Pioneer Museum (Silverton)
Overview of the Pioneer Museum
The Pioneer Museum in Silverton, Gauteng, is an open air museum set in a restored 3 hectare Victorian settler farmstead. The Pioneer Museum features a horse mill and threshing floor, and several farming implements. Visitors to the Pioneer Museum will be able to get a sense of the early farming culture in South Africa.
Various demonstrations are held, and these include:
- Wheat grinding
- Bread baking
- Coffee roasting
- Hide Curing
The Pioneer's Museum also features a museum shop, picnic area and braai facilities, and a hall and kitchen which can be rented for private functions.
An elaborate Farmers Market is held every Saturday morning from 06h00 - 09h00, where visitors can purchase freshly baked goods and other knickknacks.
History of the Pioneer Museum
The farm, Hartebeestpoort, was first settled in 1846 by a Cape farmed named David Botha, who built a house using mud and anthills to form the clay walls and the fireplace. The flooring was created using a technique borrowed from the local Tswana people, namely, mixing cow dung with anthills in order to create the material to build the floors.
By 1874, Pilgrim's Rest was the focus point during the time of the Gold Rush, and a German Immigrant, Hands Mundt, capitalized on the opportunity. Hans bought the farm and built a halfway house for travellers between Pretoria and the gold fields. Hans also built a poultry coop to house his chickens.
By the turn of the century, silver was discovered on the farm, and a part of the farm was purchased by the Silver Mining Company. The money was used to build a neat Victorian house to replace the original thatched home which was then used as a packing shed.
The Mundt family donated the estate to the municipality of Pretoria, and later was handed over to the National Cultural History Museums in 1975, who changed its name to the Pioneer Museum.
Review of the Pioneer Museum
This was, by far, the worst place we have ever visited. I don't know if it was the timing perhaps (we went on a Saturday just after the Farmers Market), but the place was in complete and utter shambles.
The "restored" Pioneer's House, which is supposed to form a central focus point of the open air museum, is definitely not restored, nor kept in any kind of even fairly good condition.
The museum shop is not much more than a glorified tuck-shop. The staff was very friendly and helpful though, and they do sell some small foodstuffs that one can feed to the animals at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the only animals around were a few ducks and geese swimming on the little pond. The rest of the animals, even at 11h00 in the morning, were still holed up in their tiny tin-roof sheds. It was really heartbreaking to see these poor animals without water or food, squashed together in a much too small holding place.
No farmer's demonstrations were being held, which was a pretty big disappointment. At least the bathrooms are clean, for what it's worth :( And let's not forget the coffee shop. Not a sign of coffee, and definitely not a proper shop. I looks more like a small stand with a sign painted on a black board.
We left the Pioneer's Museum after about 20minutes, terribly disappointed at having had to pay for such a complete and utter let-down.
So, like I mentioned before, unless it was just our timing, I would definitely NOT recommend the Pioneer's Museum to anyone at all. It is a real shame that such a potentially beautiful place is laying in such ruin.