History of Springs #1 – Oldest House
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It is only fitting that we start this history series of Springs with the oldest house in Springs.
History of Springs #1 – Oldest House
This article was published in 'Die Springs en Brakpan Adverteerder" on the 21st of December 1973 (This is part of the article)
Ever wondered where the oldest house in Springs is and what it's all about?
Fronted by the main Ermelo Road, with it's king size traffic of bus, car, bicycle and pedestrian,No.1 Ermelo Road, Lower Springs, is with Mr. Epstein's "Old Nest", regarded as the last link with the colliery days. It is reputed to be Springs' oldest house.
Note the tag "Lower Springs" in other words the section of Springs which was in the centre of all coal mining activity from 1898 until 1907,when the scene shifted to gold. Behind it is the old Great Eastern Colliery dump - the "Great Eastern Colliery having been the largest of all the collieries. Over the road is the Clydesdale Colliery dump, and nearby the Cassel.
On a spot midway between No.1 Ermelo Road, Lower Springs, and the Nursing home (also a landmark), was the Rietfontein Hall, scene of the "Gay Nineties" in Springs.
Mrs. Jean McKechnie, Editor of The Caledonian, who has grown up in the house, said this week that she had done much research into it's history from the data available, and from the stories of the pioneers, and had come to the conclusion that it was originally built to house the mine offices of the Great Eastern Colliery. I am convinced of this, she said. The house follows the office pattern - there are ten rooms, all with thick walls, large and spacious. It is built of Kimberley brick, covered with corrugated iron and is considered to be at least 75 years old.
How come that it has weathered the storms of 75 years? You can say that the corrugated iron has protected it, said Mrs. McKechnie, and of course it has always been maintained.
According to her information, the house which for many years was owned by the Stack family, was converted into a dwelling house when the Great Eastern closed. The Secretary of the Great Eastern was Mr. David Crawford, a Scot, and he was the fiancée of Miss Ethel Stack (later Mrs. Lex Hartman). it is thought that his influence, No. 1, Ermelo road, Lower Springs, was acquired for the Stack family, which included, in addition to Miss Stack, her mother, sister-in-law (and her children, Colleen, Dennis & Pat). They had come from New England in the Cape.
Miss Stack conducted on this property, what was always known as "Miss Stack's Dairy", and served the then up and coming town of Springs. Her herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle was renowned in the district, and even farther afield.
IT BECOMES A SEMI
Before 1925,the house became a semi, and was then partly let to Mrs.McKechnie's parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Thos Fraser, who rented it until 1943,when they acquired the house and continued to pay the Mining Surface Right permit Licence of R2 per month. Today that permit costs R4 per month, or R48 a year, and with the Municipal rates and taxes, is therefore, doubly the levied.
It is not alone in this respect - there are many old properties on surface right permits in Springs. You own the house but not the ground.
A REGISTERED DWELLING
The house is registered under Licence 148/36 and "leased as a dwelling house with garden and outbuildings". The mining Commissioner has the right every few years to make inspection to see whether the building has been altered in any way, the old idea being, under the Gold Law, that when it had deteriorated sufficiently, it would fall into disrepair and the ground would revert to the mines. The ground now belongs to Mr. H.L. Epstein, but is still covered by "vested interests" and controlled by the Mining Commissioner. Strange to think that it has not been allowed to be altered in 75 years. Until the townships of Casseldale and Strubenvale were opened, it was, with Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Ritchie's house further along the road and nearer Springs, the only house for miles and was served by Standerton Road, then a mud track and almost impassable in summer. it was considered an "outpost" of Springs, although it was only a mile from the Post Office
THE GREAT “IN-FALL”
Tragedy truck on the 21st of March 1907 when the Mine Captain and Engineer’s houses were swallowed by a sinkhole just behind the Old House. Mrs. Tibbott, her baby and two little boys were rescued some hours later. But little Robin, her first born was never found. A memorial was erected across the road to commemorate his death.
We have permission to place the cache on the property, the cache will only be available from 9:00 to 16:00 seven days a week. Log sheet only, please bring own pen.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum