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Explore early settler life at the oldest house in Westville

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Explore early settler life at the oldest house in Westville

Declared as a National Monument in 1983, the Bergtheil Museum is housed in the oldest building in Westville and continues to be an important part of the local heritage today.

The house of Jonas Bergtheil
Built in 1840, Bergtheil Museum was the house of Jonas Bergtheil and is a monument to his life and those of the early German settlers that he brought to Port Natal to settle the area and farm cotton. They soon established several farms both in Westville and neighbouring New Germany and were a tight-knit community. Jonas was the Director of the Natal Cotton Company and the museum is filled with artefacts and exhibits depicting this period in time. The farm's name was changed from the original Wandsbeck to that of Westville. There are photographs, important documents and information easily accessible to the public through the museum archives. Taking a tour through the museum is a magnificent way to learn about the rich cultural past of Westville and an interesting outing for history buffs and community members alike.

Exhibiting early settler life
This landmark house museum and its rooms of antiques and relics have stood the test of time and exhibit early settler life. While the building has gone through renovations over the years, the original cottage features stonewalls and yellowwood timber floors from the era Jonas Bergtheil and his family first inhabited it. The Bergtheil Museum can be found at 16 Queen's Avenue and is amidst leafy park surroundings. The beautiful shrubbery lends an added air of stillness and you are able to connect with the history held within the exhibitions. The museum also has a reference library that contains a vast collection of records pertaining to the South African war of 1899-1902 and the history of the South African military in the First and Second World Wars.

The history of Westville
Even though the area was initially planned to be used as farming land for cotton, the residential potential of this suburb was identified early on. Information found at the Bergtheil Museum shows that several farms were established across Westville and New Germany and tight-knit farming communities grew as a result. Once it had become apparent that the area wasn't all that suitable for cotton farming, permission was granted for other types of crops to be produced. Soon, potatoes, corn, barley and oats were being farmed and sold in the markets of Port Natal.

Many early farming practices and examples of settler life are exhibited in the museum. The Bergtheil Museum also holds records of the first religious monuments in the area and timelines that focus on significant moments in the history of Westville, including the passing of certain laws and the establishment of conservation areas like the Palmiet Nature Reserve. There are lists of the earliest-known farming families, settler workers and more, proudly displayed among the rich walls.

The Bergtheil Museum is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm and from 8 am to 12 pm on Saturdays. School field trips and guided tours can be arranged in advance if required. Everyone is welcome to explore the wealth of knowledge and historical information on offer.

Author Shelley Residential
Published 21 Jul 2022 / Views -

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