Sammy Marks Museum
The Sammy Marks Museum is a Victorian mansion called Zwartkoppies Hall, situated about 23km outside Pretoria. The estate originally belonged to 19th century agricultural, industrial and mining tycoon Sammy Marks, who lived there with his wife, Bertha, and nine children. At the 48-room mansion, with its lush gardens and tennis courts, 30 guests could easily be entertained at a time and the huge, 10-plate stove and five ovens bear testimony to this.
In his will, Marks declared that his house and its contents were to be preserved for up to four generations after his death. A tour of the estate today will give visitors insight into the splendour and opulence of the time. Each of the 48 rooms is furnished with exquisite porcelain, paintings and silver – evidence of Marks’ status in society. The house also has a well-stocked library, with books covering everything from history, mining, agriculture, farming and horticulture to religion, industry, fiction and poetry. The size of the library is evidence of the family’s emphasis on education: Marks’ nine children were educated at home until they were old enough to attend private schools in England.
Photographs of Marks, his family, friends and relatives are displayed in the museum’s archives.
The family continued to live in the mansion after Marks’ death in 1920, until the death of the last of his last children in 1978. The estate was looked after by caretakers until 1991. In 1995, the house and about 75ha of the estate were sold to the National Cultural History Museum.
Marks was born in Lithuania and relocated to South Africa when he was 24, in 1868. He first peddled jewellery in the old Transvaal Republic but later teamed up with his cousin Isaac Lewis to sell supplies to mines and diggers. The duo branched into diamond trading, buying concessions and starting a distillery, canning factory, glass factory, brick and tile works, maize mill, and iron and steel works. The cousins also mined coal on the banks of the Vaal River and were involved in the rich Sheba mine in Barberton. By the end of the 19th century, Marks and Lewis were both millionaires and their company ranked among the top 10 on the Rand.
Pensioners and students: R20
Children under 18: R10
Tours on Tuesday to Friday at 10h00, 11h30, 13h00, 14h30, 16h00
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10h00 to 17h00 (last tour starts at 16h00)
Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and Mondays (except public holidays)
From Pretoria, take the N4 towards Witbank/Emalahleni. Take the Hans Strijdom off-ramp and follow the signposts to the museum: turn left at the top of the off-ramp and continue until you reach a T-junction where the road joins the old Bronkhorstspruit Road (R104). Turn right and cross a small bridge. The turn-off to the museum is along the road, on your left.