There is great concern in the Mpumalanga heritage community after the historic Huntington Manor House in Sabie went up for auction without any reference to the fact that the structure is a declared and numbered provincial heritage site.
The building is registered with the South African Heritage Resources agency with the number SAHRA 9/2/255/0002.
The notice of the auction appeared in Lowvelder on June 14. The auction is due to take place on Thursday, June 27. According to the notice, the site belongs to 23 Glynn Avenue Sabie Property Investments, currently in liquidation. The historic importance of the building is also not mentioned in the terms and conditions of the auction available in advance of the event.
The auctioneer is Aggie Ströh of Eli Ströh Auctions in Polokwane. He told Lowvelder that the plan was to inform all prospective buyers of the building’s historic importance on the day of the auction.
Concerned organisations include the Mpumalanga Heritage Council, Mpumalanga Heritage as well as the Heritage Association of South Africa. All these caution that heritage regulations can put considerable restrictions on development. The fact that the prospective buyer is not properly informed could cause the auction to be null and void.
According to Benjamin Maduka of the Mpumalanga Provincial Heritage Council, they are not aware of such an auction. Whoever buys the land needs to understand the importance of the existing structure and the historic family cemetery on the stand. All development has to be done strictly according to the relevant heritage conservation regulations.
The stand of nearly four hectares is centrally situated. The premises are currently fairly neglected but still in its original state. It was used as a well-maintained home until some 10 years ago.
The prospective buyer should also realise that the site contains a historic family graveyard, which is also not indicated on the aerial view of the property nor mentioned in the terms and conditions of the auction, said Willie Jacobs, a local conservationist and a member of Mpumalanga Heritage.
Whatever a future developer has in mind with the land, public access as well as the maintenance of the gravesite will remain its responsibility.
The manor house used to belong to the owner of the old Glynn’s Lydenburg Gold Mine, HT Glynn. The town of Sabie was originally developed around this mine. The colonial structure was constructed in the late 1900s. The history of the house and its people were pivotal to the development of the region.
The sympathetic development of the site will always be welcomed by the local and national conservation community, said Duncan Ballantyne, chairman of Mpumalanga Heritage. It is therefore important that the prospective buyer is aware of the significance of the property.
“Restoring the manor house, with its once lovely gardens and ponds, the spacious stand still leaves any developer with enough room for a sympathetic commercial extension as accepted by the provincial heritage board and their relevant consultants. This is often the only way to ensure the conservation of such old and historic significant buildings.”
Should they not abide by the law, or even touch the structure without any prior permission, an unfortunately time-consuming situation of court cases and bad publicity is likely to follow, Ballantyne said.
Ballantyne referred to a recent case in Polokwane when the old station building was auctioned off and demolished regardless of any heritage regulations. A lengthy and costly court case followed. Finally, the developer got off with a fine of a mere R1 500. “It will not be this easy in Mpumalanga,” he cautioned.
Article published in the Lowvelder on 21 June 2019 and the Mpumalanga Heritage Newsletter #230