Historical house up in flames

No more thatch roof after the fire.

Wynberg architect Nic Louw is disgusted that nothing is being done to preserve three historical buildings on Waterloo Green (“Big woes at Waterloo,” Bulletin April 20).

One of them, a thatched house appropriately called Ye Olde Thatch, burnt down on Thursday November 2, at about 5am.

Homeless people living near to the house say it could have been caused by electrical wiring in the roof or lightning.

For over a year, mattresses covered part of the thatch. It and the neighbouring Victorian house have been vandalised and are a dump for waste and home to vagrants and rats.

The houses in Waterloo Road are owned by the Department of Public Works.

For the past year, Mr Louw has reported the buildings to the City’s problem building unit and ap-
pealed for the properties to be preserved.

The houses have created much comment on Facebook: Robert Le Diable said the thatched house was declared a national monument in 1974; Sigi Howes asked if it was once owned by Hildagonda Duckitt, who wrote the quintessential cookbook Hilda’s Where Is It; and Andy Reed suspected a purposeful strategy to free up valuable land for development.

“Referred to as demolition by neglect. These things don’t happen by accident. Who lets a million rand immovable asset go to ruin?”

Deon Huysamen lived there when he was a policeman and said the three houses belonged, and still probably do, to the police. One of them served as rectory for the police chaplain.

The Bulletin has tried many times over the past two years to get comment from the Department of Public Works (DPW) and once again they did not respond to our emailed questions.

At the time of the last article the City’s media office said its problem building unit and environmental health department would investigate the conditions at the prop-
erties and would issue compliance notices, indicating what, if any, further action was required from the owner.

On Tuesday November 7 when the Bulletin visited the property, homeless people were living at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Christo Martin said he had lived in the two houses for several years and allegedly had permission from a Public Works official to do so.

He said 14 others had stayed in the two houses, although nine of them were in Pollsmoor now for trespassing.

He said he had moved out of the houses to shelter in the cul-de-sac because he was afraid of getting arrested. But he still keeps his possessions inside the house.

“But this is a lot better than where we come from (Lavender Hill) where we could be shot or stabbed or forced to run around with a gun and join a gang.”

Ameerah Peters, personal assistant to the CEO of Heritage Western Cape, Mxolisi Dlamuka, said any property 60 years or older had general protection under the National Heritage Resources Act and a
permit from Heritage Western Cape was needed before any alteration, addition or demolition could happen.

Wynberg police spokesperson, Captain Ntombi Nqunqeka, said the house had been empty at the time of the fire. They are investigating an arson case.

She said the police had carried out several drug raids at the house over the years.

Mr Louw contacted the police on September 13 to report that he had seen someone remove shutters from one of the buildings and load them onto a bakkie.

The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service Spokesperson, Theo Layne, says they responded to a fire at the Waterloo Green in Wynberg at 4.47am on Thursday November 2. The dwelling was on fire on arrival and two fire engines, one water tanker and one rescue vehicle were in attendance from the Lakeside, Wynberg and Roeland Street Fire Stations, plus 14 firefighters and officers. The entire structure and its contents sustained severe damage.


No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire has not yet been established.