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In August 2021, I received an email from Kevan Martin. Now living abroad, he had come across a photo on my website that included a distant view of Merrymere House a fondly remembered family holiday home in the 1960s. The photo was dated 1952. He informed me, the date had to be incorrect because his parents' house in the picture, was only built at the end of the 50s!
"Merrymere House was built for my parents, Don and Dorothy Martin, by Norman Morris, a local
builder who lived on a smallholding overlooking Groenvlei. This construction
was done in the late 1950s. The house was originally the temporary office of
the Lock Joint Pipe Company, who built a new Steenbras dam water-main to Cape
The house was prefab, so it could be dismantled and put on a goods train to Sedgefield where it was met by the formidable station mistress, Miss Agnes Hart, Norman in his flatbed truck, and some of his laborers. The pieces were stored in a wooden shack which is the black building you can see on the right of the house. The shack was repurposed as 'The Shack' - a convenient but very primitive lodging for visitors.
The property itself was the 'remainder of Sedgefield'. and was bought by the Rev. Boshoff, a Baptist minister, and my father, who divided it into two halves. My parents wanted the view, which was spectacular, and the Rev wanted the sea side. My father was head of special school in Cape Town, so we spent all our school holidays in Sedgefield - without a phone - it was a great boon for my father.
As children (3 boys) we spent substantial amounts of our school holidays repairing the sand road and working on the house - endless scraping, repainting, re-roofing, weeding etc., but the rewards of bush, dune, beach, lagoon and vlei far outweighed our time in work-parties.
My father built multiple surf skis, canoes and boats for us to take full advantage of all water bodies. We learned to waterski in the lagoon, before graduating to Swartvlei Lake, keeping some boats at Jean-Marie and Jacko Jooris' Paradise Park and later Jooris Park.
The mouth of the lagoon used to silt up in spring tides and the water would back up onto the farmers’ fields. After months, the farmers would have a day on the beach and dig out a channel to let the water escape.
I did a school geography project on the geomorphology of the lagoon using postcards and speculation as to the evolution of the watercourse and dunes.
Before Merrymere house was built we spent some freezing winter holidays in concrete-floored houses at Montmere and Placid Waters. No insulation, paraffin heaters - it was cold. We never had electricity at Merrymere, only paraffin - simple wick and Aladdin lamps - and later a few gas lamps. My mother cooked full hot Christmas dinners on a 3 burner paraffin stove, with a tin oven on top. Milk from the Mullers was left in an urn at our gate.
The Parrotts were the shopkeepers, Sophie, a large happy soul was their assistant. Mrs. Watney and Mrs. Hooper were in their prime. For the whole family it was another world that we all remembered as the best days of our childhood...
I was last there 20+ years ago (around 2000) - the village had 'developed' beyond recognition, although our house and shack still existed. Perhaps one should never go back.
Thanks for the memories"
Thank you Kevan for your little piece of Sedgefield history - Sylvia