A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BATHURST AGRICULTURAL MUSEUM
Bowker Wooden Plough (1821)
A Plough made on the farm Tharfield near Port Alfred in 1821 by the Bowker brothers. This plough can be seen in the 1820 Settler’s Museum, Grahamstown.
Today’s machinery is tomorrow’S History.
If you do not know, where you have come from, how will you know where you are going?
ln 1970 a small group of people, led by Shirley Hounsel, was interested in the preserving the history of Agriculture in the Eastern Cape. She then formed a working committee to establish an Agricultural Museum in the Historical village of Bathurst, in the heart of Settler Country. A quick survey revealed that there was an abundance of material available while no suitable building could be found. Temporary accommodation was made available by the Bathurst Agricultural Society. A team of volunteers using borrowed trucks immediately set about collecting suitable items and in no time filled the building. As there was no suitable buildings for a museum of this kind, the Bathurst Municipality In 1978 donated a tract of land to build one.
In 1978, the first building erected, later named the “Geoff Palmer Hall”. This was officially opened by Dr Douglas Hey (then Director of Nature Conservation) who stated that the Museum was of importance not only to Bathurst but also to the whole of South Africa. In 1981 an addition of 60ft was built and completed.
Starting with only 30 items the collection has grown rapidly and now we have over 1 900 items, many which are both rare and unique ! As our collection has been growing, a second building was completed in 1986 and is now known as the “AG Griffiths Hall” also known as “Griffy Griffths Hall” where about half of the tractor collection can be seen.
A third large building was started in 1988 and completed only in 1995. During this time the “HH Norton Shed” was re-erected on its present site and known as the “Stationery Engine Room”
The presence of the caretaker appears to have put an end to vandalism – for keeps we hope. Dennis Banks, the first Hon. Curator, opened the museum to the public for two days a week. Buster Curtis took over in 1980, a caretaker/cleaner was engaged and the museum was opened six days a week.
A broom and insecticide were purchased and the battle against dust and spiders began in earnest as Buster detested both of these pests – no use to man or beast he claimed!!! Moreover, many many litres of paint have been used in an attempt to beat the real demon. RUST. It is a fight that will NEVER come to an end it seems.
The museum soon took on a new look and visitors began to arrive. The stream ran stronger as word got around of this somewhat unusual museum, believed to be the first of it’s kind in South Africa. Visitors from far and wide have commented favourably, while scholars arrive for study purposes. It is hoped that the stream of visitors will run stronger in future. In March 1995 Alan Shield became Hon Curator and his wife Joey Hon Treasurer, and Alison Higgs Hon Secretary taking over from Esme Wakeford who had done a grand job. This strong team is getting on with the job and their fine efforts are noticed by many visitors. In 1993, our first Open Fun Day was held, the purpose being to entice the public to visit the museum and find out what it is all about. This has become an annual event becoming bigger and better each time.