Fire damage to historical buildings in Cape Town 'devastating', says Heritage Trust

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Mostert’s Mill, the historic windmill that was the only restored working windmill in the country, has been gutted by a runaway veldfire.
Mostert’s Mill, the historic windmill that was the only restored working windmill in the country, has been gutted by a runaway veldfire.
Corbin August
  • The Cape Town Heritage Trust describes the damage to historical buildings as devastating.
  • Buildings on the Rhodes Estate and UCT campus were damaged in the fire on Sunday.
  • Some of the buildings can be repaired, but will likely be very expensive to restore.

The damage to historical buildings in a Cape Town fire is "devastating", according to the Cape Town Heritage Trust.

The fire, which swept down the mountain from Rhodes Memorial on Sunday morning, saw historical buildings on and around the UCT campus severely damaged.

Strong winds had since pushed the fire around Devil's Peak to Vredehoek.

ROLLING COVERAGE | Fire rages in Cape Town, evacuations underway

The fire gutted the Jagger Library on Sunday afternoon, with UCT still to establish the extent of the damage to its collections.

Western Cape Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC, Anroux Marais, said it was with great sadness that she learnt about the great loss of heritage significance at UCT, the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant, the Mostert's Mill and the libraries.

"Heritage Western Cape is now on standby to help with emergency applications once assessing can take place," she added.

Cape Town Heritage Trust's Laura Robinson said: "The Cape Town Heritage Trust is devastated to learn about the terrible mountain fire that has destroyed a large part of the cultural landscape of the Rhodes Estate, the historic Tea Room next to the Rhodes Memorial, several buildings on the main campus, including the Jagger Library, with its internationally significant collection of historical archival documents and books and the Fuller Hall residence."

Historic

Other buildings destroyed in the fire include Mostert's Mill, the historical windmill that was the only restored working windmill in the country, and a historical house, Cadboll, which served as student accommodation.

"It is not only the historical buildings that have been lost, but their contents and collections; a memory and resource of immense value to all South Africans and indeed the world," said Robinson.

However, Robinson said there was the possibility that some landmarks may still be saved. Mostert's Mill may have lost all its timber work, but the masonry still stands.

READ | Smoke, flames, fear: Vredehoek residents evacuate homes

"The masonry will need to be stabilised and the timberwork rebuilt, but it can be restored. It's going to be very expensive, and we have offered our assistance to the Department of Public Works, who own the building," she added.

Similarly, stone structures, such as the Tea Room, were likely to have been left standing after the fire, but may require extensive and costly repairs.

Smoke hovered over parts of Cape Town on Sunday as
Smoke hovered over parts of Cape Town on Sunday as firefighters battled a veldfire that raged from Rhodes Memorial towards the University of Cape Town.
The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through. (Ci
The Mostert Mill after the fire swept through.

"The Trust stands ready to assist in whatever manner we can and offers an opportunity for those who wish to donate towards the restoration of the buildings devastated by the fire. Donations may be made to the Cape Town Heritage Foundation," she added.

For more information, contact Nicolette Nunes on 021 426 2157 or admin@heritage.org.za

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