18 June 2012 by Chris Marais

Comforts of a corbelled house

The corbelled house is part of the Upper Karoo’s heritage, and they’re being fixed up and made comfortable for travellers to overnight in – a great new form of farm stay.

The corbelled house – surprisingly cool digs

We began seeing these dilapidated old stone beehives years ago on our travels through the Karoo, and even then they fascinated us.


										The stony interiors even have built-in shelving

A bit of asking about, scratching around on Google and very quickly we found out you can actually stay over in such a place. So we booked, paid up and went off to a place called Stuurmansfontein, near Carnarvon in the Northern Cape.

You sleep in a restored historical home with a back-story, under a world of stars with no sound in the distance except for that yapping jackal the farmer hates so much.

Each corbelled house comes with its own legend, and each has its peculiar little features. Stuurmansfontein had its own ‘li’l house on the prairie’ long-drop loo, as well as a flushing option inside for those who aren’t yet totally taken with 18th-century Karoo lifestyles.

First built by the trekboer families who moved through here 200 years ago, corbelled houses of the Northern Cape are made of stone, stone and a bit more stone.

They didn’t have wattle groves out here. There were no steel girders. But there were stones. So they built corbelled houses, which have their origins somewhere in the southern Mediterranean countries.

Stuurmansfontein is a blissful place. Big skies, lots of stars and very quiet – you sit outside on a warm evening, or a late winter afternoon catching the last rays, glass of wine in hand. Maybe something cooking on the gas stove inside. Paraffin lamps, to add atmosphere to it all.

Recently we stayed over at another corbelled house on a farm called Osfontein, also in the Carnarvon area.


										Note the springbok-skin mat, quilt, brass bedstead and candle...

This time the winter chills were setting in, so we made a big old fire in the kitchen, flipped out yet another bottle of merlot, some really good cheese and crackers, and there may have been some guitar music. Whatever. It was wonderful.

Osfontein comes with some electricity, but everyone uses candles for ambience. The bed was deep and fluffy and welcoming after the shower.

This really is South African farm-staying at its finest. You sleep in a restored historical home with a back-story, under a world of stars with no sound in the distance except for that yapping jackal the farmer hates so much.

And in the morning, as you’re having your breakfast, the farmer’s wife arrives with border collies in tow and wants to know how your night went. You grin happily at her through a mouthful of muesli and nod your head. Thank you for sharing your space with us...


										The corbelled house and stone kraal at dawn

Category: Culture & History


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