Jan Smuts, one of South Africa’s Prime Ministers, is probably the most famous personality who has lived in Irene (between Pretoria and Johannesburg). His house still stands as a museum well worth the visit.
Perhaps the statesmen of today should take note of the corrugated iron and wood home that Smuts and his beloved wife, Isie, lived in for over 40 years. Originally an officers’ mess in Middelburg, Smuts bought it and had it rebuilt on the farm Doornkloof in Irene that he bought from the Erasmus family. Here, he and Isie unashamedly entertained world leaders.
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Here are 7 things you must make sure you see and do at the Smuts House Museum.
1. A tour of the Smuts House Museum
Take a tour with volunteer guide Denis Bredenkamp. It will make the history of the house come alive. “I used to work as an electrician at Otis elevator so my working career has been full of ups and downs,” says Denis, “but I became a volunteer guide 5 years ago. My father loved Jannie Smuts and always told me stories about him.” This wicked sense of humour carries through to the stories that Denis tells as he takes you on a tour of the house.
2. The devil’s in the detail
Ask Denis to show you the little details such as the broken knitting needles that were kept in a container on the dining room sideboard to pick marrow out of bones.
There is a telephone in the strangest place in the house – ask Denis why.
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3. Take a look at Smuts’ ride
Don’t miss the garage with the old Cadillac.
4. Go on a self-guided library tour
Buy a guide to Smuts’ library. You will be amazed at how well read the great statesman was.
5. Stoep talk
Sit quietly on the stoep and imagine what it was like for Jan and Isie Smuts to entertain their guests here.
6. Take a hike
Walk the 2.3km Oubaas Trail (Smuts’ nickname) up to Smuts Koppie. Dogs are welcome and can be let off their leashes past a certain point. Ask Denis why Jan Smuts was wary of dogs.
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7. Grab a spot of tea
Refresh yourself at Ouma’s Tea Garden in the grounds of Smuts House under lovely shady trees.
Smuts House Museum is at 53 Jan Smuts Ave, Irene.
012 670 9016
Denis Bredenkamp is at the museum every day from 9am till 4pm except Mondays and Fridays. Its best to book a tour. Cost is R100pp, and R150 for 2 people.
Contact Denis on 084 7408848
Words and Photography Sue Adams