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Kruithuis - Powder Magazine
Die Braak, Stellenbosch, Western Cape

Michael RAMBUSCH: Architect

Type:Gunpowder Store


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33°56'13.07" S 18°51'28.57" E

Also VOC Kruithuis; Powder Magazine

The whitewashed, thick-walled powder magazine was built by Michael Rambusch, a German mason from Danzig who was employed by the Dutch East India Company. In order to defend the little settlement of Stellenbosch, the Burger Military Council petitioned the Council of Policy for ammunition, and the request was granted. The Landdrost and Heemraden of Stellenbosch chose a suitable site on the Parade Ground for an arsenal to be built, 'because its situation is open and out-of-the-way but yet within sight of the town'.

Nearly a century passed before work commenced on the Kruithuis, for during this period official building, both in Cape Town and elsewhere within the settlement, had taken precedence over the arsenal. Eventually, on 5 May 1777, the powder magazine was handed over to the local authorities, six months after the laying of the foundations. Built of mud-plastered stone, with walls 66 cm thick, the actual magazine is double storeyed and roofed by a barrel vault. High on the end wall are inscribed the date and the monogram of the Dutch East India Company, 'VGOC'. At the opposite end is the pedimented bell tower, erected at a slightly later date. The entire building is surrounded by a high wall, pierced by splendid arched gateways.

By the middle of the 19th century, when an arsenal was no longer required, the building was used for sundry purposes, including that of a market shelter. At one stage a section between the outer wall and the main building was roofed over to house the local fire brigade. Now fully restored as a military museum, this one-time utilitarian building stands like a piece of sculpture at the lower end of the Braak, a reminder of the not-so peaceful history of Stellenbosch.

(Picton-Seymour, 1989: 59-60)

The information board reads as follows:


The V.O.C. Kruithuis was built by Phillip Hartog and Lambert Fick and was completed on the 5th of March 1777. The building was originally used to store the town's fire arms, cannons and ammunition in case of an attack on Stellenbosch. But no shot has ever been fired on Stellenbosch during its 300 year existence. The building was later the site for the Friday market.

In 1936 the Stellenbosch Municipality restored the building and in 1940 it was declared a National Monument. The building was first open to the public in 1940 as an Africana Museum. In 1971 the Stellenbosch Museum took over the building from the Municipality to display the museum's collection of fire arms, cannons and military uniforms.

It is now a Provincial Heritage Site.

Writings about this entry

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pg 175
Fransen, Hans. 1978. Guide to the Museums of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Galvin & Sales (Pty) Ltd, for the Southern African Museums Association. pg 93
Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 220
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. pg 28
Krige, Ode. 2015. Carl Otto Hager : argitek tot eer van God, 1813-1898. Hermanus: Hemel & See Boeke. pg 110, 203
Le Roux, Marius. 1979. V.O.C. Kruithuis Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch Museum. pg All
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 59-60
Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pg 148