The Woolsack restored

05 May 2003

Months of renovation, redecoration and specialist restoration work at the Woolsack residence on Middle Campus have underpinned the partial restoration of this historic homestead and national monument (now termed a provincial heritage site).

The project started in November 2002 and was completed at the end of March this year. UCT Student Housing funded the project to the tune of R340 000.

After the initial consulting and investigation into structural damage, materials and finishes by Trevor Thorold Architects, conservation architects and heritage consultants, Paintmaster Renovations and Decorators were appointed to carry out the work. The contractor and his team worked with the assistance of Jean vande Pitte, a specialist restorer, who undertook the intricate joinery and wrought-ironmongery restorations.

The 100-year-old building was seriously dilapidated. Much of its deterioration was due to the use of incorrect and inappropriate materials and finishes over the last few decades, in addition to the lack of recent maintenance.

"We realised from the onset that we had to invest in the correct materials, the correct contractor and specialists as well as maintain hands-on management to secure a successful end result," he said. John Peters, UCT residence maintenance manager, noted that Thorold's input and expertise was crucial to the project.

"Trevor's knowledge of the building's heritage and the importance of preserving it for future generations was of huge benefit. We relied heavily on his input and the end result owes a lot to his expertise and passion," he said.

Peters is optimistic that, provided the necessary funding is obtained, phase two of the project will start towards the end of 2003.

The Woolsack, designed by (later Sir) Herbert Baker, was built in 1899-1990 for Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), the English writer born in India, on the instructions of Cecil John Rhodes. The Kiplings spent their (South African) summers at the Woolsack from 1900 to 1908. Rhodes intended that the Woolsack, built on the Groote Schuur estate, to be used by succeeding generations of writers and artists, visiting South Africa because "if they live in beautiful surroundings they will be better inspired to interpret through their art of the beauty and grandeur of the country".

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