Monday, October 17, 2011

Ann's Villa

Although cars cross over the Zuurberg mountains from Port Elizabeth into the Karoo via the Olifantskop Pass within minutes these days, the journey was a much longer, slower and bumpier one if you go back 150 years or so.  Back in those days travellers had to make use of the Zuurberg Pass which snakes it's way over the mountain.  These days the old pass isn't the best road around anymore and even though you can drive it in a sedan (very slowly though) it's much more advisable to do it in a 4x4.  On the Karoo side of the pass, just off the (in a much better condition) R400 dirt road stands the historic Ann's Villa.  I have passed by Ann's Villa a couple of times, but I've never stopped before. When one of the local tourist guides heard that I was going to Kuzuko Lodge close by he urged me to make a quick detour and pop in for a look. We were met at the gate by Talent Nyamusa who is the manager of Ann's Villa and also act as the guide. She gave us a very thorough guided tour of the Blacksmith Museum (which I will post about tomorrow) before showing us around the house itself.

Scottish baker John Webster and his wife Ann Elizabeth Whall came to Port Elizabeth in 1849 and lived in town until 1854 when Webster bought the farm “Kleinplaas” in the Commadagga Valley in the Zuurberg.  The family lived in an old cottage on the property and Webster baked for the road builders at Stebbings Convict Station 10 km away who was busy building the Zuurberg Pass.  The pass was officially opened in 1858 and Ann's Villa was built and opened in 1864.  Unfortunately Ann died a year later at the age of 46.  Ann's Villa became on of the stops on the route north and specially after the discovering of diamonds in Kimberly in 1867 the Villa boomed.  

Ann's Villa consisted of seven rooms and with its blacksmith, wheelwright, bakery and shop was ideally situated at the northern foot of the Zuurberg Pass.  In 1896 a post office was added to the shop while a school was also built for children from the area. The property also had a corrugated iron shed with a sprung floor that was ordered from England in kit form and used both as a shearing shed and for local dances.  Ann's Villa's rooms are still available to the public as self catering accommodation and although not luxury accommodation it's the perfect spot to escape from the city if you need some alone time. 

It just felt like behind each door that Talent opened for us was another piece of history waiting with the biggest surprise being the fact that the original shop is still intact.  Now having the imagination that I do, one of the questions I asked while walking around the upstairs passages of Ann's Villa was if the building is haunted.  Without a pause or batting an eye lid she said no.  But if you ask me you probably need to stay a night to find out cause I did get a shiver down a spine once or twice.

1 comment:

  1. Nice that Anne's is still in operation. Looks like the kind of place I'd like to stay at. Want to see more.