Historic Wynberg house in a sad state

A hedge near the thatched roof of Wynberg’s historic La Plaisance cottage caught fire earlier this year.

A slight change in the wind could have spelt the end of the historic La Plaisance thatched cottage in Wynberg after a fire broke out in a nearby hedge in January.

“If the wind had been strong, the fire could have spread to the thatched roof,” said Ann Baker, who lives in Kenilworth and is concerned about she feels is the neglect of the historic cottage.

Ms Baker said vagrants used the hedge around La Plaisance as a shelter and she suspects that they caused the fire. She often sees drug users smoking under large plastic bags on the pavement in front of La Plaisance, where they are hidden from the traffic and passers-by. She sent a picture of the burnt hedge, which is about 1.5m from the house’s thatched roof.

Nudging 200 years of age, the old thatched cottage is hidden behind bushes and fencing, elevated above Wynberg Main Road, across from Maynard Mall, at the junction with Riverstone Road (“Wynberg house is a heritage survivor,” September 23).

This house and its neighbouring Dunheved came to prominence with the official proclamation of the road scheme in the 1960s. They were part of a series of similar cottages.

So far, La Plaisance has survived the attention of developers to become an important part of Wynberg’s heritage.

Ms Baker fears the cottage is being neglected and is slowly falling into ruin and that it could go way of Dunheved, which, in July 2000, was badly damaged by an electrical fire that destroyed the thatched roof and the woodwork. The walls were later demolished for safety reasons.

In September, Ms Baker reported a large hole in the thatched roof and alerted the previous ward councillor hoping that at least a sheet of plastic would be secured to protect the structure underneath.

“Nothing… but nothing has been done, despite gale-force winds and heavy downpours since then,” said Ms Baker. “I received random excuses: Law Enforcement was going to occupy it, there is no money to repair it, and yet they are spending a fortune on security companies to guard it day and night, albeit that the guards sometimes have difficulty communicating with their bosses because their radio batteries have died and they don’t have airtime.”

Now, with summer, the house is surrounded by tall dry weeds and litter, especially along the lane between the cottage and China Mall.

City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse said they had been alerted to the vegetation fire next to La Plaisance at 5.28pm on Tuesday January 11 and it had been extinguished by 5.57pm. Mr Carelse said they could not speculate on the cause of a fire.

When the Bulletin visited the property on Saturday February 26, security guards were moving vagrants off the pavement. We asked Beyers Security Solutions to comment on how often they removed vagrants from the property, but a company representative, Anèl Steyn, declined to comment and said we should speak to the client, the City of Cape Town.

City spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the property had been reserved for use by Law Enforcement and the City planned to appoint a structural engineer and architect to attend to the required repairs and refurbishments.

Ward councillor Emile Langenhoven said he would look into the issue and contact the relevant people.

Karen Gird, chairperson of Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers Association, said their next committee meeting was on Friday March 18 when they would discuss La Plaisance.

Deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial planning and environment Eddie Andrews said the building was graded 3A, the highest level of grading provided to a local heritage resource; it was included on the City’s heritage inventory; and located in the proposed Wynberg heritage protection overlay zone.

The site was noted for its significance as part of Wynberg’s character and cultural landscape, he said.

The old thatched cottage is hidden behind bushes and fencing, elevated above Wynberg Main Road, across from Maynard Mall, at the junction with Riverstone Road.
Security guards removing vagrants from the pavement next to the thatched cottage.
The site is noted for its significance as part of Wynberg’s character and cultural landscape.