The corbel house is regarded as the first architectural style in the north-west Karoo and is unique to this area. Corbeled in this sense meaning, stepped back, describing the process of stacking the stones which they are made of. The houses were originally built by pioneer farmers who lived in the Fraserburg, Williston and Carnarvon areas between 1811 and 1815. The area had an abundance of flat stones and it was these that were used by layering them to build these stone huts. The farmers used a mixture of wheat chaff, sand and water to bind the stones together and also for plastering. It was preferred that the sand that was used was from ant hills as that sand had excellent binding properties. The floor was made of sand which had been mixed with animal fat and blood, and then polished with a flat stone until it shone like glass. Most of the corbel houses were round with dome shaped roofs, one door and one window. One of the strange features of the houses that stands out when viewing them is the lager stones which protrude out of the dome. These were used to stand on while the roof was being built and also afterwards for maintenance. Due to the lack of ventilation, most of these homes would have had an outdoor cooking area in the form of a shelter made from asbos.
There are still quite a few good examples of corbel houses still to be seen in this region. When looking at them and the materials used to build them and the tools that were available, we can only ask ourselves that if with all our modern tools and materials, will our homes still be standing in two hundred years time for historians to look at.
For more information on the Corbel Houses please contact:
Williston Tourism Bureau
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