President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Mandela-and-TutuThe Drostdy Museum also houses exhibitions of two black South African Icons namely President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Both are African and world Icons, both received the Nobel Peace Prize and both were awarded the Honorary Citizenship of Swellendam.


The parlour is furnished in the style of the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century. The furniture was arranged against the walls, a formality derived from baroque courts and inevitably adopted by the middle classes of aspirant rank. The furniture was moved around as needed for playing games or to be near a light source. The Furnishings reveal the leisure activities of the genteel and the tea table has been moved to the centre of the room for service.

All except one of the portraits depict members of the Swellengrebel family.

Dining Room

At the Cape the dining room was traditionally situated at the centre of the house. This characteristic was derived from the hall-plans of medieval Europe and was well suited to the relaxed informality of Cape life. The dining room is furnished in the Regency style combining Cape furniture with mall imported pieces and covers the period from about 1825-1850. This is the only room in the house with overhead lighting.

Formal Displays

The formal displays are used to exhibit special objects and collections. The first room contains a permanent exhibition of old photographs of Swellendam and some unique pieces of commemorative silverware.

Kitchen and Pantry

The focal point of the kitchen is the large open hearth on which various iron and copper cooking utensils are displayed. Discarded wagon metal tyres were used to protect the plastered surface where the fire was made. Copper utensils were made at the Cape, but most of the ironware was imported. To the left of the hearth is the oven, used for baking bread. A heavy iron bar set into the chimney allowed pots and kettles to be suspended. A staircase leads up to the loft where fruit and vegetables as well as biltong (dried meat) and dried fish were kept.

Diet consisted of meat, seafood, fish and available vegetables. Dairy produce came from cows that were kept, fruit and herbs were grown and wheat was the main staple. Spices, coffee and tea were imported.

The pantry would have been used for food storage and provided a cool place where butter could be processed.


During the eighteenth century bedrooms often served as reception rooms and in the Drostdy these are furnished with tester beds and settees in the Cape baroque and neoclassical style. Adjoining one main bedroom is a dressing room with a mirror, washstand with a jug, basin and foot baths. Staff such as the tutors and governesses were accommodated in simpler bed rooms such as the room leading off the kitchen.

North Wing

This wing of the building is all that remains of the original 1747 Drostdy. When it was enlarged in 1813, this part was used exclusively for offices. According to the old inventories there were offices for a clerk, the secretary and the landdrost. Tradition has it that the large room at the end of this wing was the council chamber or Raadzaal.

Although the actual objects listed in the old Drostdy inventories cannot be traced, care has been taken to refurnish the rooms with the same quantities and kinds of objects that were recorded. The writing desks are the chief pieces of furniture in both the Landdrost’s and the secretary’s offices.


The portraits in the Council Chamber and the parlour depict descendents of Hendrik Swellengrebel who was the Governor at the Cape from 14 April 1739 until 27 February 1751, when he returned to Europe. The portraits were donated to the museum by the Swellengrebel family in Holland.

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