• LOCATION 11 | Church Street in Historic Tulbagh

    Wagon Shed and Honey Oaks

    Stop here for a moment in front of the long single storey thatched house or wagon shed on your right.

    This house and the building directly across the road called Honey Oaks, are two pre-industrial houses built at a similar time in the mid 1800s. But they appear remarkably different in virtually all accounts.

    The wagon shed is just a simple long house. This represents the simplest and oldest form of vernacular architecture. Just a long rectangular building, usually with a single wall in the middle, to divide one half from the other. Traditionally the family would lodge on the more comfortable side, and the slaves would sleep in the kitchen on the other. Livestock could be brought into the kitchen as well for safekeeping overnight. As in modern times, anything left outside at night was likely to not be there in the morning.

    Any farmer starting out on a farm in the African wilderness in the 1700’s, would have dreamt and aspired to building such a dwelling if resources allowed. In time, the simple long house could have a gable added to the front of it and a room added to the back, which would change the foot print of the house to a T shape. Most of the older houses in the street fall into the T shape category because this was the most popular design for houses in the Cape Boland until about 1840.

    The alphabet floor plan of the building became obsolete once the general prosperity of the colony improved and its residents could afford to build and complete a good size house.

    The house across the road is a good example of this, in that it has a large rectangular footprint with two rows of rooms, front and back, linked by a short front passage. These rectangular houses were very wide and necessitated a very high thatch roof to insure the necessary 45% gradient to allow efficient rain runoff. The addition of a full height gable gives this building a charming dolls house proportion and is much photographed by tourists.

    If you look at the windows of these two houses you will notice an important difference between them. The Wagonshed has the very old fashioned small paned Dutch casement windows that open inwards and solid shutters that open outwards. These were reasonably simple to make and were used almost exclusively throughout the colony before 1850. After the Industrial revolution, sash windows could be cheaply mass produced in Sweden and exported by Britain around the planet.

    Honey Oaks is the first of four houses we will see, that was built on the fertile soils below Church Street during the early English period of occupation. It says something of that early society that from 1810 the residents of Church Street were becoming less reliant on growing all of their own food and considered subdividing their garden plots for development.

    When you're ready to move on, please move down the street to House number 18.

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Church Street in Historic Tulbagh