The Somerset East Museum

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About The Somerset East Museum

The Somerset East Museum

The Museum Building

Shortly after the establishment of the town of Somerset, 1825, land on the slopes of the Boschberg Mountain was given to the Wesleyan missionaries for a chapel and graveyard.

The chapel was completed and consecrated in 1828, but a few years later the building and surrounding land were transferred to the Dutch Reformed Church.  In 1835 the chapel was converted into a parsonage.

During the 105 years the building was used as a parsonage, four ministers lived there:

  • George Morgan - until 1841
  • John Pears - until 1866
  • Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr - until 1908
  • John Murray Hofmeyr - until 1943

In 1971, the building, an exquisite example of a Georgian manor house, was made available as a museum, and in 1972 it was proclaimed a province aided museum and a national monument.  The Museum was inaugurated during the celebration of the town's 150th anniversary 1975.

The Slachter's Nek Exhibition

The Somerset East Museum houses an exhibition staged around the original beam on which the five Slachter's Nek rebels were hung in 1816 by representatives of Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape at the time.

After 1806 the British authorities were determined to stamp out the lawlessness in the Eastern Districts of the Cape.  Various strategies were implemented in order to bring the pioneeer frontier farmers within the framework of regular government and the rule of law.  While some accepted the new changes, others in the more isolated and inhospitable areas remained suspicious of British motives and intentions....So begins the story of the 1815 Eastern Cape Rebellion, otherwise known as SLACHTER'S NEK.

Although there were a number of other revolts in the same district, none of these left a more lasting and powerful impression in the minds of the generations still to come - implications which ultimately played a vital role in the shaping and development of South Africa as a whole.

The exhibition strives to portray a glimpse into the lives of the ordinary people - the frontier Boers, Cape Regiment soldiers, Chief Ngqika and the British authorities - but it goes further.  It explains how the Slachter's Nek execution moved people like Paul Kruger, DF Malan, CJ Langenhoven and Andre P Brink to contribute to the debate surrounding the aftermath of the event - in order to keep the memories of those involved alive.

Included in the exhibition are:

  • Timelines (1815) - Battle of Waterloo; Somerset Farm; Battle of New Orleans; the Year without a Summer, etc.
  • Relevant contemporary issues such as the role of Nationalism in the development and expansion of nation states, and the role of the Slachter's Nek beam in the shaping of Afrikaner Nationalism
  • History and debates around the topic of Capital Punishment

This ensures that the Slachter's Nek exhibition remains relevant to current educational needs.

The Slachter's Nek monument is to be found on the N10 between Cookhouse and Golden Valley, at the site where the incident took place.

THE LOCAL HEROES EXHIBITION

The exhibition features four local Struggle Heroes, all born in locally -

  • Prof. Gert Johannes "Jakes" Gerwel
  • Dr. Walter Benson Rubusana
  • Dr. Norman Bantwini "Totose" Ngcipe
  • Rev. Frederick Emmanual "Fred" Hufkie

THE IMITHI YESIXHOSA EXHIBITION

The exhibition depicts the present day use of indiginous plants for cultural and spirtitual practices.

THE GRAVE OF OUMA DORA DOTYI JACOBS

Born May 1882, Died January 20013 - 122 years old

Ma Dora Jacobs was born on the farm Paddafontein in the Somerset East district. She was one of 8 siblings.  She did not ever go to school and spent most of her life as a laundress on farms.  Her life was one of hard work, with lots of friends, family, music, laughter and story telling.  She started taking medication for high blood pressure only when she was almost 100.  She did not ever smoke or drink alcohol.  For the last ten years of her life she was blind.  Ma Dora is buried just outside the Museum grounds; her grave is at the end of a path.

The Somerset East Museum is open from 8.00 until 13.00 and from 14.00 until 16.00 on weekdays, and closes from 24th December until 7th January.  Contact the Museum well before the time to arrange for visits on Saturdays and public holidays. 042 243 2079

For accommodation at the Museum, visit our Museum Cottage page.

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