Some Places of Interest in Somerset East
The town is small enough to be perambulated and contains a remarkable number of National Monuments and places of interest considering its size.
Paulet Street abounds in attractive old buildings, many being national monuments. Number 9, built in Cape Dutch style, was probably built by one of the superintendents of the experimental farm founded by Lord Charles Somerset, the Governor at Cape Town. The town was later built on the farm and named after his lordship. Numbers 49, 60 and 62 all date from the period 1825 to 1830.
Number 107, the "Mill House", was once thought to be the original house of the experimental farm and is certainly one of the oldest buildings in the area.
The William Oates School is named after a Wesleyan minister who served the Dutch-speaking coloured people of the town.
The Bellevue Seminary, a school for girls, was founded in 1881 by the Dutch Reformed Church.
Dorothy Evans, who died in 1842 and is buried in the graveyard behind the museum, left her property in Paulet Street to the London Missionary Society who erected the Hope Church and used her house as the parsonage.
Just round the corner from Paulet Street, at the top of Beaufort Street is the Museum. It stands in spacious grounds which are part of the Bosberg Nature Reserve and has been furnished with period pieces from late Victorian times.
In the grounds is a rare post box dating from Queen Victoria's reign.
An elegant Regency style building, it was consecrated in 1828 as a Wesleyan chapel and in 1835 became the parsonage for the Dutch Reformed Church for the next 105 years.
On the corner of Paulet Street and Beaufort Street is the Walter Battiss Gallery, a collection of the work of this local artist and friend of Pablo Picasso, reflecting different periods of his career as well as personal memorabilia.
The Voortrekker Hall and Museum recalls that the founder meeting of the movement took place in Somerset East in 1933.
All Saints Anglican Church in Beaufort Street was consecrated in 1855 and has beautiful memorial windows.
The Dutch Reformed Church in Nojoli Street (the High Street) at the intersection of Beaufort Street was begun in 1830 and is a blend of Cape Dutch and Gothic architecture. In the grounds is a fine statue of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, dominee here for over 40 years, as well as a monument to Commandant Paul Erasmus who died in 1881 as commander of the Somersetters in Basutoland.
154 Nojoli Street (the town's high street) dates from the early 1830's.
The war memorial stands on an island near the western end of Nojoli Street.
The Langenhoven Library in Louis Trichardt Street was erected in 1905 to house the town's library which had begun in 1832 as the Somerset Reading Society.
Upon the death in 1863 of Dr William Gill, the District Surgeon, he bequeathed the majority of his estate for the foundation and maintenance of an institution of higher learning but with the stipulation that the money was not to be used for buying or erecting buildings.
The town's inhabitants and the local farmers then clubbed together to raise the money and Gill College was opened in 1869.
Unfortunately, regulations promulgated in 1903 required institutions of higher learning to have a minimum of 75 post-matriculant students. The college thereupon became a high school and so it remains to this day.
Some Activities in Somerset East
Besides sightseeing, Somerset House's location is convenient for visiting the Bosberg Nature Reserve.
One can walk and hike in the reserve which is forested on its lower slopes and Dohne Sourveld (Karoo shrubs and fynbos) higher up.
Bird watchers can see how many types of bird they can spot.
There are various species of mammals, reptiles and amphibians in the reserve for those who know how to find them.
There is also fly fishing for those who would angle for trout.
For a selection of alternative activities please visit the Somerset East website and view the "Things to do" page.
On a Monday afternoon I drove out to the fields of Gill College to watch cricket. It's a fine old school which started life as a little university. Under the trees I was surprised to find a crowd of parents, with cool boxes of food and drinks, cheering on their lads. Now I ask you, where else would you find parents camping out on a Monday afternoon to watch their children play cricket?