The Smuts House Museum seeks to represent faithfully the life-style and multi-facetted career of one of South Africa's greatest sons, General J. C. Smuts, and to promote the holistic vision which he expounded in his life and writings.
Kindly note that, due to Level 4 restrictions, the House Museum and Ouma Isie's Tea Garden will regrettably be closed to vistors until 15 July 2021. However, all other open air facilities at Doornkloof remain open as before.
Commemoration of Jan Smuts' 151st birth year
For a series of historical film clips of Jan and Isie Smuts, including an extremely interesting presentation by Dr Claudius van Wyk, a leading authority on Holism and an intiator of the Holos Project, please click on the image below.
Review of the Smuts Homestead conducted by Mieke and Ferdie of Step Out Gauteng on 17 March 2021
Gauteng has so much more to offer than the sadly perceived traffic and we never know about these jewels or we know, but never care enough to explore them.Take Smuts House Museum in Irene for instance. Yes, it says museum in the name, and perhaps that might be one of the reasons why it is largely overlooked.
This place has so much more to offer and we are so chuffed that we were fortunate enough to experience almost all of it in one glorious Saturday.It's very difficult to believe that only a 2-minute drive from suburbia, you can find such an exquisite, tucked away treasure. The scenery is breath-taking, with towering trees and beautiful gardens. The birdlife is prolific with about 300 species of birds occurring here and it was quite the experience to see a flock of rose-ringed parakeets noisily flying in between the huge Eucalyptus trees.
Upon our arrival we were greeted at the Smuts house by Sharon, who would be our liaison for the day. She is a wonderfully jovial person, warm natured, kind and gentle in her approach. She spoke with so much passion and it became very clear to us that this wonderful place is very near and dear to her heart.
Our morning kicked off with a marvellous hike of the Oubaas Trail. It's a 2.3km long traverse of the Smuts koppie and it is so very scenic. From walking through the Place of Quiet, to the forest beyond that, we were constantly amazed. We walked past the bywoner graves and stopped just as a sign of respect. They count nine and it's the final resting place of the last bywoners that Jan Smuts found on his property when he acquired it. Once you start ascending the koppie itself, things start to get a tad more challenging, but it's a healthy little challenge. All along the path you have the striking vistas of the Pretoria skyline. At the top of the Koppie you will find the final resting place of Jan Smuts himself. A truly unique obelisk is erected there, marking the place where his and his wife, Tannie Issie's ashes are scattered.
It was time for our tour of the house, so we made our way down the path to meet up with Adele, who would be our tour guide.Adele is a bundle of joy, an extremely knowledgeable and competent guide with a deep-rooted interest and genuine love for the Smuts family. The way she presents the tour is interesting and engaging and her left of centre approach really appealed to us.
JC Smuts was a very interesting and highly intelligent man with an undying commitment to his wife and family and the preservation of all the ideas and facets of family life. He finished school in 4 years, attended university in Stellenbosch, where he met his wife, and was appointed attorney general at the young age of 28. The remarkable facts about this amazing couple, Oubaas and Ouma Issie as they were affectionately known, astounds me to no end and it was quite surreal to gaze upon the bed where he took his last breath. We were not bombarded with facts and figures, but received a rather holistic view of the remarkable achievements of the couple in what was very volatile times.As we are both somewhat of history nerds, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the tour and our imaginations grew wings.
We could not take photos of the inside of the house, for obvious reasons but I must admit I was a bit saddened by the fact that they receive no subsidisation whatsoever and have to generate all of their own income….
A busy day requires sustenance and at Smuts House you will find the delightful and aptly named Ouma Isie's Tea Garden. In between our trail walk and the tour of the house, we quickly sat down for some cake and coffee. The tranquillity of the garden is so utterly mesmerizing, shade trees with quaint light fixtures and rustic tables really settles your nerves and puts your mind at ease. Thinus, the proprietor of Ouma Issie's is a great host, very attentive, warm hearted, friendly and easy to talk to. It was a busy morning, but he takes time to chat to patrons and makes sure you are comfortable. Mieks had the carrot cake, which was exactly what it should be, moist and sweet, fragrantly spiced with luxurious cream cheese frosting. Timeless and perfect.I died by chocolate that day. It was the most poetic and decadent death ever recorded and I was only resurrected by the amazing cappuccino that accompanied my chocolate cake. I will gladly die again, numerous times!
We also enjoyed lunch there, I opted for a traditional, homemade beef burger that was just perfectly put together, and the wife utterly loved her chicken schnitzel with bechamel sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese. The portions and pricing were nothing to be scoffed at and we were both very happy with our lunch choices. The exquisite live piano music just made everything more magical. Service here is top notch and our waiter Tatiana was an absolute pleasure, extremely attentive and refreshingly enthusiastic. The fact that Ouma Issie's also hosts high teas now just made us fall in love with the place even more.
We made our way to Die Antiek Fabriek, an eclectic and peculiarly decorated antique shop also on the premises. It used to be staff quarters back in the day, but now serves as a place where old things become new again. Leon, the owner was unfortunately not available, but Sharon gladly acted as proxy. The craftsmanship on show here is simply outstanding. The loving attention that each piece receives is clearly evident and it makes my heart glad that there are still artisans like Leon in our midst. He specializes in Oregon pine tables and furniture, but there are many more interesting things to peruse and many more lofty plans for the future.
Finally we visited Crywolf Paintball And Laser Tag. Now, the first thing that sprang to mind was that this is the perfect place to drop off the kids, whilst the adults enjoy the more mature activities that the Museum has to offer. Speaking to Thomas the manager of CryWolf, we learned that safety and professionalism is paramount here. They have four courses available and here you can let your inner warrior come to the fore uninhibited.Whether you are a master tactician at heart, a gung-ho kamikaze or a stealthy assassin, I am certain that here you can live out all those secret fantasies.Why do I suddenly want to invite my boss here?Thomas says they are able to cater for large groups such as yearend functions and even for informal get-togethers like birthday- or bachelor's parties.It really is a professional set-up and we were rather impressed by the well-oiled machine that is CryWolf.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. We had an absolute ball of a time, and we are certain, whatever your cup of tea... You'll find it at Smuts House Museum. Please check their Facebook page for all the interesting events that is planned for the future."Historical home of statesman & philosopher, General Jan Smuts. Venue Hire for: Concerts, Restaurant, Corporate/Black Tie Dinners, Caravan Park, Tea Garden, Hiking Trail, dog walks, bird watching, photo shoots. Excellent historical time piece."
Ouma Isie's Tea Garden and Restaurant (since 1976)
Images of Ouma Isie's Restaurant and its Surrounds
SYBELLA MARGARETHA KRIGE
Ouma Ise Krige Smuts. born as Sybella Margaretha Krige (1870 - 1954) was the wife of General Jan Smuts. She grew up in Stellenbosch and met Jan Christiaan Smuts in 1887. She was a teacher while he studied law at Cambridge University in England. After a courtship of ten years the couple married in 1897 and settled in Johannesburg before moving to Doornkloof, Irene. She gave birth to nine children but raised only six as the other three past away as infants. She also raised a foster daughter.
She supported her husband who would later serve twice as prime minister of South Africa from 1919 to 1924 and 1939 to 1948. Becornilig first lady of South Africa did not change her - simplicity, dignity and composure prevailed. She was renowned for her hospitality, entertaining a variety of people - from locals to royalty including Princess Elizabeth who today is Queen Elizabeth of The United Kingdom. She ran an efficient home and preferred the Big House to the prime ministers' official residences in Pretoria and Cape Town.
During the Second World War the became world famous as the Chairperson of the South African Gifts and Comforts Fund. This was a successful programme with the aim to bring home comforts to the South African armed forces serving in Africa and Europe.
Intellectually she was her husband's equal. She was extremely well read and could speak several languages fluently. She also loved music. She had an inner strength and resilience devoid from any airs and graces and could hold her own with any personality on the world stage among them the British and Greek Royal Families. Other renowned statesmen and intellectuals of the era that come to mind are Winston Churchill, Olive Schreiner, and Emily Hobhouse.
She bore witness to the Anglo Boer War, World War One, the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression and World War Two. She died in 1954 at the age of 84.
The Big House - Home of the Smuts Family
General Smuts bought, for £300, the wood-and-iron building that had served as the officers' mess. It is believed that the building was originally prefabricated in Britain, taken to India by the British Army and later shipped to South Africa. Now, once again the building was dismantled. It was brought to Pretoria by rail, and thence to the farm Doornkloof by ox wagon, where it was re-erected at the substantial cost of £1000 in 1909. General Smuts was at sea, on the way to England as a member of the National Convention delegation, when Mrs Smuts moved her family into the house on 10 July 1909. The plan was altered on rebuilding, and as the years passed a kitchen and pantry (1918) and other rooms were added, and verandahs were enclosed (front verandah, 1942).
The Big House is, however, substantially as it was a century ago. The unpretentious building strikingly illustrates Smuts's indifference to luxury and ease of living, and here he spent the happiest hours of his life. Among the famous guests whom Ouma, Smuts' wife, entertained in her home were the British Royal Family, who visited them at Doornkloof while on the Royal Tour in 1947. General Smuts found his peace at Doornkloof. It was to Doornkloof that he retreated from the affairs of State which occupied so much of his life. At Doornkloof Smuts could indulge his absorbing passions for botany and philosophy. There he could enjoy the simple life of a farmer, father and grandfather.
After his death in 1950, Mrs Smuts continued to live in the only real home she had ever known, until her death in 1954. Both General and Mrs Smuts died in the Big House. Their ashes were scattered, as were those of other family members, on the top of Smuts Koppie - the rugged hill behind the house. The Smuts House also served as Lord Kitchener's Mess in Middelburg, Transvaal.
General Smuts is widely known for being an avid lover of both Philosophy and Botany. Smuts grew up on the Smuts family farm, Bovenplaats, in the Cape Colony. He would often go out alone and explore the countryside. Throughout his lifetime he went on many botanical expeditions all across South Africa, where he would collect plants.
Smuts was also a mountaineer and one of his favorite treks was up Table Mountain. This route is now named Smut's Track in commemoration of the General. His love for botany can be seen in the stunning wild gardens on the Smuts' property. Some of the trees on the stand have very special history to them, such as the Magnolia seeds were planted by Ouma from seeds given to her by Emily Hobhouse. The London Plane trees on the property also have historical value as they were planted there by MOTH (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Shellholes.
The three brochures below are available at the entrance desk at a cost of R15 each. These 16 page brochures supply much background information about the Big House, Jan and Isie Smuts and the various displays in the Museum. The brochures contain many useful images and will serve as valuable keepsake for your visit.
The General Smuts Foundation
Mrs Kitty Smuts, Smuts' daughter-in-law, widow of Japie Smuts, inherited the Big House. Finding it difficult to maintain the old house, she offered it to various organisations, but they declined her offers. The Smuts family removed items of furniture and objects of sentimental value from the Big House while items of significant historical interest were donated to institutions best able and willing to preserve them.
There was interest in the property, the Big House was on the point of being sold to a German consortium for purposes of establishing a sanatorium at which stage it came to the notice of Guy Braithwaite who stepped in and bought the property. In July 1960, a contract was concluded whereby the Big House and 25 morgen (21 hectares or 53 acres) of surrounding land were sold for £7000 by Mrs Kitty Smuts to Mr Braithwaite, an ex-serviceman and Pretoria attorney. Mr Braithwaite personally paid the 10% deposit on the same day. He announced proudly that "Doornkloof had been secured for the nation as a permanent memorial to the Oubaas and Ouma and all the ideals which we cherished and for which we fought during the war years".
A congress of ex-servicemen and servicewomen's organizations was held at Doornkloof on 8 October 1960, at which it was decided that a Section 21 company (i.e. a non-profit company), to be known as the General Smuts War Veterans' Foundation, should be registered "to hold Doornkloof in perpetuity"
The culmination of these early efforts was the declaration, in 1969, of the Big House as a National Monument by notice in the Government Gazette, No. 2551 of 31 October 1969. In 1994 the name of the General Smuts War Veterans' Foundation was changed to The General Smuts Foundation.
The Foundation is a private not for profit organisation founded in 1961 to preserve the legacy of the Rt Hon General Jan Smuts and his wife Isle Krige Smuts. Its Board of Directors and the Executive Committee members sponsor their time and skills to keep the legacy and history available to future generations. The Foundation receives no grants, nor financial assistance from government or private quarters. We wish to appeal to the history-loving public to contribute with donations, volunteering skills and sponsorships. We are also embarking on a Patron Programme to encourage both awareness and monetary assistance. Please click here for further information.
Today the grounds operate as a museum - please visit and experience first-hand the enormous legacy left by Jan and Isie. Jan Smuts was the founding father of human rights, the League of Nations and later the Unit. Nations. He was the only world leader present at signing of three peace treaties - the end of the Anglo Boer War, World War One and World War Two. The General Smuts Foundation is entirely dependent on donations for the perseverance and upkeep of these beautiful grounds. 11 does not receive any private or government funding. Any support be it financial, time or donation relating to the upkeep will be very mu. appreciated. Please feel free to explore the grounds, walk the trail, take your dogs for a walk, or bring your children to roam this special "farm".
The General Smuts Foundation still owns and administers Doornkloof. The tea garden, caravan park and Arts and Crafts Market generate some of the funds necessary for the day-to-day administration of the museum.
The administration of the Smuts House Museum is an interesting model for cultural preservation in South Africa today. Government does not have the resources to preserve the cultural heritage of all interest groups, and the onus for the identification and preservation of specific sites and aspects of history will have to rest on those with a particular interest in their preservation.
Financial Contributions and/or Smuts memorabilia will be most gratefully accepted.