Continuing our June school holidays adventure, the girls and I moved on from Barrydale, shooting past Algerynskraal, over the Garcia Pass and on to Riversdale, with the final goal being to make it back onto the N2 in order to end up in Mossel Bay. That said, there was a particular stop that I first wanted to make as we crossed into the small town of Riversdale…
One of the oldest historical buildings still standing in Riversdale, the original structure of the Ou Tronk (Old Jail) was first used as a trading store, before being purchased by the state in 1860 for conversion into a jail. Eventually closed down in 1979 (following the construction of the large prison in Oudtshoorn), the jail moved back into private hands (making it one of the only South African jail properties to actually reside in private ownership).
After inheriting it from her father who had bought it to store farming equipment, Louise Malherbe eventually found a second life for the unusual space by turning one of the courtyards into a coffee shop and renting out the remaining cells (there are 33 of them) as display spaces for various home decor and art creatives. (There are also a fair bit of historic artifacts dotted around, including an imitation of the travelling gallows that were used to hang the jail’s only receiver of the death penalty, one Gilbert Hay of Heidelberg who was found guilty of having murdered his mother.)
(There is apparently also a weekly farmer’s market that happens on a Saturday at the jail, but I’m not 100% sure if this is still the case.)
Despite its initial ghoulish overtures, the Ou Tronk (which actually in some ways looks a lot more like a Spanish hacienda than an actual prison) is quite a welcoming space for a cup of tea and a slice of their famous carrot cake. The courtyard is peppered with shade from planted avocado and banana trees and of course the location itself makes for some interesting conversation points.
All in all the Old Jail certainly makes for an interesting place to make a stop, that’s for sure.