As you enter Victoria West from Loxton (R63) the town is dominated by restored Cape Cottage, ‘Karoohuisie’ and Victorian-house style architecture that combine for picturesque viewing – many are restored into accommodation venues, but most on the main road are still lived in by locals. It’s incredibly pretty, and this part of town is definitely worth exploring.
Cape Cottage Style
The Cape Cottage house type originally came from the South-Western Cape, and has a very simple plan consisting of two or three interleading rooms. The walls were thick and often constructed of stone. The windows and front door is arranged symmetrically on the front facade. Because of the limited space, most of the rooms serve many functions.
Another architectural style from the South-Western Cape is the Malaysian flat-roofed house originally roofed with reeds and mud (brak roof), but later replaced with corrugated iron. This style remains characteristic of the Karoo, especially with the Victorian verandahs added to the front facade. The ‘Karoohuisie’ has a more complicated plan. It also consists of thick wall construction but was made of sun-baked bricks. The front facade remains symmetrical with central door and flanking windows. The rooms are arranged in three zones from the street. The front two rooms are most often used as bedrooms. The higher ceilings and greater volume ensure that they remain cooler. Next are the living and dining rooms and maybe a third bedroom. The kitchen and service areas are placed at the back of the house where the ceiling is lowest.
The Victorian style came to the Karoo as the British moved inland from the East coast with the discovery of gold and diamonds. During the late 19th century the Victorian decoration became the popular trend. Characteristic features of the Victorian era were the corrugated iron verandahs and timber work. The Victorian house plans followed the dictates of the style. They are typically layed out with living rooms at the front of the house, bedrooms further back and kitchen at the rear end of the house.
The Dutch Reformed Church was built in the Gothic Revival style, which was the style chosen by the N.G.K. as most appropriate for their church buildings. The Church was inaugurated in 1850. It was originally build on a 34 by 78 foot plan which housed both the sacristy and the main body of the church. The sacristy was later moved to one of the longer walls and the tower was added. It was originally built with a thatched roof which was replaced with corrugated iron roof in 1881.
Major changes were undertaken in 1921 to refurbish and renovate the interior. The present day clock was installed which necessitated the rebuilding of the tower and the bell was raised to its present position. The interior layout has been slightly modified with the inclusion of the gallery and the organ. The church has been declared a Historic Monument.
St John’s Anglican Church dates back to 1869 and was designed by Sophia Grey, the wife of the first Bishop of Cape Town. The plan is rectangular with a small entrance portico, the walls are constructed of stone, plastered and whitewashed. It still retains the paired lancet windows at the East end, above the alter. It houses a lead glass window designed to commemorate the victims of the 1871 flood. Thirty four mudstone houses were destroyed and 62 people were killed in the flood.
The Karoo has a rural vernacular architectural heritage which is unique to this area such as the stone walled sheep kraals, stone walled sheep camps, soap houses and outbuildings of the early sheep farms. The farm workers’ cottages are an under-estimated and interesting form of architecture.