Three kilometres outside Tulbagh along the Winterhoek road on a rise stands the majestic De Oude Drostdy, designed by French-born architect Louis Michel Thibault. Gracious in proportions and flanked by oak trees and iceberg roses, it welcomes with a wide flight of stairs into formal rooms featuring high, yellowwood ceilings and flaunts with a fabulous collection of art and antiques. It is one of five museums in Tulbagh – the others being De Oude Kerk, the Pioneer House, a Victorian period house and the Earthquake museum – one might even say it is the jewel in our crown of heritage buildings.
In order for a town to be proclaimed as such in the good old bad old days, it needed to have a church and a magistrate’s court in place. Tulbagh is the fourth oldest town in South Africa (after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam); our museum church was built in 1756 (extended in 1795) and De Oude Drostdy (magistrate’s court) in 1806. Later the magisterial district was moved to Worcester and, no longer needed as a courthouse, the building was sold by Lord Charles Somerset into private hands. In the course of time it fell into disrepair but happily was salvaged and lovingly restored by Sir Meiring and Lady Beck, including having the original coat of arms of Governor Rijk Tulbagh (after whom the town is named) reproduced from Holland.
The magnificent manor house has withstood the test of time – including the great storm of 1822, the ravages of fire in 1934 and even the momentous earthquake of 1969. Today it is home to Drostdy-Hof wines, inspired by the legacy of impeccable craftsmanship and passionate dedication to the preservation of heritage. For a mere R20 one may wander through the vaulted rooms breathing of yesteryear and then, descending via a stairwell hewn into the rock of the foundations, sample the range of wines by candlelight in what used to be the old gaol beneath.
The Drostdy plays benign host to events and festivals, it is also very pleasant to enjoy a bottle of its finest on the garden terrace behind. Leaving, one cannot help goggling at the breath-taking view from the veranda across the valley to the Saronsberg… what a quality experience!