A walking tour of Sutherland’s Architecture

Sutherland’s pioneers quarried the area’s distinctive grey stone for many of their buildings and architectural features, such as walls, gateposts and reservoirs. Building methods varied from dry packed stone to large dressed blocks, set in pointed mortar.

Together with the use of corrugated iron roofs, the stone walls give the town a textural, earthy appeal while the later addition of stoeps (verandas) in timber or steel adds a delicate touch to the otherwise sturdy houses.

Early photos of the town show that most buildings were gabled in the Cape Dutch fashion. As the Victorians swept in, gables and thatch or clay roofs went out of fashion, to be replaced by verandas and corrugated iron roofs. The remains of stone walls and other stone buildings are dotted around town, giving Sutherland its warm, rustic character.

Many of the more notable houses are now used as guesthouses serving the town’s thriving tourism industry. A stroll will take visitors past The White House, originally a boarding house named Dagbreek (Daybreak) and later a garage and a museum; Sutherland Inn, which was the first pastoral residence and later a doctor’s office; Primrose Cottage, built in 1905, one of the only houses with an intact gable; Cluster d’Hote, now a restaurant, was once an overnight station for farmers staying in town for Communion; and Sutherlandia. All these are examples of local architecture over 60 years old.

What: The Dutch Reformed Church. This is probably the most important of Sutherland’s heritage buildings, representing the reason for the town’s existence. 
When: Built in 1899. 
Where: Piet Retief Street, the main road in town at both the physical and spiritual centre.

Architecture and design: 
Designed by Charles Freeman (who also designed Cape Town’s Standard Bank building and the Graaff Reinet Dutch Reformed Church). This is a cruciform straight gabled church built with pointed, rough stone. It has a square, two-tiered tower with a plastered spire topped by a bracketed cornice. The design is classical and restrained with round-headed openings.

More info: 
The church houses a German-designed organ in its original casing, although the interior has been converted into an electrical instrument. During the Anglo Boer War the church was occupied by troops and used as a fort. Some damage was caused to the interior and graffiti from the occupation is still visible in the clock tower, tangible evidence of the town’s cultural heritage. 

What: The Church Hall. Situated on the same grounds as the Dutch Reformed Church.

Architecture and design: 
A rectangular stone structure featuring scalloped bargeboard ends and similar decoration along the roof space.

What: The Original Church Building (known as the Ark). 
When: This building was moved from its original site and re-erected in its present position after being demolished in 1899.
Where: Piet Retief Street

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