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RETIEF, Pieter

Born: 1780
Died: 1838


The well-known trekker, better known as Piet Retief, who was murdered by Dingaan in 1838. Born in the Western Cape, he was living on the Cape Frontier in Grahamstown by 1815 and turned his hand early to building contracting, tempted to take advantage of the 'building mania' in Grahamstown in 1820 (Lewcock 1963:199). He was awarded the contract for the erection of a Drostdy at Grahamstown as well as the contract for Scott's Barracks (to Scott's design). The contract was awarded May 1822 and work proceeded with interruptions. Retief, frequently away on warlike engagements, by that time being 'Field Commandant of all the Albany Burghers' according to Lewcock (1963:242), was unable and perhaps unqualified to supervise the construction. The barracks were completed in 1823 but the collapse of structural work following exceptional storms a few months later, led to the sale and demolition of the building. The barracks were already out of use by the time Retief had signed the contract for the erection of the Drostdy House. Again burgher duties took Retief away from the work and the plan of the house, believed to have been thought up by the Governor's (Henry Rivers) wife, was deemed a disaster. Retief was made to pay for poor work, sued Rivers and lost. After considerable litigation, Retief went insolvent in 1834. He led the Great Trek out of the Cape Colony in 1836.

(Lewcock 1963; Greig 1970; Oberholster 1972; Reynolds 1974)

All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

List of projects

With photographs
With notes

Drostdy: 1822 - c1828. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Contractor
Drostdy Barracks and Lodge: 1822 : 1828. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Contractor
House Pieter Retief, adjoining Provost House: High St. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Architect
House Retief - Mooimeisiesfontein: n.d.. Riebeek East, Eastern Cape - Architect
Scott's Barracks: n.d.. Makhanda (Grahamstown), Eastern Cape - Architect

Books citing RETIEF

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pp 33, 121

Hartdegen, Paddy. 1988. Our building heritage : an illustrated history. South Africa: Ryll's Pub. Co. on behalf of the National Development Fund for the Building Industry. pp 61

Lewcock, Ronald. 1963. Early Nineteenth Century Architecture in South Africa : a study of the interaction of two cultures, 1795-1837. Cape Town: AA Balkema. pp 155n, 196, 199, 201, 240-244, 246n, 247, 354, 376, 444