Coedmore Castle and the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery 2017 - report by Udo Averweg
The Durban Art Deco Society organised an excursion to Coedmore Castle and the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery on Sunday 10th September 2017.
Nineteen Society members assembled at 09h30 on the front lawns of this historical home of the Stainbank family. It is difficult to comprehend that in the early 1800s, this estate used to be occupied by the Zulus, (during the reign of King Shaka), for the keeping of the King’s cattle. Young Dering Stainbank (18 yrs) arrived onboard the The Lady of the Lake in 1857 and set about establishing a farm on a large site south of the Umhlatuzana River, initially living in a wattle-and-daub hut. A large part of this land was eventually sold off to the Durban Municipality in order to form Yellowwood Park. The remaining land now forms the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, with the castellated tower of the family home “Coedmore” in a commanding position in the centre.
Our tour of this building was on a beautiful Spring-day. It was conducted by Alison Keith (who is a great niece of Mary Stainbank). Alison told us that construction of the house commenced in 1882 and it was completed in 1885. We were given an account of each of the rooms in the house. The original furnishings and household contents are still used nowadays. In the library, on one of the walls, a Gabriel de Jong painting is hanging. We marvelled at the high ceilings of the house and also the large mural painting, by Wilgieforde Vann-Hall (Wilgie, as she was affectionately known), adorning the passageway.
We then proceeded to the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery (located in an upstairs section of a former barnyard). Some of Mary’s sculptures are on display.
Thereafter we could revisit the house at our leisure and reflect on a bygone area. In the grounds, one can also view the original stones where Shaka’s warriors used to sharpen their spears and assegais.
Donald Davies and Udo Averweg requested to visit the ruins of the All Saints Church (built in 1866‑1867) which had burnt down in 1870, and the Stainbank-family cemetery. The scenic walk thereto, from the family home, is some ten minutes. The remains of the old church’s buttresses are clearly visible.
The family cemetery, where Mary Agnes Stainbank (27.05.1899 – 28.03.1996) is buried, occupies a shaded and secluded part of the estate. It is a tranquil area.
As we walked back to the Stainbank-family home, there were many grazing zebras nonchalantly looking at us. We nodded in return, signifying that we had thoroughly enjoyed our excursion ………….
Airy front verandah and tower of Coedmore Castle
Alison Keith explains the large mural painting, by Wilgeforde Vann-Hall (Wilgie), adorning the passageway
Luxury tip basins ensured that waste discretely disappeared
Alison Keith explains features of the dining-room, including portraits of Mary's brothers William and Arthur, who died in the First World War. The net result of this was that the Stainbank estate passed to the next eldest son, Kenneth.
Exhibits of Mary Stainbank's work in the memorial museum set up in the grain room above the old cowshed.
"Fate" - Is there no stoning save with flint and rock. This sculpture by Mary Stainbank, a "modernist", aligns with art deco interpretations of the time.
A stone in the Stainbank grounds which was used for the sharpening of assegais and spears by Shaka's Zulu warriors
Ruins of the All Saints Church, built in the grounds 1866-1867, and burnt down just three years later in 1870.