Go back in time at Baynesfield

2008-10-04 00:00

An article published in July about one of Pietermaritzburg’s famous old homes, Brookby in Morcom Road, noted that it was designed by German-born but UK-trained Albrecht Halder, best known for having designed Sans Souci in Pentrich.

On reading the article Eleanor Schofield, curator of Baynes House and the Baynesfield Estate Museum, rang to tell me Halder had also designed Baynes House.

“In the interior corridor you’ll find his distinctive arches and there are also lancet windows like Brookby.”

Built in 1882 for the pioneering agriculturalist Joseph Baynes, on the Baynesfield estate situated between Richmond and Pietermaritzburg, the house is one of the best preserved 19th-century homes in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands and to celebrate the arrival of spring it will be opening its doors to visitors on Sunday, October 12. (See box.)

But there is far more to enjoy at Baynesfield than the house. Schofield, who was appointed curator four years ago, thinks one of the major achievements since her arrival was providing the Natal Vintage Tractor and Machinery Club with a permanent home, an initiative started by her predecessor Carol Kennedy.

On Sunday all the machinery and tractors will be working, including the two stars of the collection — a vintage steam engine and a vintage steamroller.

Baynesfield has also provided a home for the Woodcrafters Club with a membership largely drawn from Durban and Pinetown. On Sunday they will be selling and displaying their wares from walking sticks to intricate fretwork.

They are based in the house where Baynes lived with his first wife Maria. “She and her baby died in childbirth in 1875,” says Schofield. “When he married Sarah three years later he built the new house.”

Other noted architectural features on the estate are the 1898 buttery — “the first butterhouse in Natal”, says Schofield. “It has been renovated with the assistance of Museum Services.”

You’ll also find a gardening museum, a kitchen museum, a collection of vintage sewing machines and on Sunday a blacksmith will be at work.

Funds raised will go towards the restoration of buildings and further development of the museums.

“We are hoping to develop a garden with indigenous medicinal plants,” says Schofield.

“And a bit further down the line a mini-farm for children.”

• Open from 10 am to 4 pm, October 12. Admission: adults R10; children under 12 R5.

• If you want to arrive in style take a vintage train ride from Pietermaritzburg Station to the estate where you will be met by vintage vehicles and transported to the venue by a tractor and trailer. To book for the train phone Robbie McGregor at 031 303 3003 or 082 353 6003.

• As well as the various activities mentioned in the accompanying article, there will be tours through Baynes House and music from the bandstand in the garden.

• A selection of goods and plants are for sale and the refreshments available will include breyani and pork prego rolls.

• Inquiries: Eleanor Schofield at 033 251 0001 (working hours).

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