Groote Schuur

Groote Schuur

At the mention of Groote Schuur in Cape Town, most people immediately think of the hospital. Yet Groote Schuur is also the house that belonged to Cecil John Rhodes and which he bequeathed it to the nation - along with vast tracts of mountainside that stretched all the way to Constantia Nek, Kirstenbosch included.

Originally, Groote Schuur (Dutch for 'Big Barn') was built by the Dutch East India Company in about 1657 as part of De Schuur, the company's granary. By the time Rhodes bought it in 1893, Groote Schuur was in a state of neglect.

By chance he met an untried young English architect who was visiting Cape Town, and commissioned him to restore Groote Schuur. For the architect, Herbert Baker, this was a heaven-sent opportunity to make his name. Rhodes's brief to Baker was to enlarge the house and restore something of its original Cape Dutch appearance.

The plan that finally emerged from Baker's drawing board was a charming hybrid of ornate gables, colonnaded verandas, barley-sugar chimneys, whitewashed walls and warm teak woodwork.

Groote Schuur was a triumph for Baker who, with this design, actually created a new form of South African vernacular architecture.

Rhodes had agents and minions on the lookout for furniture, books, porcelain, silver and glassware - he had definite ideas and more than enough money to realise them. He particularly wanted items from the Cape, and many of these had to be reimported from Holland. Today, the house and its interior remain almost exclusively as they were in Rhodes's day.

The rooms have a comfortable domesticity, enlivened by evidence of Rhodes's eclectic tastes. The wooden comer posts on one of the staircases are carved in the form of the enigmatic soapstone eagles that were found at the Zimbabwe Ruins; Delft tiles decorate the downstairs skirtings and several of the fireplaces; and some of the fireplaces themselves have Zimbabwe soapstone surrounds and copper hoods.

Among the most interesting items are souvenirs from his travels, including various artefacts from the Zimbabwe Ruins, an exquisitely inlaid Moorish Egyptian travelling writing table, an old Cape stinkwood armoire with secret drawers and an elephant-shaped drinking cup.

There are very few paintings, and in any case, the vast areas of wood panelling don't encourage them. Ranged throughout the house, however, are a series of four rare 17th-century Flemish tapestries, these being allegorical depictions of America, Europe, Africa and Asia respectively.

Rhodes's books reflect his wide interests. The study houses a unique collection of obscure Roman and Greek classics. The library houses the bulk of the books, most of them dealing with travel and exploration.

When Rhodes was alive, two photographs of falcon statues - representing Ra, the ancient Egyptian sun-god - enjoyed pride of place next to his bed. These images were placed above and below a photograph of one of the soapstone eagles from the Zimbabwe Ruins - the juxtaposition of these images echoing Rhodes's belief that these two civilisations were connected in some way.

The bathroom adjoining Rhodes's bedroom is a highlight. It contains a huge bathtub carved from a single piece of Paarl mountain granite, for which the floor had to be specially reinforced. Water spurts through the mouth of a brass lion, and once the bath is full, it takes a mere five minutes before the water is stone cold again!

Rhodes enjoyed filling his house with people, and during his short residence at Grootte Schuur many visitors trooped through the heavy teak front door and took tea or partied on the colonnaded back veranda, his favourite place for entertaining.

Among the frequent guests were the Rudyard Kiplings, Lord and Lady Edward Cecil, Baden-Powell, the Duke of Westminster, and the treacherous Princess Radziwill who tried, in vain, to connive a permanent place for herself in Rhodes's bachelor life.

Many of Rhodes's esteemed guests were horrified at his egalitarian habit of throwing open his gates to the Cape Town public every weekend, where they would arrive, children in tow, to picnic happily on the lawns. Rhodes said: 'Some people like to have cows in their park; I like to have people in mine.'

The gardens at Groote Schuur enjoy a matchless setting against the hunched, benevolent presence of Devil's Peak. From the back veranda, shallow steps lead up past the formal terraces to an avenue of stone pines, from where one can gaze down at Baker's handiwork and the spread of urban Cape Town beyond.

The massive rose garden is edged with thick hedges of starry blue plumbago - Rhodes's favourite flower. The incredible esteem in which this controversial man was held is reflected in the fact that for many years after his death - 26 March 1902 - thousands of Capetonians would religiously commemorate the occasion by wearing a sprig of plumbago on their lapels.

Residence of Prime Ministers
For a long period (1911 to 1994) it was the official Cape residence of eleven Prime Ministers of South Africa.

Mr P.W. Botha and his wife Elize made Westbrooke the official residence from 1978-1989 when he was first Prime Minister (1978-1983) and then became President in (1983-1989). F.W. de Klerk decided to move back to Groote Schuur in his term in office and Nelson Mandela then moved back to Westbrooke (which he had renamed "Genadendal") after the 1994 election.

P.W. Botha was the first Prime Minister and then President to live in Westbrooke/Genadendal and make it the official residence of the Head of State. Nelson Mandela continued this practise and the Genadendal building again became the Cape Town residence of the South African President after 1994.

Groote Schuur is now a museum and open to the public only by appointment or on occasional open days in aid of charity which are publicised in the press beforehand.

Where to Stay in Cape Town
Cape Town Accommodation options are numerous; with a large variety of different types spread throughout the Peninsula.

Cape Town Things to Do
Cape Town offers a myriad of other Museums as well as other Things to Do and places to see, whatever your tastes, inclinations or budget.

Points of interest close to Groote Schuur:


Brooklyn Chest Hospital

Brooklyn Chest Hospital specialising in TB treatment. Also for general medical conditions and failures

Tel: +27 (0)21 508 7400
Mitchells Plain District Hospital

Tel: 021 370 3720
Victoria Hospital

Victoria Hospital provides a wide range or both medical and surgical services and strives to reach out to the community that surrounds it.

Tel: +27 (0)21 799 1111
Netcare Chris Barnard Memorial Hospital

Doctors and staff at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital provide a wide range of specialist service to all.

Tel: +27 (0)214806111
Red Cross Children's Hospital

Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital is South Africa's only dedicated child health institution and offers a comprehensive range of specialist paediatric services

Tel: +27 (0)216585111
Stikland Hospital

Stikland Hospital operates in the Tygerberg Eastern Health District of the Metro Region.

Tel: +27 (0)21 940 4400
Mediclinic Durbanville

Mediclinic Durbanville, situated in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town, offers local, national and international patients a broad spectrum of professional medical services.

Tel: +27 (0)219802100
2 Military Hospital

Netcare N1 City Hospital

Netcare N1 City Hospital, conveniently located next to the N1 National Road in the greater Metropolitan area of Cape Town

Tel: +27 (0)215904444
Karl Bremer Hospital

Karl Bremer Hospital aims to be the most cost effective second level referral hospital within the financial means of the Province of the Western Cape

Tel: +27 (0)21 918 1911
Medicross Parow

Tel: 021 936 7300
Life Kingsbury Hospital

Life Kingsbury Hospital has the priority to focus on the delivery of a special brand of health and care to patients.

Tel: 021 670 4000
Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital

Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital is a member of Life Healthcare, one of the largest private hospital groups in South Africa

Tel: 021 506 5111
Mowbray Maternity Hospital

Mowbray Maternity Hospital offer a full range of high-level maternity services, spanning the three main stages of childbirth

Tel: +27 (0)21 685 3026
False Bay Hospital

Tel: +27 (0)21 782 1121
Life Claremont Hospital

Life Claremont Hospital is members of Life Healthcare, one of the largest private hospital groups in South Africa,

Tel: 021 670 4300
Tygerberg Hospital

Tygerberg Hospital is a tertiary hospital and is the largest hospital in the Western Cape and the second largest hospital in South Africa

Tel: 021 938 4911
Mediclinic Milnerton

Mediclinic Milnerton offers local, national and international patients a broad spectrum of professional medical services

Tel: +27 21 529 9000
Jan S Marais Hospital

Tel: (021) 948-8131
Mediclinic Constantiaberg

Mediclinic Constantiaberg has a carefully planned design, sophisticated equipment and facilities, and generous proportions

Tel: +27 21 799 2911
G F Jooste Hospital

Tel: +27 (0)21 690 1000
Kuils River Hospital

Ideally situated in the heart of Kuils River, Kuils River Hospital is easily accessible to local residents and residents of the greater Winelands area,

Tel: 021 900 6000
Booth Memorial Hospital

The Booth Memorial Hospital in the suburb of Oranjezicht can accommodate 106 patients, who are referred from the major tertiary hospitals within the city bowl area or their attending physicians.

Tel: 021-465-4846
Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt

Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt is one of the oldest and best-known private hospitals in the Western Cape.

Tel: +27 21 957 6000
Mediclinic Panorama

Since its inception Mediclinic Panorama has been a huge success due to its carefully planned design, sophisticated equipment and facilities, its professional and dedicated staff and management and leading medical professionals.

Tel: +27 21 938 2111
Groote Schuur Hospital

Groote Schuur Hospital provides specialised and super-specialised care for patients, world class academic training for interns and residents and and is a world renowned research hospital.

Tel: +27 (0)21 404 2187/8
Cape Town Mediclinic

Most of the elegantly appointed rooms of Cape Town Mediclinic have panoramic views of Table Bay, the City Bowl or Table Mountain

Tel: +27 21 464 5500
Mediclinic Cape Town

Mediclinic Cape Town is a multidisciplinary hospital offers local, national and international patients a broad spectrum of specialist medical services

Tel: +27 21 464 5500
Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital

Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital has been designed in such a way that it offers a warm and inviting people-centred environment which aids in the speedy recovery of our patients.

Tel: (021) 554 9000
Netcare Kuils River Hospital

Netcare Kuils River Hospital is a state of the art facility in the heart of Kuils River. The Hospital is easily accessible to local residents and residents of the Winelands area

Tel: (021) 9006000

Bellville Velodrome

Bellville Velodrome is located in Carl Cronje Drive in Bellville Cape Town with a seat capacity of 10000.

Tel: +27 21 949 7450
Athlone Stadium

Tel: +27 21 637 6607
Bellville Stadium

Tel: +27 78 970 6223
Newlands Rugby Stadium

Newlands Rugby Stadium is the home ground of the Western Province rugby union, a short walk from the Newlands cricket stadium and has a capacity of around 52 000.

Tel: 021 659 4600
Cape Town Stadium

Cape Town Stadium with a capacity of 56,000 seats is beautifully located in Green Point near Cape Town CBD and currently the home ground of Ajax Cape Town.

Tel: +27 21 417 0101
Sahara Park Newlands

Although the official name is Sahara Park Newlands, South African and other cricket fans, continue to call it Newlands.

Tel: 021 659 4600

Cape Town International Airport

Cape Town International Airport (CPT)is the second busiest airport in South Africa and third busiest in Africa. Located approximately 20 km from the city centre

Tel: +27 (021) 937 1200
Air Force Base Ysterplaat

Air Force Base Ysterplaat of the South African Air Force is located in Cape Town.


Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC)

Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) offers sub-divisble, multi-purpose convention facilities and dedicated exhibition space conducive to a variety of functions occurring simultaneously.

Tel: +27(0)21 410 5000
Ratanga Junction

Ratanga Junction venues are available to accommodate groups of between 60 to 250 people and banqueting for up to 750 catering for Product Launches, Corporate Functions and other Special Events

Tel: +27 (0)21 550 8504
The Pavilion Conference Centre

The Pavilion Conference Centre offers maximum capacities include 460 cinema-style, 380 banquet-style and 850 people for a cocktail event.

Tel: +27(0)21 419 7661
Universities & Colleges

University Of Cape Town (UCT)

University Of Cape Town aspires to become a premier academic meeting point between South Africa, the rest of Africa and the world.

Tel: 021 650 9111
University of the Western Cape

The University of the Western Cape is a national university, alert to its African and international context as it strives to be a place of quality

Tel: 021 959 2911
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Belville)

Cape Peninsula University of Technology Belville campus focusses on Business, Engineering, Science

Tel: +27 21 959 6911
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town)

Cape Peninsula University of Technology Cape Town campus focuses on Applied Sciences, Management, Business Informatics, Engineering, Built Environment & Design

Tel: 021-460 3313
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Mowbray)

Cape Peninsula University of Technology Mowbray campus focuses on Education, Retail and Sports Management

Tel: 021 - 680 1537
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Granger Bay)

Cape Peninsula University of Technology Granger Bay campus focuses on Hotel and Catering, Maritime Studies, Marine Engineering, Post Graudate Management

Tel: 021-440 5711
Northlink College

Northlink College was established in 2002, following the merger of four Colleges in the northern suburbs of the greater Cape Town Metropole.

Tel: 08600 65465
College of Cape Town

The College of Cape Town offers various courses which include a range of fields

Tel: +27 21 404 6700
Inscape Design College

Inscape Design College is the oldest privately-owned multi-disciplinary creative arts institution in South Africa.

Tel: (+27) 021 462-6915
Business School

UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB)

UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) is part of the University of Cape Town and situated in Cape Townand established in 1964

Tel: +27 (0)214061338/9
University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB)

University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) is part of the Stellenbosch University and situated in Cape Town and established in 1964

Tel: 021 918 4111
Racing Tracks

Killarney Race Track

The 3.2km Killarney Race Track has developed every facet of circuit racing, including Motocross, Karting, Super Motards, Stock Cars and Drag Racing

Tel: +27 (0)215571639

Rondebosch Boys' High School

It is the ongoing initiative of the Rondebosch Boys' High School to prepare both the school and its pupils for the future

Tel: 021 686 3987
Wynberg Boys' High School

Wynberg Boys' High School is a traditional boys school in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, founded in 1841.

Tel: +2721 797 4247
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