What’s Behind The Door, Grahamstown?

By Shannon Wilson

The Cock House

White diagonal lines converge; creating a pattern that frames the large, dark wooden door. There is a crest of a proud rooster on the top. Olive green grass contours the outside of an establishment that has served Grahamstown since 1826.

The entrance to the Cock House in Grahamstown.

The entrance to the Cock House in Grahamstown.

The Cock House is a heritage site that gave shelter to Nelson Mandela on three separate occasions after his release. A place he described as “professional” in the guest comments book.

Nelson Mandela after his stay at the Cock House.

Nelson Mandela after his stay at the Cock House.

Sitting in the lounge, I admire the displays of history which cover the walls and the bookshelves. Assistant manager Jacques Keirsgieter tells me this room was once a private library, a function it still fulfills now, albeit more publically.

The lounge area and old library.

The lounge area and old library.

The establishment was originally home to William Cock and his family. The family name and the building’s antiquated design have been preserved, maintained and restored, paying homage to history. Andre Brink, the anti-apartheid novelist, even lived there for a while. It became known as The Cock House 24 years ago in 1991. The renovated guesthouses next door were purchased seven years ago and have been built in the same style.

The Cock family on the wall in the Cock House.

The Cock family on the wall in the Cock House.

“Some days The Cock House is dead and then some days it’s festive, but that’s all part of the industry,” says Keirsgieter. In this industry you’re busy from the moment you wake up. The kitchen staff has been a part of the establishment for around 20 years and is very much a part of The Cock House family.

The wooden bar inside the Cock House.

The wooden bar inside the Cock House.

According to Keirsgieter, you’ll encounter “friendliness, professionalism and preserved history” behind The Cock House door.

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