Report Back Richmond



The three day Symposium, held in Richmond on October 16th to 18th at the Richmond Museum and was hosted by Richmond Heritage. Tucked away in the Bo-Karoo, this remarkable town which has its origins in 1843 as a church settlement, located between Vegkop hillock and the Ongers River on the farm Driefontein, provided the perfect context for the symposium which was well attended, with over 60 delegates engaging with the various presentations and lectures and in the rich discussions that followed them. Richmond, usually a quite town, was a hive of activity.

At the annual general meeting of Heritage SA that was held on the 16th October, Mr Len Raymond was elected the new Chairman of Heritage South Africa and the other office bearers elected for the 2015 are Carol Ann Podd from Swellendam, Chris Young from Drakenstein, Jacques Stolz from Egoli, Alan Montgomery from Mandela Bay, Jayson Clark from Tulbagh and Beverly-Ann Small from Alberton. After the conclusion of the AGM, the programme commenced with a delicious potjie dinner at the MAP (Modern Art Projects) Gallery, the brainchild of Harrie Siertsema, which is housed in a renovated supermarket in a precinct of beautifully restored old buildings, which altogether is a remarkable example of the successful adaptive re-use of old buildings.

After dinner, Professor Walter Peters, a Professor of Architecture at the Department of Architecture, University of the Free State, gave a talk on and screening of Richmond’s architecture and built environment and the development of white-washed buildings with stoeps or verandas and flat brakdakke with cornices and hipped corrugated iron roofs, which characterized the town. Much of this heritage suffered due to the demolition of a large number of these buildings for purposes of implementation of the Group Areas Act, 1950. In the 1970s the town was struck another blow when the N1 national road diverted business away from the town.

The next day commenced with the unique story of Richmond’s Saddle Horse Museum including the history and importance of horses in the Richmond area. This was followed by a presentation of heritage proposals for the Richmond area and a strategy for conservation by a lecturer from the Tshwane University Technicon and its students who prepared models that were on view at MAP Gallery.

Thereafter Dr Neil Viljoen, the Curator of Northwards, the Herbert Baker house dominating the Parktown Ridge and home to the Dale Laces from 1904 to 1911, gave a rich account of and delivered an amusing talk on the life of Josephine Dale Lace, who was born in Richmond and went to school in England , and lived in Johannesburg after her marriage to John. Dr Viljoen brought the extraordinary life of Josephine as a Rand Lady in Johannesburg to the fore.

Dr Judy McGuire of Prince Albert who has surveyed 120 of the Upper Karoo farmsteads then spoke about anthropology of the Karoo and Mr Whitlock gave a talk on and screening of remarkable Sneeuberg homesteads.

A Venison Evening and Awards Ceremony was held that evening at the Richmond Country Club where a number of awards were made including the prestigious Heritage Association of South Africa Gold Medal to Dr Judy McGuire.

The last day commenced with Prof Bruce Rubidge’s fascinating presentation on Palaeontology and Dr Morris’ talk on Archaeology. After tea, Graham Viney gave a comprehensive introduction to, and his analysis, Cape Dutch to Cape English, of the verandahs added on to Cape Dutch and Karoo houses and presented some superb images which allowed an understanding of the triggers and morphological basis for this process of change.

Those who stayed for the talk on and demonstration of Karoo wool shearing were not disappointed.

Mr Len Raymond’s presentation Save your Town’s Heritage stimulated some productive discussion in the questions that followed. Mr Raymond also conducted a walking tour of the historic houses in the earlier part of the town and the impact of the Group Areas Act, 1950 became more evident. Although fractured, the surviving built environment with its infrastructure of water leads, tree-lined development and urban agriculture behind, is very significant in its own right.

The food provided for the guests made the Symposium even more special and included many Karoo classics such as delicious venison fillet, lamb chops, roosterbrood and springbok Carpaccio. Wines from Juno Estate were brought from Paarl and the Muratie Estate wines were flown in by the owner in a light aircraft for the Saturday night wine pairing with Annatjie Reynolds of Karoo Venison at the MAP Gallery.

The choirs in the beautiful Richmond church building delighted all those who attended this special event.

The Symposium was considered by all to be the best ever and Richmond will be a hard act to follow.

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