds of pragmatic information to officials at the Cape and to the government minister Henry Dundas: “What I have endeavoured and shall endeavor to do is to give the topographical account of all I see cultivated for you mon cher ami Monsieur Dundas… Africa is your Masters Villa (George the 3rd)” (320). But in Genadendal Lady Anne was struck by a different kind of cultivation. She is moved to write with unusual warmth and admiration of the simple spirituality that she witnessed among both Moravians and Hottentots at the mission.
She acknowledges that “the Fathers, or Hern Hutters … as they are called in this Country, were no favourites of their [the farmers], and eer long we shall see the reason” (327). She is impressed by the Moravians: “The Fathers of whom there were three, came out to meet us in their working Jackets, each Man being employed in following the business of his Original profession—a Miller … a Smith …a Carpenter and Taylor in one.—There, but apart from that, unity seemed to be Equality. They welcomed us simply and frankly, without artificial gladness, or more than hospitable civility…” (329).
Lady Anne learns the history of the Moravians from the three clergymen and was able to acquire a good sense of the primitive and simple nature of the Moravian community at Baviaanskloof: “the House we were then in, was built with their Own hands five years ago … their object was to Convert the Hottentots, to render them industrious, religious and happy” (330). She is shown the old church by the Fathers, a room 40 by 20 feet whose floor is covered by “rush matts of a sort of reed” (of the kind shown to us by Dr. Balie), a room in which “the pulpit was only a few steps, raised above the ground and matted with the same rushes on which chairs placed and a small Table and desk on which was the Bible… The Church had benches on each hand, the right side for Men, the left for Women and to these they entered by separate doors, at the end” (330).
Though Lady Anne arrives on a Thursday and not a Sunday, when she would have seen 300 at Church, she nonetheless attends a smaller service, and is impressed by what she sees:
“I doubt much whether I should have entered St. Peters at Rome with the Triple Crown itself present in all its Ancient splendor with a more awed impression of the deity and his presence than I did this little Church of a few feet Square, where the simple disciples of Christianity dressed in the Skins of Animals knew no purple or fine liner, no pride … no hypocrisy. I felt as if I was creeping back 1700 years, to hear from the rude but inspired lips of Evangelists the simple sacred words of wisdom and purity.” (330-31)
The power of the service is enhanced for Lady Anne by the “deep toned Bass” and the “excellent harmony” of “the Fathers,” and “about 150 Hottentots joined in the 23rd psalm in a tone so sweet, so loud, but so just and true that it was impossible to hear it without being surprised” (331). Lady Anne laments her limited understanding of Dutch, as the preacher expounds a portion of Mathew chapter 8, verse 11, but “a word now and then I knew the subject he dwelt on, that the goodness of God knew no distinction of persons, and that the Dutchman who was great and rich, with abundance of Slaves and Cattle, was not more sure of a place in a better world which after death we should go to than the Hottentot who was good, and who would find a seat in Heaven kept for him to eternal happiness…. Not a Hottentot did I see in this congregation that had a bad passion in the Countenance, I watched them closely, all was sweetness and attention. I was even surprised to observe so few vacant eyes, and so little curiosity directed to ourselves… ” (331).
Fanciful as it may be, we remarked on how like these old Moravians Dr. Balie was in the simplicity, directness and energy of his pursuits and discourse. We found ourselves reading a passage of Lady Anne’s Diary with Dr. Balie in the market square, captured by Michael D on one of his various cameras.
We had seen the Chinese rose, the pear tree, and the early nineteenth century Wagon – one that had been used by Christian LaTrobe (1758-1836), the English Moravian minister, when he travelled through Genadendal in 1815-16, very like the Wagons used by the Barnard party in 1798. But we had heard nothing about the gift Lady Anne had given to the community.
Persuaded by the Moravian clergymen not to give material objects of a superficial kind to the local people, Lady Anne alights on something special that she thinks would benefit all and that pleases the Moravian clergymen:
“The present of all I put most value on, and which they seemed to value most, was the 3rd part of the Fleshy Margaret Strawberry … fond of their Garden, and extremely neat in the divisions of it, I pointed out how delicious this fruit would prove if well taken care of and that it was sent me by my Sister Margaret, the most beautiful woman in Europe, who desired it might be called by her own name, and ‘you, fathers’ said I, ‘are the only people in Africa who have this.’… The circumstance pleased them, even under the Bavian Kloof a pretty woman is not without her influence in creating the glow of vanity in a holy heart …” (334)
This gift of a strawberry plant was news to Dr. Balie. We agreed there was unlikely to be any trace of the plant after more than two centuries, and we agreed on the liveliness and wit of Lady Anne’s account of people and places.
After a lovely sunny autumn morning with Dr. Balie, full of interest and information, we set off on a secondary gravel road in the direction of Riviersonderend (“river without end”). We knew that Lady Anne had stopped at a place called Zoetmelks Vallei (Sweet Milk Valley), site of an early British settlement, and at other farms, Het Ziekenhuys (later known as Nethercourt) and Lindeshof. Dr. Balie suggested that Zoetmelks Vallei was also called or associated with The Oaks, and that The Oaks continued as a thriving concern.
We set off in expectation.
Below are some drawings of local people done by Lady Anne in Genadendal.
We set out in our Ford Ranger on the morning of Sunday May 10th intending to follow the route taken by Lady Anne Barnard in May 1798 as closely as possible. Time constraints, of course, meant that we were unable to stop at every farm; and in many cases both the road taken and the farm visited were no longer in existence or even identifiable.
From Cape Town we took the N2 road over the Cape flats towards the Hottentots Holland Mountains, over the Kuils and the Eeerste Rivers, and past Meerlust Farm (near Stellenbosch) that had been in the Huisig family since 1693, at which Lady Anne had stopped. (An 8th generation of the Myburgh family now own and operate the farm (see Village Life 38 [Autumn 2010], 25-29 and 39 [Winter 2010], 24-29).
The wagon trails that Lady Anne would have followed had been established over centuries, first by game, then by indigenous peoples, and from the seventeenth century by European travelers such as Carl Peter Thunberg, François Le Vaillant, John Barrow, and William Burchell. One can still see remains of these trails going over Sir Lowry’s pass (Hottentot Holland Mountains), and the resemblance they bear to Lady Anne’s watercolour of the same.
Lady Anne’s observations reveal the same shrewd and ironic perspective that characterizes all of her writing:
“Hottentots Holland we found totally uninhabited by Hottentots, they poor things have been driven up the country by their avaricious masters, and nothing can better prove the grasping Hope of each individual to possess himself of large domains than the distance at which the settlers have placed themselves from each other …I think in Hottentots Holland there seemed to be a house and farm every mile or mile and a half—but no hamlet, no village.” (The Cape Journals, 305)
Coming over Sir Lowry’s Pass we dropped down into the lovely fertile fruit growing Elgin valley along the Steenbrass and the Palmiet rivers (“this last was the broadest River we had passed … I saw from the nature of the ground that it must be impassable after the Heavy rains” ) that Lady Anne followed to De Rust and Houwhoek, where she stayed on Sunday May 6th 1798. Despite Lady Anne’s disappointment at the establishment (“the room Mynheer Joubert received us in was bad enough”), she was happy to partake of the meal they were offered: “Being extremely hungry we ate up part of their dinner with them to which they had added some broiled fowls which with plenty of potatoes and good butter was a repast fit for an Emperor” (308). Dinner was so filling that Lady Anne declined to join the Jouberts for dinner, especially when she realized that the poor lamb she had seen tied up in the yard, was to be that dinner. “Poking into the Kitchen which I generally do, to make acquaintance with the Hottentots,” Lady Anne proposed letting the lamb go, but to no avail, for “Gaspar [their coachman] and the rest of the party shook their heads at that” (308). Indeed, Lady Anne seems herself to have succumbed to the temptation, as she remarks, with her usual ironic flourish, “Hide your diminished heads all ye French Cooks … never no never was there so good a pye tasted as that which contained the lamb” (308).
Houwhoek is now a hotel, and though people there knew nothing about Lady Anne, they were friendly and hospitable, and the walls of the hotel displayed framed extracts from Lady Anne’s diaries pertaining to her visit.
We saw none of the “the most brilliant everlasting flowers, pink, with blackhearts, [that] grew among the heath” (310) that Lady Anne remarks on inher dairy, but the valleys were spectacular (especially with the low cloud cover contrasted against the dark evergreens and the green mountainside) …
… and a small road side café we stopped at for a snack seemed to reflect the abundance of the neighbourhood.
Lady Anne’s de Rust – Houwhoek encounter was typical of her experience throughout the journey in the Western Cape (and one that we, in our own way, shared). People were generally interested in her quest, and hospitable and even generous in offering food, lodging, conversation and information. Though she cannot resist a sarcastic remark when describing the house and the women of the house (whose physical corpulence Lady Anne seems to find a subject of endless amusement and remark), she also enjoys her time among the Dutch farmers, learns a great deal about their customs and farming practices, and strikes up friendships with men and women regardless of race. As she notes on leaving Houwhoek on the morning of May 7th.
“I felt myself better next day, begun a Friendship with Chanticleer, I mean my blue Woman who promises to to come to see us at the Castle… Mr. Barnard gave me a look to say no more… Mr. Barnard tells me I should get into terrible disgrace with the Quality of the Cape if a women so decidedly half cast or more, had been seen in the same room with them, no degree of beauty, manners or even fortune being sufficient to spunge off the Stigma of Slave born.” (309)
From Houwhoek our journey (like Lady Anne’s) took us down the N2 before taking the smaller original road down the Bot River valley toward Hermanus on the coast and up to Stanford. Like so many in this part of the Western Cape, the Bot River valley opens out into a sweeping fertile expanse bounded by mountains in the distance (in this case the mountains of the Babilonstoring and the Fernkloof Nature Reserve), spectacular, as one can see from the photos.
The Bot River valley looking NW and SE.
In making this descent the Barnard wagons almost sank in a marshy swamp, but as they approach the coast their ground is more secure and they are impressed by what they see.
“As we drove on we turned on our right to the mouth of the Bot Riviere, which empties itself into the Sea, at the foot of a long range of Mountains whose names I forget, and then to the left, rounding the Corner of a small neck of land which led us into another Bay which has no name that I can learn. A noble pool of water presented itself between us and the Sea on which there were plenty of wild ducks … the Bay to the right, some uncouth shaped hills to the left with a distant prospect of the mouth of the Clyne River and a sort of Peninsula which puts into the Sea made one of the finest scenes I had beheld.” (311)
We know now that the bay Lady Anne is unable to identity is the mouth of the Onrus River, near Sandbaai, and we can confirm that the “noble pool of water” that presented itself to her view soon afterwards, as they turned “left” (that is, north, up the coast), is Stanford lagoon, which is indeed lovely.
Because place names and landscape have changed over the last two centuries, we did not immediately realize that the elegant little town of Stanford was as closely connected to Lady Anne Barnard as we were to discover. It takes its modern name from one of its eminent citizens, Captain John Stanford (1807-77), who had served in the British army in Burma and in the Frontier Wars in the Eastern Cape (1835-36), who retired to this area in 1838 and bought the estate known as Kleine Riviers Valley. Although Stanford was ostracized by locals when he was forced to supply provisions to convict ships attempting to deliver convicts to the Cape, and was eventually ruined financially, the town was named for him in 1857, and his house exists today in the town centre. (https://portraitofavillage.wordpress.com/the-book/robert-stanford/).
But when Lady Anne Barnard visited this area there was no such place as Stanford, and when she past the Klein [Clyne] River mouth and the Stanford Lagoon, she saw at a distance “an object of a different sort, a Handsome, English, Square built Country House close to the sea, round which I concluded I should see pleasure ground and Shrubberys in the same style” (311). This farm belonged to Hendrik Cloete, the owner of Great Constantia among other large estates, and one of the richest landowners at the time.
On closer inspection, however, Lady Anne found that the English country house she was expecting to find was no more than “4 miserable Slave Houses and farming Offices” and that the house itself was “two small rooms … and a nasty dark little Kitchen” (312). The Barnard party did not stay at Cloete’s farm (possibly called “Mondhuis” or Mossell River farm) but pushed on up the Klein River on a dangerous road in the dark until they reached what we assume to have been Klein River Valley farm, then owned by Christoffel Brand (who had loaned the Barnards his coachman, “the illustrious Gaspar”).
At Brandt’s farm they entered “thro’ a Kitchen filled with Slaves, many of them blessed with a very scanty portion of covering indeed” (315), a kitchen door that remains part of the house that we were fortunate to visit at 14 Church Street.
The present day Stanford House is owned by John Davies and Irene Stanford (no relation), who operate it as an antique shop, a second hand book shop, and a bed & Breakfast, welcomed us almost (we would like to think) as warmly as Brandt welcomed Lady Anne in 1798.
They were delighted to hear of our eccentric quest, of following in the footsteps of Lady Anne Barnard, but they were delighted in our interest in their home, and were happy to show us the kitchen door, the original rooms of the old eighteenth-century house, and the room in which, they think, Lady Anne slept in May 1798.
From Stanford we pushed on north following the Klein River and going through the Akkedis Pass. At this point of the afternoon we were concerned about getting to our evening destination, but we were also trying to follow Lady Anne Barnard’s route as best we could along the Klein River and cutting back behind the Kleinriviersberge past Teslaarsdal to the Hartebeest River and up to Caledon.
On this leg of her journey Lady Anne writes of a “quantity of Game … Partridges and Bucks chiefly” and the “Cockimacranki or what I shall call Hottentot pine apple” (316-7), but we saw none of this (if anything like is still to be seen) as we headed over gravel roads in our 4-wheel drive at 100kmph towards Teslaarsdal, where there was no sign of the “good farm belonging to one Teslar” [J.J. Tesselaar] or the “little clump of trees” (321) Lady Anne admired in the midst of a vast dusty plains and valleys, which you can see here in some photos of our road and others taken when we stopped for some refreshment on the road.
After losing our way several times on these small country roads, and scrambling the brain of the GPS system, we finally found our way past the Shaw Mountains, and onto the (relatively major!) road that would take us up to Caledon.
Our plan was to make it up to Greyton for the night, forty km north of Caledon, so that we would be poised in the morning to visit the Moravian Mission at Genadendal, a site of historic importance, which features prominently in Lady Anne’s travels. So while the Barnard party stopped in Caledon, we sped on by, still following their route as best we could on a small road that took us up the magnificent Swart River valley.
We arrived in the lovely village of Greyton an hour or so before sunset. We had found a quaint B&B, the Guinea Fowl, full of solid polished furniture, oriental rugs, and covered with wisteria, a house dating from about 1900, run by Jim and Muriel, a British couple who had been living in Southern Africa for 50 years, with fascinating tales to tell about the uprising in N. Rhodesia in the 1960s and WW II.
The warm afternoon gave way to the cool evening, and the autumn colors made one marvel at the richness that is this African landscape.
In May 1798, after a year at the Cape Colony as the colonial secretary under Sir George Macartney, Andrew Barnard and his wife Lady Anne Barnard traveled into the interior of the colony (on a kind of working vacation), and Lady Anne’s diary account of the experience offers some fascinating insights into the life, culture and landscape of the Western Cape at the end of the eighteenth century, while also revealing much about Lady Anne’s personality – her intelligence, wit, modernity, and ability to capture the essence of place and person in a few words or in one of her lambent watercolours.
My plan is to follow, as best one can in a few days and under greatly changed circumstances, in the footsteps of Lady Anne in the Western Cape (and later, up Table Mountain). An old friend, Michael D (a man with deep local knowledge), and I have mapped out a route that will take us on a circuitous, yet vaguely circular journey, from Cape Town to Caledon, Stanford, Greyton, Genadendal, Swellendam, Robertson, Tulbagh, Langebaan, Darling, and back to Cape Town.
We plan to call at a number of eighteenth-century farms visited by Lady Anne and her party, to see some of what she saw there in both town and country; to learn what we can about her observations and activities at the eighteenth-century Moravian Mission of Genadendal; and to visit the Drostdy in Swellendam and the old Dutch quarter in Tulbagh – both still bearing traces of their eighteenth-century past – both the object of fascinating comment in Lady Anne’s diaries. (“Drostdy,” according to Miriam-Webster, is an Afrikaans word for “the office or residence of a landdrost,” the local squire or landowner, or “the jurisdiction of a landdrost”).
The Barnards, of course, traveled by horse and ox wagon crossing mountains – the Overberg and parts of the Franschhoek Mountains – and rivers that could have been (and sometimes were) raging from the autumnal rains. When we set out on May 10th we will rely on an old Ford Rangler and modern maps, and though this mode of transportation does not offer the same immediate contact with the natural environment or with local people as the Barnards had, we plan to use small, sometimes uncharted country roads (where the sat-nav and GPS have little sway), and to seek Lady Anne stories from farmers, landowners, and museum folk as we encounter them.
This bird shaped pool in Kirstenbosch Gardens was, for many years, known as Lady Anne Barnard’s bath. In fact, it was built by Colonel Christopher Bird, the deputy colonial secretary, in 1811, and thus was unknown to Lady Anne. But the persistent association of the pool with Lady Anne suggests her continuing half-mythical stature at the Cape.
In May 1797 Lady Anne Barnard wrote as follows in her journal:
“All I asked as a reward for my correspondence in his [Lord George Macartney] absence, which I had two opportunities of continuing was that he should accompany me to the top of Table Mountain before he went, where no white Woman had ever been … This he agreed to with Joy, as a Botanist & Mineralogist and Barnard to render the plan still more interesting to me, procured a dozen Slaves to carry up a tent … mattress … Blankets, a little Table and a camp stool together with provisions that we might sleep on the top of the Mountain and see the Sun set & rise, when I could have the opportunity of making what drawings I pleased.” (Anne Barnard, Journals, ed. A.M. Lewin Robinson, Margaret Lenta & Dorothy Driver. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1994, pp. 217-8)
Lady Anne Lindsay (1750-1825) was the daughter of James Lindsay, 5th Earl of Balcarres, and in 1797 her connections with fellow Scot Henry Dundas, then Minister for War and the Colonies, procured for her husband, Andrew Barnard, the position of colonial secretary to Lord George Macartney (1737-1806), the first British governor of the Cape of Good Hope.
I had heard of Lady Anne Barnard, and as a child had even seen her “bath” in Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens, but it was not until I started researching Macartney’s presence at the Cape, as part of a study of his international career as a British diplomat, that I realized the impact Lady Anne had had on life at the Cape Colony, how instrumental she had been in facilitating Macartney’s political and cultural success in his short period at the Cape (1797-98), and how interesting and dynamic Lady Anne was in her own right. Through her eyes, in her diaries and her watercolours, I began to acquire a more intimate, even visceral sense of what life was like in this geographically pivotal and remote place in c. 1800, a crucial moment in the history of East-West relations. If only
It was then that I was awarded the Harold and Gladys Cook Travel award at Bucknell to “encourage travel for the exploration of intellectual or creative interests other than primary research” — and I thought that this would give me the perfect opportunity of literally walking in Lady Anne’s footsteps. Not only would I make a tour of some of the towns in the Western Cape that she had visited as Macartney’s unofficial emissary — such as Stellenbosch and Swellendam — but I would also visit the Moravian Mission at Genadendal (which still exists), and I would climb up Table Mountain, taking the same route up and down as Lady Mary did in the company of Sir John Barrow and a variety of soldiers and servants in May 1797.
View of Cape Town with Table Mountain beyond. English school, c. 1790.