By Heather Dugmore
Should you find yourself in the Graaff-Reinet area while traveling to- or from Cape Town or the Garden Route, make a point of staying over at Pagel House.
A beautifully restored Victorian guesthouse in the Karoo hamlet of Aberdeen (some 50 kilometres from Graaff-Reinet on the national highway between Graaff-Reinet and Beaufort West); here you will find a welcoming stopover with a fascinating history and charm.
Built in 1897 during the ostrich and wool boom, Pagel House reflects the era when Aberdeen boomed as a thriving farming town.
Pagel House today is owned and managed by Lynette Dugmore who moved all the way from Zurich when she purchased Pagel House. South African-born, she had been working as a nursing sister in Switzerland for 25 years before responding to an inner call to “come home”.
Lynette has gathered fascinating information on Aberdeen – including an old newspaper photograph of what must surely be the only marriage in the world where the bride had seven lionesses as bridesmaids.
“Well over fifty years ago a fellow called Frank Wilke – who owned Pagel House at the time – established the largest private zoo in South Africa on the outskirts of town,” she explains. “As a world first, he allowed a local couple to exchange vows inside the lionesses’ cage.”
Nothing is left of the zoo anymore but Pagel House remains, brimming with treasures, Victoriana and personal touches that give guests a special sense of the 117-year-old house’s history.
It begins in the lounge with its rich cream and maroon decor, its Victorian fireplace, burr walnut piano and original pink chandelier. Then there are the pressed steel ceilings, delicately painted in the Victorian style. They are in pristine, original condition and many guests have commented they have never seen anything like them.
From the lounge, you wander onto the wrap-around verandah with its original stained glass resting nook. Lynette has a charming sepia photograph of two Victorian women relaxing here. Their names are Frances and Jubilee.
Both ladies would have been delighted with the Victorian-style bathroom Lynette offers en suite to one of the bedrooms.
Down the passage is the kitchen where a Karoo lamb roast sizzles in the old Aga oven. Lynette, an excellent cook, is preparing lunch.
Then there’s the dining room, glowing with polished yellowwood floors and “British transfer” blue and white china. On a stand in one corner is a Limoge-style oil lamp.
“I love beautiful old things and I am fortunate to have a good eye for spotting them,” continues Lynette who found many precious pieces in second-hand shops in Europe.
Which is why she when she returned to South Africa, she came with 240 boxes.
“I always knew I would one day find the right home for all my treasures,” she smiles, strolling through her oasis of a garden at the back of the house. “The whole Pagel House experience has been a voyage of discovery back to my country and back to myself. It’s is the best decision I’ve ever made. I love the house, the space and the freedom. And I would love you to visit.”
Phone Lynette on:
049 846 0611 or 0721703914
Pagel House features in Karoo Keepsakes II – The Journeys Continue, available here in e-Book and print format.