We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the following sponsors, whose
donations have made the publication of “Rondebosch Down the Years” possible:
Cape Town City Council
Southern Life Association of Africa
Ohlssons Cape Breweries, Ltd.
Sasko, Flour millers
Robb Motors Ltd., Rondebosch
Mossop and Son Ltd.
Chairman: Mr. Hector Deary
Councillor Mrs. J. J. J. Bakker
Mr. Colin G. Finch
Miss P. Fowkes
Councillor N. T. Goodhew
Councillor A. H. Honikman
Mrs. H. Krueger
Mrs. S. E. Hopkins
Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
Mr. B. M.-K. Roscoe
Mr. Mark Shinns
Mr. F. J. Wagener
Editor: F. J. Wagener (Regional Organizer of Adult Education, Western Cape)
Councillor Mrs. J. J. J. Bakker
Mr. Frank R. Bradlow
Mrs. M. Kuttel
Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
Mr. A. M. Lewin Robinson
Mr. Eric Vertue
Mrs. F. J. Wagener
In April 1952, South Africa looked back with pride over three hundred years of
achievement and expansion. Now in 1957, those of us who live in, and love
Rondebosch, feel we have good cause to commemorate with gladness and
gratitude the tercentenary of its founding, with the establishment of the Free
Burghers along the Liesbeek River in March 1657. Until then, the settlement at
the Cape had been only a victualling station; but that date saw the birth of a
nation, for from those early farms civilization gradually spread over Southern
And what of Rondebosch itself? Could any nation wish for a lovelier “cradle of the
race”? Untamed as it was in 1657, those early settlers fell in love with its streams
and glades and mountain-slopes, and with the wonderful shelter it afforded from
the turbulent winds that harassed them in Cape Town. The progress of three
centuries has so far not dimmed its beauty, though it needs to be guarded
jealously in these “flat-ridden” days, and we residents need to be more alive, not
only to our civic rights, but also to our public responsibilities.
“Rondebosch Down the Years” is an attempt to tell the story of our suburb from
1657 to 1957, and to take stock of its position today. Compiled at extremely short
notice, the brochure is a very modest effort, and we regret it has been impossible
in the time available to make it fully bilingual. South Africans will nevertheless be
grateful to the contributors, who freely devoted their time and knowledge in an
effort to mark the historical occasion. The subject deserves more serious study
— the material exists, and we hope this little book will be merely the prelude to a
volume which will really present the history of Rondebosch in a worthy form.
In 1657 Rondebosch became a farming community. Today, above all else, it is
an educational centre, with a great population of children and young people —
the future citizens of South Africa. We hope their school and student days here
will be happy ones, that they will learn what Rondebosch has achieved since
1657, and will develop a pride, a love, and a loyalty which will lead them in their
turn to do great things for their country. “From quiet homes and first beginnings,
out to the undiscovered ends”, may their Rondebosch days inspire them to be
worthy of their fine heritage, and to make the coming century even more fruitful
than those which have gone before.
Van Verversingspos tot Volksplanting
Eerste Stappe tot Vestiging
by Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
Indien Suid-Afrika sonder Jan van Riebeeck ooit ‘n blanke land sou geword het,
sou dit minstens ‘n heel ander karakter getoon het. Dit was hy o.a. wat nadat hy
die Kaap besoek het om die manne van die Haarlem te kom afhaal, die stigting
van ‘n verversingspos aan die Kaap by Here Sewentien aanbeveel het en dit was
hy op wie die keuse finaal geval het om die pos te kom stig; maar dit was veral
op sy aandrang en onder sy aanvoering dat die tydelikheid van ‘n verversingspos
tot die duursaamheid van ‘n volksplanting en die vestiging van ‘n land, ons land,
Van Riebeeck se dienstyd aan die Kaap val amptelik in twee termyne van vyf
jaar elk. Die eerste termyn sou bloot te doen hê met die inrigting en beskerming
van ‘n “Kaepsche ommeslagh” met die doel om vars voorrade en hospitaal- en
skeepsbestellingsdienste aan besoekende skepe te verskaf. Dit sou ook dien as
wagpos waar terugkerende vlote hul roetine-instruksies na Patria in tye van nood
sou ontvang. Die onderneming was uiteraard ‘n proefneming wat te eniger tyd as
mislukte eksperiment gestaak kon word.
Met die tweede termyn, hoewel ook proefondervindelik van aard, het ons met ‘n
heel ander gesigspunt te doen. Dit was minstens ‘n erkenning van die
geslaagdheid van die eerste en ‘n ope getuigskrif aan die Kommandeur onder
wie soveel in so ‘n korte tyd tot stand gebring is, maar dit was meer: dit was die
eerste stappe tot kolonisasie en ryksuitbreiding wat met soveel luister in die
Ooste tot stand gebring was.
En wat was die rol wat Jan van Riebeeck in hierdie ontwikkelingsgang gespeel
het? Het hy maar die boete betaal van die man wat horn so verdienstelik maak
dat hy onontbeerlik word? Hy was ‘n ambisieuse man wat op bevordering
aanspraak gemaak en horn eenvoudig nie met mislukkings opgehou het nie. Met
sy rustelose ywer, onverpoosde werkkrag en oortuigde vergesig, word hy die
sentrale figuur in die drama van ons vroegste volksontwikkeling. ‘n Man soos hy
kon nooit die blote amptenaar bly nie. Ons sien dit deur sy optrede in die eerste
Heel vroeg al het die gedagte by hom posgevat dat hy met meer as ‘n tydelike
verversingspos te doen het. Kyk maar alleen hoe hy op 6 April 1654 sy landing in
1652 herdenk. Hy besluit om die dag “voor altijt tot een vast blijvenden danckende
bededach in te stellen ten eynde daerby des Heeren weldaeden aen ons
bewesen by ons naecomelingen noyt vergeten maer altijt tot Godes eere ter
gedaechtenisse in memorie gehouden mogen worden”. Uit hierdie digterlike en
besielende gelofte straal die stigtersgedagte van ‘n verre nageslag in die land
van sy stigting. Hy het sy taak as van tweërlei aard gesien, stoflik en geestelik.
By die sleur van fort- en loodsebou en behuisings-voorsiening, die ontwikkeling
van die tuinerye, die handeldryf met die Hottentotte en al die ander amptelike
pligte, het hy as vanselfsprekend die invoering van die Christelike Westerse
beskawing en die handhawing van al sy lewensnorms aanvaar.
Die beginsels van die Romeins-Hollandse reg en geregtigheid, tug en dissipline,
kerk en onderwys, die godsdiens en sy heilige sakramente, demokratiese
plaaslike verteenwoordiging toe twee van die eerste twee Vryburgers sitting op
sy raad geneem het, is hier ingestel en hoog gehou.
Met sy begaafde en sjarmante vrou, Maria de la Quellerie van Riebeeck — “une
des femmes les plus accomplies que jai vues, aussi est -elle aimee de tout le
monde. Quelque affaire ou quelques occupation qu elle eût se possedait a
merveille”, se Biskop Etienne, Franse skipbreukeling wat agt maande lank hul
gas aan tafel was —het hy ‘n staat en beskaafde lewenspeil aan die fort behou
en ‘n gasvryheid beoefen waarsonder die ruwe omstandighede van ‘n soldate- en
matrosepos die Kaapse samelewing gou kon verval en ontaard het tot die
bandeloosheid van so baie ander Europese voorposte in die buiteland. Toe die
herstelde Engelse skeepskaptein uit dankbaarheid “voor het tractement hem van
des Commandeurs taefel in sijn sieckte gedaen”, betaling aanbied, was die
antwoord van die kommandeur “dat sijn taefel geen taberne was” en dat by hom
“als een gast ende broeder per courtoysye hadde getracteert”. Op so ‘n peil van
wellewendheid is die ou Hollandse kultuur hier gevestig.
Op materiële gebied het Jan van Riebeeck net so stewig gebou. Nie alleen het
by die vettigheid van ons aarde en die skoonheid van ons landstoneel besing nie,
dit het self die skoonheid van Formosa (die skone) oortref, roep by uit — en die
ondervinding van die manne van die Haarlem oor en oor bevestig nie, maar hy
word self die geesdriftige stigter van ons akkerbou en boerdery en later self die
eerste wynboer op die “uyterste frontier”, anderkant die “ronde bosjen”, op sy
plaas, Boschheuvel waar hy 1,200 wingerdstokke insit en ‘n “wynbergh” of kelder
bou. Daar is bykans geen vrug of produk wat vandag tipies van Suid-Afrika is wat
hy nie ingevoer en laat kweek het nie. Hanepoot en spanspek uit Spanje, mielies,
lemoene en patats uit Brasilië; uit alle wêrelddele het die een vloot na die ander
vir hom saad, plantjies, bome en diere aangebring. Alles word geesdriftig erken
en gekweek of geteel om mettertyd feestelik genuttig te word.
Jan van Riebeeck het geen gras onder sy voete laat groei nie. Vyf maande na sy
aankoms kan hy op 13 Oktober 1652 op ‘n dag toe dit “Vuijl, regenagtigh ende
windrigh weder uytten westen” was, die volgende geesdriftige aantekening in sy
Dagregister maak: “Hebben heden een affscheijts maaltjen gegeten met d’
opperhoofden van ‘t jacht (op hun vertreck gereedt leggende) altemalen met hier
aan de Caep aengefockte hoenders, nieuwe erten, spenagie, kervelwarmoes,
esparges een vingher dick ende cropslae soo vast gesloten als cool ende stijff
1¼ lb. ijder crop swaer”.
Elke eerste produk van die Kaap was ‘n gebeurtenis, ja, byna ‘n triomf. Die
eerste perske word met ‘n swier wat van sagte wellewendheid spreek, Maria de
la Quellerie aangebied. En die eerste wyn of mos was ‘n plegtigheid: “Heden is
Godeloff van de Caepse druijven d’ eerste mael wijn gepaerst ende van de
nieuwe most soo versch uijt de cuip de proef genomen”. Maar dit was eers op 2
Februarie 1659 van druiwe uit die “moerwijngaard” of kwekery in die Kaapse
tuine gepars. Van Riebeeck se eie wingerd op die Boshheuvel was toe nog te
jonk hoewel dit “prachtig aen’t waschen” gestaan het. Sy eerste oes in die
volgende jaar sou ook deur ‘n plaag van voëls opgevreet word.
Die Kaapse tuine was vyftien morg groot en het minstens vyftien tuiniers onder
Hendrik Boom, baastuinier, deurentyd besig gehou teen ‘n koste van 6,000 gulde
per jaar. Dit was nie alleen ‘n hele las nie, maar arbeid was ook ‘n hele probleem.
Die soldaat en die matroos was geen landbouer nie, nog minder die Hottentot, ‘n
nomadiese veeboer wat met sy duisende vee agter die weiding aan trek. Bekend
met die ongeloofike arbeidsaamheid van die Sjinees, het Jan van Riebeeck
gewonder of daar nie ‘n klompie van hulle ingevoer kon word nie, maar die
gedagte het hy gelukkig gou laat vaar. Daar sal moet trekdiere ingebreek en
slawe ingevoer word. Die Hottentot het werk nie geken en geen enkele van hulle
is ook ooit verslaaf nie. Maar meer: daar moet selfstandige vrye landbouers,
boere, wees; maar tot 1657 is nog geen grondbesit toegeken nie.
In sy eerste vyfjaar-termyn het van Riebeeck se bedrywigheid alle tekens van
doelbewuste vestiging en bestendigheid gedra. Hy het hom duidelik voorgeneem
om te bewys dat die woestheid beskaaf en die wildernis getem kan word en het
niks nagelaat om die woord by die daad en die daad by die woord te voeg nie.
Wanner admirale of kommisarisse soos die Heer van Goens hier aandoen, kon
hulle met hul oë bevestig wat hier in ‘n paar jaar tot stand gebring is. Geen
argument was sterker en geen pleidooi sprekender as die bewyse van geslaagde
proefnemings nie. Van Riebeeck het inderdaad al die antwoorde met vers en
kapittel verskaf. Toe Here Sewentien hom om “een claer ende pertinent berigt”
oor sy nedersettingsplanne vra, kon hy antwoord dat ‘n vestiging met al die
eienskappe van ‘n beskaafde land en staat behalwe grondbesit alreeds in die
kiem tot stand gebring is. Hoe rudimentêr en sonder swier sy geboortestadium
ook al mag gewees het, het Suid-Afrika toe al in die saad, soos nou in die aar, al
die tekens van ‘n permanente en voortdurende staatsgemeenskap gedra.
Hy en sy vrou moes harde bene kou, maar watter twyfel daar ook al na vyf jaar
kon bestaan, was daar na tien jaar toe hulle in Mei 1662 vertrek, geen twyfel
meer dat die grondslae van ‘n beskaafde land vierkant vasgelê is nie.
Ons noem hierdie feite nie om Jan van Riebeeck tot legendariese figuur op te
bou nie, hoewel sy gestalte inderdaad hoog oor ons geskiedenis troon, maar
omdat al sy doen en late die vaste stempel dra van ‘n man met vêrgesig wat
doelgerig met die stigting van ‘n land besig was.
Tot hierdie afleiding sou ons kon geraak sonder verdere bewys, maar gelukkig
bestaan daar oorvloedige bewys van ons stigter se kolonisasieplanne. In die een
missive na die ander stel hy sy saak aan Here Sewentien, en uit die
briewewisseling staan sy voorstelle en gedagtes duidelik geformuleer.
Teenoor die gedagte van kolonisasie het Here Sewentien geensins vreemd
gestaan nie. Reeds dertig jaar voor van Riebeeck se dienstyd aan die Kaap het
hulle onder aanvoering van Jan Pieterse Coen, “onverskrokke Nederlandse
ryksbouer”, soos Professor Thom horn noem, ‘n groot Oos-Indiese koloniale ryk
tot stand gebring. In Batavia, Amboina en die Banda-eilande is vrugbare en
winsafwerpende koloniale gebiede ontwikkel. Jan Pieterse Coen was nie alleen
mede-opsteller van hierdie winsgebiede se oktrooi nie, maar as energieke en
versiende man van die daad word hy ook die eerste Goewerneur-Generaal.
Toe van Riebeeck in 1652 met sy Kaapse avontuur begin, was daar ‘n geniale
opvolger van Coen en kollega van van Riebeeck aan die hoof, Johan
Maetsuyker, net so ‘n oortuigde kolonisasie-man as sy voorganger. Ook hy stel
sy ontwikkelingsplanne te boek sodat van Riebeeck uitstekende leermeesters tot
sy beskikking gehad het. Daarby het hy nie sonder vrug sewe jaar lank in die
Ooste deurgebring nie. In Atjeh, Japan, Tonkin en veral in Batavia was hy saam
met Maetsuyker werksaam en is hy tot Koopman bevorder. Hy het dus ook ‘n
uitstekende leerskool deurgemaak en was hy uit elke oogpunt beskou, seker die
geskikste man aan wie die Kaapse stigting toevertrou kon word. En tog was sy
taak gans anders en ontsaglik moeiliker. Suid-Afrika van toe was geen land ryk
aan die gewilde speserye, tee en koffie, weefstowwe en edelgesteentes en edele
metale nie, dit was geen land met ‘n eeuoue beskawing soos in die Ooste nie,
maar ‘n barbaarse terra incognita wat van enige kant beskou ‘n gewaagde
onderneming sou wees om te eksploiteer en te ontgin. En buitendien was dit
buitekant sy opdrag.
Nogtans het hy, asof aangevoer met ‘n bomenslike krag en insig, versigtig en
omsigtiglik met die gedagte van permanente besetting begin en binne die eerste
vyf jaar sy gedagtes tot uitvoering gebring. Toe op 21 Februarie 1657 die eerste
nege vryburgers aan die anderkant van die tafel in die fort voor hom verskyn om
die voorwaardes en voorskrifte aan te boor, kon ‘n man van mindere statuur wel
Van Riebeeck het besef dat die fondamente heg en goedgelê is, beter en vaster
as in die Ooste. Daar was die oorheersende gedagte winsbejag en dit skyn asof
hy op stewiger grondslag wou bou as sy beroemde voorgangers en tydgenote in
die Ooste; en die tyd het bewys dat hy reg gehad het. Waar is die trotse
Nederlands-Oosindiese ryk vandag? Dit is alleen nog Suid-Afrika, van Riebeeck
se stigting, wat sonder vernietiging van of vermenging met die inheemse rasse
standhoudend gebly het en alle tekens van lewenslustige voortbestaan toon.
Van Riebeeck se vestigingsgedagtes verdien des te meer aandag. Wat was
hulle? In Julie 1657, nadat die eerste Vryburgers al byna vier maande aan die
gang was, skryf hy aan Here Sewentien en beklemtoon weereens die sentrale
tema van sy beplanning.
Hendrick Boom, baastuinier en grondlêer van ons Kaapse tuine het sy kontrak
voltooi en doen aansoek om sy vrybrief. Hy is ‘n man met ‘n sorgsame,
ondernemende vrou en ‘n familie van sewe kinders in die lewe. Hy vra om 40
morg saaigrond en is reeds besig om hom ‘n stewige woning op te rig wat hom
1,800 gulde gaan kos. Sy vrou kry die pagreg op die kompagnie se melkbeeste
en wil uit die melkery en varkboerdery die familie-inkomste styf.
Hierdie huisgesin, sê van Riebeeck betekenisvol, beskou ons as die geskikste vir
hierdie ontluikende kolonie daar hulle min begeerte toon om of na Oos-Indie of
na die vaderland terug te keer. Twee van hul kinders is hier gebore en die ander
het Europa so jonk verlaat dat hulle min van die vaderland onthou en daarom
beskou ons hierdie geslag van mense as die geskikste. Oor en oor is hierdie
gedagte beklemtoon. Dit is een van sy vernaamste vereistes wat van Riebeeck
aan sy vryburgers stel: hulle moet hulle “mettertyd heel van Hollant affwenden
ende t’eenemaal van dese plaets haer vaderlant maecken.” Hulle moes
Suid-Afrikaners word en bly. Hy wil met ‘n vlottende bevolking van vrye koloniste
niks te maak hê nie, hy wil ‘n inheemse burgergemeenskap opbou, Afrikaanse
burgers met een trou en een vaderland. Hoe sou hierdie gedagte nie in ons
geskiedenis weerklink nie. So sterk voel hy op hierdie punt dat een van sy
voorwaardes juis is dat ‘n vryburger tien jaar en sy kinders wat sy grond erf
twintig jaar sonder onderbreking aan die Kaap bly en daarom ook word elke man
se grond hom “eeuwichlijk ende erffelijek” toegesê. Die Boom-familie was die
antwoord. Dit was ‘n familie, man, vrou en kinders, die basis van enige
gemeenskap, die teken en belofte van bestendigheid. Met alleenlopende
fortuinsoekers wou hy niks te maak hê nie. Daarvan het hy reeds te veel in die
Ooste gesien, mense wat hulle alleen maar op gouwinste en handelsprofyte
toespits. Hy wil vervolgens landbouers hê, standvastige boere wat iets tot stand
bring en hul besittings sal behou en beskerm. Daarom laat hy Here Sewentien
weet dat hy nie die Hollands-Oosindiese tipe wil hê nie. Hulle is eksploiteerders
op eie winsbejag uit wat hulself ten koste van die land verryk en na Nederland
terugkeer daar “d’ exampelen wel geleert hebben dat de meeste haer oogmerck
maer is om metter haest de sacken vol te rapen.”
Hy wil geen mense van “cleijne reputatie” hier vestig nie wie se gedrag alleen
maar tot “groote debauche van’t volcq” sal lei; nee, hulle moet ook mense wees
“die bier reeds gewend ende’t landt bekend sijn” en daarby getroude persone wat
“te meer sullen g’aninimeert blijven tot continuatie aen dese plaetse”.
Van Riebeeck het nie virniet vyf jaar lank gebou nie, sy stigting wou hy nie
uitlewer aan Jan Rap en sy maat nie; alleen die regte tipe en die geskikste
persone moes gekies word.
Maar aangesien die landbou die vernaamste bedryf sou wees kon alleen ook
“luijden van rechte genegentheijdt tot den landtbou” gekies word en veral “de
sulcke die daervan ervarentheijdt hebben”. Van Riebeeck praat soos ‘n opvoeder
van sy volk. Kennis is nie genoeg nie, die regte gesindheid is noodsaaklik.
Maar die landbou, akkerbou en veeteelt, vark- en hoenderboerdery was natuurlik
nie die enigste bedrywe nie. Daar moet tog in elke ewewigtige gemeenskap,
boumeesters, meulenaars, bakkers, ambagsmense wees en hieroor het van
Riebeeck ook heelwat te sê. Reeds het Wouter Mostert hom met
baksteenmakery besig gehou en nou word hy die eerste vry meulenaar om eers
met sy perdemeul en later sy watermeul in die Liesbeek die grane van
Rondebosch en die “Corenschuyr” te maal. En wat was meer voor die hand
liggend vir die Hollander as die vissersbedryf. Tereg het van Riebeeck daar ‘n
toekoms gesien. En later kom Here Sewentien self met die blink gedagte dat
aangesien die Kaap gedurig besoekers moet huisves; daar behoorlike herberge
moet wees en so word Annatjie Boom een van die eerste losieshuishoudsters
aan die Kaap.
Die gewone ekonomiese wette moes hul eie spieël vind en die een moes van die
ander lewe “gelijck de gantsche werelt deur geschiet”, in ‘n “selfstandige
goed-ingerigte en gevestigde burgergemeenskap”.
Verdere sake van groot belang was bemarking en onderstand, veral in die
moeilike beginjare. Soos elders, het van Riebeeck hier ook ‘n weldeurdagte
beleid voorgestel, maar deur bemoeiing van Kommisaris van Goens en Here
Sewentien is sy voorstelle afgewater en wel in so ‘n mate dat moeilikheid gou
Eerstens het hy voorgestel dat handeldryf, veral veehandel met die Hottentotte,
verbied word en andersins in die algemeen beperk word. Hy het geweet hoe
moeilik hierdie mark was en het uitbuiting van die inboorlinge gevrees.
Buitendien wou hy arbeidsame mense hê wat hulle met hul nering besig hou.
Tweedens wou by konkurrensie tussen die Kompanjie en die burgers uitskakel
en die kompanjiestuinery inkort. Sulke ondernemings was buitendien nie
betalend vir Here Meesters nie. Sy voorstelle is deur inmenging vertroebel en
sou jarelank ‘n bron van onenigheid bly om tot sy hoogtepunt onder Adriaan van
der Stel te styg. Die verhouding tussen die belange van die burgerry en dié van
die Kompanjie moes ‘n lang proses van aanpassing deurmaak.
Die voeding en onderhoud van die amptenare en die garnisoen was ook ‘n swaar
las op die koffers van die Kompanjie. Laat amptenare ‘n toelaag kry en hul
benodigdhede van die boere koop, en laat die burgers as burgermag gebruik
word om hul land en besittings te beskerm. Nie alleen sou dit die garnisoen
verminder nie — een van die duurste poste om te onderhou — maar dit sou
geweldig bydra tot die aankweek van ‘n gesonde patriotisme en ‘n saamhorige
Kortom, van Riebeeck se voorstelle en denkbeelde was so oortuigend dat Here
Sewentien eindelik geesdriftig word en hom aanmoedig om sonder verdere
versuim geskikte persone “in vrijdom te stellen”. Van Riebeeck het die
diplomatiese stryd gewen.
Maar hy het ook ‘n ander stryd gewen. ‘n Man wat ‘n belangrike maar tog meer
beskeie rol as selfs sy eie seun, Abraham, in daardie eeu gespeel het, sou tot
ware onsterflikheid deur die eeue promoveer. Voorgangers in die ryksbou ofte
nie, het sy denkbeelde die onmiskenbare tekens van oorspronklikheid gedra en
dit wil voorkom asof ons hier met die tydgees of die Voorsienigheid te doen het
wat in die suidhoek van Afrika ‘n landstigter van geen geringe postuur en stigter
van geen geringe land nie in die figuur van Jan van Riebeeck laat ontstaan het.
[In die opstel van hierdie stuk is o. a. vryelik gebruik gemaak van ‘n artikel deur
Professor H. B. Thom uit die Tydschrift voor Geschiedenis, Groningen.]
Rondebosch and the first Free Burghers
by Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
March 1, 1657 is an important date because it marks the most important event in
South African history, for on this day — it was a Thursday — South Africa was
permanently established at Rondebosch. On this day the European for the first
time in world history took permanent title to land on the African continent, an
event whose significance surpasses even the romance and adventure of the
Slowly but inevitably, like the labouring ox-wagon, we forged northwards from the
Liesbeek to the Limpopo, and today South Africa is a bastion and a basis
whence the continent of Africa to the equator and beyond can be held against
barbarism, and the tropical growths of awakening millions be pollinated with
Today Southern Africa would seem to be the only European offshoot in Africa
with every evidence of permanence as a white man’s home, and so on 1st March
we celebrate the tercentenary of an event of such import as not even van
Riebeeck, gifted with rare vision, could have realized.
Again and again he brushed aside material restraints imposed upon him by his
realistic, bargain-hunting superiors, and exclaimed with prophetic insight that he
foresaw a great country emerging from the timid excursion into commercial
enterprise to which the settlement was limited by their policy. To them as to Lord
Salisbury more than two centuries later, the Cape Peninsula was all they needed.
Van Riebeeck looked beyond Table Mountain; indeed, he does not seem to have
really seen the mountain. It was a most welcome, and to him who had visited the
Cape before, a characteristic sight duly celebrated on board when at the close of
the tedious voyage of their little flotilla a look-out shouted from the crow’s nest
that they had arrived.
Never once did he rise to the panegyric of a Drake over our mountains and the
contours of our coast line. He was a Dutchman bred in the Lowlands and very
likely did not relish mountains. But to his eternal credit he saw South Africa from
the inside and standing on the slopes of Devil’s Peak with his back to the
mountain he broke into panegyric over the flats and exclaimed that it surpassed
in beauty even Formosa (the beautiful) which he knew so well. And who, taking
the same stand today, would be so dead of soul as to view the exciting
panaroma of range upon range with rolling lowlands rising to their peaks without
being stirred as he was?
Looking downwards he saw at his feet a scene dotted with lakes and streams
and a landmark surrounded by teeming fruitfulness, a landmark which was to
give a name to the locality of his first permanent settlement; it was a curious
formation of trees in a round cluster which he named “Het Ronde Doornbosjen”.
This clump of thorn trees had probably grown from a Hottentot stockade around
one of their cattle kraals and the situation of this celebrated grove at whose
shrine we may well hold a tercentenary dedication can be determined with fair
correctness. It was situated some five miles from the fort on the mountain side of
the Liesbeek and along the old woodcutters’ route which was to become the first
Cape Highway now followed by the present main road. I would place it between
the University School of Music and Groote Schuur on what became known as the
Rustenburg estate, with which indeed it became synonymous, and if anyone
located it at about the present Rondebosch fountain I doubt if he would be a
hundred yards out.
The size of this Rondebosjen, to this day known as Rondebossie to the older
generation, may be gauged from van Riebeeck’s instruction dated 7th February
1657 that the inside must be cleared to leave a hedge some ten feet wide all
round on the outside to form a suitable shelter or kraal for cattle, or otherwise
serve “tot meerder deffentie rontom de redout aldaer geprojecteert” (as a further
line of defence about the redoubt he planned to erect there).
But van Riebeeck had had his eye on Rondebosch for some years then. In first
mentioning the place he remarked on the extraordinarily sheltered position of
Rondebosch in the most picturesque terms. Whereas Table Mountain and its
slopes were the scene of the roaring South-Easter, the bane of van Riebeeck’s
life, there reigned at Rondebosch and environs an elysian calm where only mild
zephyrs blew, when in Table valley veritable tornadoes tore his plants out by the
roots and flattened his shelters to the ground. To the end Rondebosch and
thereabouts remained to him the place where “fell not hail or any snow, nor ever
wind blew loudly”. Rondebosch had completely won his affection and it followed
almost automatically that a little further along he selected a site for his own farm,
Boschheuvel, at Bishops Court. The settlement pinpointed by the Ronde
Doornbosjen soon included the area now comprising the greater part of
Wynberg, Kenilworth, Claremont to Rosebank and Mowbray onwards.
But it was not only the sheltered position of this area which roused him to
enthusiasm. He literally licked his lips over the fat loamy soil which he found
here. “Seer fraaie gronden bequaem ter culture” (lovely soils fitted for cultivation)
he exclaimed again and again, and to convince his cautious, hardheaded
principals he suited the action to the word and started cultivation there early on.
So on 17 May 1656 he noted in his diary: “By ‘t rondebosjen suydwaarts achter
de Taeffelbergh ongeveer ¼ mergen lands met de ploegh claer gemaeckt ende
besayt met taruw, rys ende haver tot een proefien om te sien off het daer minder
schade van de harde winden sal hebben te lyden ende ingevolge te pyne waert
wesen om het in ‘t aanstaende met meerder vigeur te vervolgen,” which being
“At the Rondebosch southwards behind the Table Mountain prepared about a
quarter of a morgen of land with the plough and sowed it with rye, rice and oats
as an experiment to see whether they stood to suffer less damage there from the
driving winds and if it would consequently be worth the trouble to follow up with
greater vigour in the future.”
He went further; he put a small sentry box there with two men on duty day and
night. Van Riebeeck did not do things by halves. The time was soon to come
when he was to carry out his project “met meerdere vigeur”.
Again in October 1656 he notes: the prepared lands at the “ronde doornbosjen”
sowed with broad beans, “oock eenige pattatissen alhier uyt Brasil becomen”. So
now we know the origin of our sweet potato. Turkish beans, tobacco and vines
were also put in. Van Riebeeck had a nice sense of drama. We watch him
working up to the climax in his play with the Council of Seventeen, whetting their
appetites for gainful extension and whipping up their interest in profitable
expansion. The curtain had gone up and the first scenes been presented.
It was therefore a triumphant scene which was enacted in the fort and one which
was to draw resounding plaudits from generations down the centuries when on
21 February 1657 there were seated at the council table in the commander’s hall
Jan van Riebeeck, Roelof de Man, bookkeeper; Casper van Weede, secretary;
with sergeant Jan van Harwarden in attendance and on the other side of the
table nine who had applied to become the first citizens of our land, the first Free
Burghers. They were meeting to discuss the terms and conditions of settlement
and to sign on the dotted line. The Council of Seventeen had at last, albeit
dubiously and provisionally, approved!
The men were Herman Remagen, Jan de Wacht, Jan van Passel, Werner
Cornelissen, Roeloff Janssen, to whom were assigned as much land each as
they could cultivate in three years, the settlement to be called the Groeneveld
(Greenfields) beyond the Liesbeek to the Kromboom. They were to apply
themselves more particularly to the growing of wheat besides raising cattle, pigs,
etc. The remaining four, Stephen Botma, Hendrick Elbrechts, Otto Janssen and
Jacob Cornelissen would settle on this side of the Liesbeek in the Hollandsche
Thuyn (Dutch Garden) and apply themselves to growing tobacco, wheat, rice and
other crops. It was this group who were at the Ronde Doornbosjen and their
lands would stretch from the small bridge leading to the forest on the mountain
slopes above Bishops Court to the furthest redoubt to be built in the
The terms and conditions were many and often varied subsequently, but they
stated that Free Burghers had to be men of character and ability, and that in
respect of the grants “de gemelte leyden zullen zijn ende blijven in vollen
eygendom eeuwich ende erffelijck om daermede te doen na eygen welgevallen”
(the persons mentioned would have and remain in full hereditary title of such land
forever to do therewith according to their pleasure). The contracts would date as
from 1 March 1657 and on that historic Thursday the watering station became a
settlement, the halfway house a home and the trading port a country; South
Africa was permanently founded. As Admiral van Goens, who later came to
approve Van Riebeeck’s plans, said: “We cannot become good citizens until we
have been good farmers.”
In the second five years’ term of Van Riebeeck’s tenure much is recorded of the
vicissitudes of our settlement. On Sunday, 4 March 1657, after the usual
inspection on the parade followed by divine service, Van Riebeeck, as anyone
could have guessed, set out for Rondebosch to see how his new settlers were
doing, and thence onwards the activities of the Free Burghers and the growth of
the settlement supply much enthusiastic though sometimes anxious material for
the diary. The company’s gardens in Table Valley were now running a bad
second in Van Riebeeck’s interest and attention.
The building of a granary and the erection of mills were further steps and so it
happened that Groote Schuur was built and Wouter Mostert was appointed the
first free miller, the beginning of private enterprise. So also a wynberg or winery
was indicated, a word which by a process of popular etymology was later
associated with the slopes of the suburb later named Wynberg. On 20 July 1657
we read that Van Riebeeck went to Rondebosch to pick his site for the
“corenschuyr” (wheat store) and decided that night to build it 108 Dutch feet long
and 40 feet wide. Orders were given for trees to be felled for the necessary
timber; but there were delays, and not till 25 January 1658 did Van Riebeeck go
to look for thatch for the roof of his groote schuur. On 4 December of the same
year he records proudly that his vineyard at the Boschheuvel was “fraey aen’t
wassen”, or growing (waxing) beautifully.
There were difficulties and dangers, however. The lions had become so bold that
neither man nor beast could venture out. Wouter Mostert came face to face with
a lion and only just saved himself by shinning up a tree (“op een boom
gesalveert”). But a more serious threat came from the Hottentots who had noted
with growing misgiving that the white man was digging himself in. There came
days when the Free Burghers were called to arms and orders were issued to
abandon farms. There were anxious sieges, ghastly fires and ruinous raids by
brutal and crafty savages, but steadily the settlements prospered and the settlers
began looking further afield. As early as June 1657, some of our Free Burghers
went on an expedition southwards and returned with tales of a land of beauty and
plenty which surpassed even Rondebosch. They encountered a superior tribe of
Hottentots who entertained them most hospitably and who on listening to their
accounts of the beauty and riches of Holland replied that this fertile country was
their Holland and could be styled the Hottentots Holland. And so Somerset West
But our settlement on the Liesbeek (lies — water reeds; beek — a beck or
stream) gave us a very important development of another kind. The Free
Burghers were henceforth to be represented on Van Riebeeck’s Council and so
began democratic local and civic government.
Van Riebeeck had indeed done a fine job of foundation work. Religion and its
sacred observances, education, the beginnings of democratic government,
Roman-Dutch law, social order and justice were firmly established. He saw to it
that this would be no land of buccaneers and pirates, but a country solidly
founded in the best traditions of European civilization. There were times when it
seemed that this far-seeing man with his inflexible tenacity of purpose alone
stood between our infant country and relegation, exposure or abandonment. To
him and those whom he inspired, his noble wife not the least, belong the chief
credit; but in the whole exciting drama of our birth throes and teething pains
Rondebosch and the suburbs into which it developed played a major part and
have indeed a proud tradition.
The development and growth of each of these suburbs jointly and severally
would form the subject of a worthy history. Great families, historic farms, noble
buildings and events which are the roots of South African history remain to be
recorded in more than episodic form. May our celebration foster such historical
The First Settlement and “The Hottentots
by Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
The story of Rondebosch would not be complete without the share of the
non-European people and their aboriginal ancestors being given due recognition.
The Bushman and the Bantu do not come into the picture. The Bantu were
pillaging north of the Limpopo when Van Riebeeck was practising the arts of
peace along the Liesbeek. They have no prior title to South Africa on any terms.
The Bushmen had been scattered and decimated by the Hottentots and had
accepted the role of the rogues of society with every man’s hand against them.
Theirs indeed is a pathetic history.
The Hottentots, a light brown people, had migrated from Northern Africa down to
the West Coast as far south as Agulhas. They must have been some
quarter-million in number and had a simple primitive culture which Van Riebeeck
praised highly. Their laws and customs were patriarchal, but women were
accorded some respect and position. One of the most picturesque incidents in
the Van Riebeeck Diary tells how the chieftains and their wives, mounted on
oxen, rode in cavalcade to the Fort to be entertained by the commander whom
they trusted and loved. They were an intelligent people who loved music and
dancing and possessed great droves of sheep and cattle, but as their social
structure was communistic and their way of life nomadic, imposed upon them by
the necessity of going where the grazing led, they roamed the country in great
drives and sweeps. Possessive title to land was a concept foreign to them, yet
the various tribes often came into lethal conflict and, had Van Riebeeck not
protected them against themselves their fratricidal wars would have exterminated
them. The position was so bad that there were large bands of refugees and
fugitives among them who were in hiding in the Cape Peninsula and along the
coastline in caves and among the crags. They had become a menace and a
danger to all, and at one time these desperadoes threatened the very existence
of the settlement at the Cape. Van Riebeeck finally taught them a sharp lesson,
to the relief of the peaceful tribes and the salvation of the Free Burghers.
The idea of work was foreign to the Hottentot, a commendable way of life, but
unfortunately impossible in civilization; slaves were therefore obtained mainly
from the Portugese, Dutch and British, who secured a monopoly of the lucrative
slave trade. No Hottentot was ever enslaved. Many of these slaves came from
the East and had long straight hair. They were often of superior culture and Van
Riebeeck started a school for their children.
When the slaves were finally emancipated under British rule there were some
40,000 of them, but many had already been freed and all would eventually have
been so in terms of the regulations under Dutch rule. They mixed with the
Hottentots and helped to form the coloured people of today.
In regard to European admixture, Van Riebeeck imposed strict political and
territorial apartheid and forbade private dealings between Europeans and
Hottentots. While he frowned upon miscegenation he would not allow promiscuity
and illegitimacy. The occasional cases of births from mixed “marriages” were
therefore duly recorded in the baptismal registers. A very strong social sanction
also developed early and it is safe to say that the European admixture while
obvious in individuals is infinitesimally small in the race as a whole.
The coloured people have thrived in the main. There are more than a million of
them today and theirs is no mean achievement to have acquired most of the
forms of European culture and languages in the short space of three centuries. It
took our European ancestors longer to acquire Roman culture.
In Van Riebeeck’s time there were Coloured chieftains more or less settled about
the Flats. There was Gogosoa, the fat captain in Rondebosch, and Doman lower
down the Liesbeek, and as their descendants acquired the ways of civilization
they made their contribution to the stability and progress of the country. There is
every reason and inducement for the coloured people to join in acclaiming the
foundation by which we have given them in generous measure a share in the
heritage and tradition of Western civilization.
Some Early Visitors to Rondebosch and their Impressions
by Frank R. Bradlow
For more than 300 years — even before the Free Burghers settled on the banks
of the Liesbeek River — travellers have followed one route from the Castle to
Rondebosch. In his book “Old Cape Highways”, Dr. Mossop has established that
“it is now beyond doubt that when we travel the Main Road to the suburbs by Sir
Lowry Road, Observatory and Rosebank, we are — as far as the hillock at
Rondebosch, now dominated by the Church of St. Paul — upon the very waggon
road of Van Riebeeck’s wood-cutters”.
Along this road have come through the centuries a vast multitude of people. In
this article I have selected a few of the more famous of this multitude who have
fortunately left behind them their impressions of Rondebosch and its environs, or
whose visits have been recorded. Of necessity only those who visited
Rondebosch up till the middle of the 19th Century have been included.
These visitors came for a variety of reasons and made a variety of observations.
It was the age when the traveller frequently put down his observations in book
form, and we are fortunate that many of the impressions of these early travellers
have been recorded in books which have become classics of our Africana.
From the fascinating pages of their books it would seem that the majority of
visitors journeyed to see the Company’s Gardens at Rondebosch and Newlands.
The village is barely mentioned before 1811, and the official visits of inspection
were to see the conditions under which the Free Burghers were farming. It was
for this purpose that Commissioner Ryklof Van Goens, Governor-General of
Batavia, visited the settlement on the Liesbeek in March 1657. He improved the
conditions and made provision for one of the settlers to be a burgher councillor.
Nine years later, in December 1666, the Admiral of the French Fleet, Monsieur
de Monde Vergne, was one of the first of a long succession of visitors who were
entertained at Rustenburg, the Company’s Country House at Rondebosch in the
Gardens. He is said to have referred to it as being “well-built and very
The German, Peter Kolbe(n) who had been sent to the Cape to make
astronomical observations, and who remained there from 1705 till 1713, has left
a quaint description of the gardens at Rondebosch which deserves to be quoted
in full. “Several beautiful country seats, vineyards and gardens are to be seen on
almost every side of the Table-hill. The Company has here two very spacious,
rich and beautiful Gardens. In one of ’em stands, erected at the Company’s
Expence, a noble Pleasure-House for the Governour, and near it a beautiful
Grove of Oaks, called the Round-Bush from which this Garden takes its Name,
being called the Round-Bush garden. The other Garden which is at some
distance from this is called Newland because but lately planted. Both these
gardens are finely watered by the Springs on the Table-Hill and the Company
draws from ’em a very considerable Revenue .. .
“Between these Gardens and contiguous to the foremention’d Stable, lies a
lovely estate, called on Account of its Fertility, Bread and Wine. Between those
Gardens likewise stands Lonwens famous Brew-house, erected by Jacob
Lonwen who together with his family was transported to the Cape, at the
Company’s expence, for this very purpose.”
Some thirty years later another German, Otto Mentzel arrived and left a justly
famous description of the Cape of Good Hope. Of the Company’s gardens on the
other side of the Devils Berg he says: “The first of these is about two hours or
one German mile distant from the town, and is named the “Ronde Boschje” from
a circular plantation of young oak trees in the neighbourhood. My own opinion is
that the garden has obtained this name from its own somewhat round
appearance, for owing to the action of the South-East wind the branches of all
fruit trees standing on the boundary lean towards the passerby. Within this
garden there is a summer house of modest designe for the pleasure of the
Governor and other prominent persons.”
Mentzel was extremely impressed by the success of the pomegranate which
grew in the gardens, and has some pleasant remarks to make about the climate.
“These gardens are watered by a stream that flows from the Table Mountain and
enters the Salt River. They are more attractive than the one in the town because
they provide a finer view, and purer air. The neighbouring mountains cast cooling
shadows and the frequent cloud coverings on top mitigate the heat of the sun.
The prevailing summer winds are not so vehement nor so sudden in their
onslaught as in the town.”
In 1769 Rear-Admiral John Splinter Stavorinus, who was in the service of the
States-General of Holland, visited the Cape on his way to the Far East. He
described the gardens “on the acclivity of the Devils Mountain, one of which is
called Newland, and the other Het Ronde Bosch (The Round Grove)”. He found
both “adorned with shady walks and planted with a great number of fruit trees”.
At Newlands he was greatly impressed by an apricot tree “which was so large
and had spread its branches so wide that more than twenty men could be
sheltered under them, and it produced very good fruit at the same time”.
Stavorinus was almost alone among the visitors in remarking that “it is a great
pity that these pleasant country seats are so subject to the violent attacks of the
furious south-east winds which continually sweep down the mountain”. Other
travellers remark how comparatively sheltered this area appeared.
About the same time Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, the famous French author of
Paul et Virginie visited Cape Town, and mentioned that although the price of
board and lodging was very high, one could always spend some days at his
landlord’s country house at “Driekoppjes or Rondebosch” without extra expense.
It seems that some of the ordinary citizens of Cape Town already had country
seats at Rondebosch.
In 1772 the famous Swedish professor of Physics at Stockholm University,
Andrew Sparrman, visited the Cape and stayed for some time at Alphen. He
found a rare animal vivera putorius (probably a kind of genet) at “Mr Dreijer’s
farm at Rondebosch, situated nearer to the Cape than Alphen”.
Even old Rondebosch residents will no doubt be surprised to hear that in one of
his “excursions between Alphen and Rondebosch near a marshy place in a dale”,
Sparrman came upon an animal with which he was totally unacquainted and
realised that it was a hippopotamus or sea-cow, which had probably strayed from
Sparrman’s Swedish colleague, Charles Peter Thunberg, Professor of Botany
at Upsala University, visited the Cape at about the same time, and as a botanist
his impressions were largely related to plants and fruits. He refers to
Rondebosch which he visited on the 30th June 1772, as “a villa belonging to the
Governor”, and says : “On this Eastern side, along Table Mountain, the South
East wind does not blow so hard as at the Cape, for which reason both trees and
shrubs grow here. Among other trees the pine (pinus sylvestris) was conspicuous
by its elegant crown. Wild vines made a distinguished figure at this time with their
red berries which resembled cherries and were eatable”.
Thunberg again visited Rondebosch in 1774 and remarks that the Governor has
country houses at Rondebosch and Newlands “to which he may retire at
pleasure, and unbend his mind when oppressed with the cares of state”.
On the 15th September 1795, Rondebosch received two famous visitors when
the Cape was surrendered to General Craig and Admiral Elphinstone at
During the first British Occupation we have a description of Rustenburg by the
famous Lady Anne Barnard. “At Rondebosch,” she remarks, “is the pleasantest
country house belonging to Government, four miles distance from the Cape.” In
one of her letters she writes: “All is sweet you know that grows in the
neighbourhood of Constantia and Rondebosch.”
Also during the first British Occupation Robert Semple in his delightful book
“Walks and Sketches at the Cape of Good Hope” describes a visit through
Rondebosch to the Brewery of Mr. van Reenen. “A mile from Cape Town we
passed the lines, a range of redoubts and blockhouses . . . Having passed the
lines the road winds further to the right and in about half an hour brought us
through an avenue of trees to Rondybosch the seat of the Lieutenant-Governor
of the Cape. A little beyond Rondybosch we ascended a small rising ground
towards the right and continuing to approach still nearer the hills, arrived at the
Brewery, the estate of D. van Reenen, as well known and as famous at the Cape
as that of Constantia; and here we stopped to take some refreshment. The house
of Mr van Reenen though not yet compleated, is by far the most elegant of any
building public or private in the whole colony. It was planned by Thibault a French
Ten years later, in December 1811, the great English naturalist William Burchell
visited Rondebosch and left us a most charming description. “Rondebosch
(Round-wood) is an assemblage of villas and gardens, distributed along the first
part of the road; and here many of the inhabitants of Cape Town have their
country seats. A little farther on, we crossed the Liesbeecks river, a plentiful
streamlet, at a place called Westervoort Bridge. Hereabouts the country
becomes exceedingly beautiful, every where shaded with groves, and large trees
of luxuriant growth, between which are interspersed vineyards, gardens, and
many handsome buildings. Turning to the right or westward out of the Wynberg
road, we followed another equally broad and good, and delightfully shaded by
large oaks. This led us by Nieuwlands (Newlands) at that time the seat of
General Grey; but which has since become the official country residence of the
Governor. Near this place is a beautiful spot called the Brewery where in the
midst groves and plantations stands an elegant mansion built after the designs of
Mons. Thibault, the government architect and surveyor.”
Rondebosch residents will perceive a familiar note when Burchell mentions that
at Roodebloem “we felt the symptoms of an approaching hot day; but at
Rondebosch, owing perhaps to a cool and more open situation, the thermometer
fell to 73”.
Some years later, in 1838, Rondebosch began to assume its present character.
Charles Bunbury, foreign secretary of the geological society, describes a drive
to Muizenberg. “Our way,” he writes, “lay at first along the foot of the Devils
Mountain, and skirting the flats past the pretty little village of Rondebosch; in this
part, the broad level road, bordered by high hedges, and shaded by oak or fir
trees, the neat cottages and gardens by the wayside and the public houses with
English names on their signs, put me much in view of my own country.”
A curious visit was paid to Rondebosch by Andrew Geddes Bain the great road
engineer; when in search of coal he put down a borehole on the “Rondebosch
Flats to test the lignite found there”.
A frequent visitor in the middle of the nineteenth century was Thomas Bowler,
the artist who gave drawing lessons at “Bishops”. Three of the pictures of
Rondebosch subjects he painted at this time are illustrated in this booklet.
Rondebosch has come a long way through the centuries from the days when
Van Riebeeck settled the Free Burghers on the banks of the Liesbeek. It has not,
however, lost the early charm and individuality which made such an appeal to
these early travellers.
The Old Estates of Rondebosch and District
by Mr. A. M. Lewin Robinson
The story of the development of Cape Town’s southern suburbs does not differ
greatly from that of any other expanding metropolis — large estates and farms
gradually being subdivided for smaller gentlemen’s country houses and finally for
suburban dwellings and housing estates as the pressure of nineteenth and
twentieth century population increases the value of land.
Rondebosch of course was fortunate in having a millionaire landowner in the
person of Cecil Rhodes who foresaw the advent of the “octopus” in the 1890’s
and secured so many acres of our mountain-side as an open space for all time.
Yet however much the valley of the Liesbeek has been built over and cut through
by roads and the railway, the limits of the original estates or grants can still be
traced with little difficulty and for purposes of identification still appear on the
surveyors’ official maps.
In another article the granting of land to the first nine Free Burghers in 1657 has
been described — Stephen Botma’s party choosing the Hollandsche Thuin on
the west or mountain side of the Liesbeek River and Harman Remajenne and his
followers selecting the Groenevelt on the east or Cape Flats side. Much as we
should like here to link the exact location of these pioneer settlements with the
lasting grants, this is beyond our scope though reference may be made to Prof.
Eric Walker’s Historical Atlas of South Africa.
From 1658 onwards the area from Mowbray to Newlands, bounded by the Zwart
Rivier on the east, was gradually covered by some twenty grants, including the
farms of Groote Schuur and Rustenburg, government owned from the earliest
times. Van Riebeeck tells us that corn was first grown experimentally outside the
Company’s Garden at Koornhoop in 1657, with scant success, and that the
neighbourhood of the Great Barn was then tried. Van Riebeeck’s own farm was
further on at Boschheuvel, now Bishops Court.
By the early years of the nineteenth century most of the estates known today had
assumed their lasting boundaries along the Simonstown road and it must have
been a pleasant journey to drive through Rondebosch with its high hedges, its
rich farm-lands and the occasional home-steads and villas nestling among the
trees, each with its attendant white cottages for the “Volk”.
Today it is the Main Road and the railway line which most effectively divide
Rondebosch and district from north to south. It was the natural curling line of the
Liesbeek however which formed the boundary of most of the early estates in that
part, even though the road followed much the same route as it does now. Where
hereafter modern street names are mentioned in tracing boundaries, it should be
understood that this is no implication that they were contem¬porary. In many
cases they are the results of estate boundaries.
West of The Liesbeek.
If we imagine ourselves coming from Cape Town then, the first estate which we
shall pass on our right, stretching up the slopes of the Mountain, is Welgelegen.
In its 18th century heyday this must have been one of the largest farms in the
district, its north-eastern corner being near the junction of Durham Avenue with
the Main Road at Observatory. Its southern boundary cuts through the present
University ground above Lover’s Walk at the corner of Woolsack Road.
Westward it ran almost up to the King’s Block House. Originally Van Reenen
property — it was granted to Gysbert van Reenen in 1803 — it passed to the
Mosterts in the 1830’s. About 1895, Rhodes bought it for his friend John Blades
Currey who had been so good to him in his Kimberley days, and it subsequently
became part of the Groote Schuur Estate. The old homestead was replaced by a
Baker house long since, but the windmill, known as Mostert’s Mill, built in the late
18th century, is now a national monument.
Adjoining Welgelegen on the south and south-east was Zorgvliet of which
nothing remains to remind us — not even a street name. This farm belonged to
the Eksteen family and starting at Rhodes Avenue covered the area occupied
lately by the lower Rosebank Showground and the S.A. College of Music
(formerly Strubenheim). Running down to the Liesbeek it included most of the
land of the present Vaccine Station, where there used to be a small lake under
the railway line, while up the mountain side and along the boundary of
Rustenburg, a peculiar tongue of land, much of the way only 300 feet wide,
protruded for over half-a-mile.
The original Zorgvliet homestead was in the neighbourhood of the Woolsack just
below Rhodes Drive.
The ancient farm of Rustenburg, residence of Governors till 1791, is dealt with in
detail elsewhere and we need not discuss its history here. It extended up from
the Liesbeek to embrace most of the University site and the Grotto. On the Main
Road its northerly and southerly boundaries can be told from the position of
Nursery Road and Highstead Road. Rustenberg House, now the Frank Joubert
Art Centre, is a national monument.
The historic Groote Schuur comes next. This again is receiving individual
attention elsewhere and we shall only note what is essential to our purpose. A
government farm from Van Riebeeck’s day, it was sold to H. C. Herhold in 1791
and later to the fiscal, Willem van Ryneveld. In 1828, the judge Sir William
Westbrooke Burton bought the small south-east portion called Onderschuur
which he renamed Westbrooke; but five years later Abraham de Smidt the elder,
who had bought Groote Schuur in 1829, repurchased it and restored the estate’s
earlier boundaries. These are marked today by Highstead Road, Church Street
and the Main Road as far as the stream which runs between Groote Schuur and
Klein Schuurl. Up the Mountain the boundary roughly followed this stream,
veering northwards above Rustenburg until reaching the limits of Zorgvliet. When
the elder De Smidt died, his son Abraham inherited Groote Schuur and his son
William inherited Westbrooke. In 1878 Abraham, the younger, sold the estate but
kept the narrow strip of Highstead, lying between Highstead Road and Glen
Walk, while in 1886 William sold Westbrooke to G. Pigott Moodie, donor of the
Rondebosch Fountain. Rhodes bought the property in 1893 and began the
process of buying up the neighbouring lands until the Groote Schuur Estate
comprised one great park on the slopes of Table Mountain from Rondebosch to
Observatory — a precious inheritance for the people of the Cape.
Klein Schuur early became a separate property and is one of the few estates with
limits almost unaltered in spite of its being annexed to Groote Schuur. The
stream on its northern boundary has been mentioned, while Klipper Road
encloses it on the south side. Its highest point is a little above Rhodes Drive. Until
a few years ago one could stand at its lower gate on the main road and look up
the pleasant quarter-mile of farm land to the old homestead as it was a century or
more ago, but today a pseudo-Cape Dutch house has been ruthlessly
inter-posed. Through most of the 19th century the Logies occupied Klein Schuur,
Alexander Logie du Toit, an adopted son, being the father of the eminent
geologist of the same name.
Above and to the south-west of Klein Schuur lay Mount Pleasant, which name
dates from the early years of the second British occupation. The battlemented
Victorian mansion in Newlands Avenue stands right at the bottom of a large
estate which stretched from there nearly a mile up the mountain-side, bounded
by Groote Schuur to the north and Papenboom to the south along the stream
which flows so turbulently under Newlands Avenue in winter, a few yards beyond
the present house. This house was formerly the official residence of the Imperial
German Consul-General, the small portion of the original estate which still bears
the name having been sold to the German Empire. The old homestead, which fell
into ruin, stood near the farm buildings at the corner of the road to Rhodes
Memorial some 800 yards up. In 1807 Lourens Cloete owned the estate while in
the 1830’s it belonged to J. J. Cruywagen.
Below Mount Pleasant and bounded by Klipper Road, the Main Road, the
Liesbeek and Anneberg Road, to below Montebello was Westervoort
(Westerford). In the first part of the 19th century this belonged to the Cloetes and
already by the 1830’s the division into Groot and Klein Westervoort had taken
place down the stream which used to flow down Alfred Street before being piped
recently. The unofficial anglicisation of the name seems to have taken place early
and is from sound rather than sense. The old Great Westerford after lying derelict
for several years was pulled down to make way for the new Southern Life
Building, while Klein Westerford is now Westerford High School.
To the south of both Mount Pleasant and Westervoort lies Papenboom, also
known as the Brouwery, for it was here that Cape beer was first brewed in 1696,
the estate of 30 morgen being officially granted to Rugert Mensink for that
purpose. Mensink died in 1700 but his widow and his son, who married Adam
Tas’s sister, carried on until forced to sell out in 1716 to Rudolph Steenbok. The
estate changed hands again in 1725 and frequently through the century until Dirk
Gysbert van Reenen, a son of the Welgelegen family, inherited it from his
father-in-law Johann Hurter. Beer continued to be produced there for the
Company until 1795 and privately thereafter, but the proprietor was not
necessarily the brewer. The earliest brewery buildings are believed to have been
the old Cannon Brewery above Newlands House.
Papenboom was bounded on the north by Westervoort and Mount Pleasant and
on the south, below Newlands Avenue, by the stream that runs between
Palmboom and Kildare Roads. Above the Avenue the boundary ran southwards
as far as the top of the present Ravensberg Avenue and then up the Mountain to
embrace a large part of the present forest area, including the Newlands
Dirk Gysbert van Reenen, a man of consequence and well known for his journey
with Governor Janssens to meet Chief Gaika at the Kat River in 1903,
commissioned the great architect Thibault to build him a beautiful house off
Newlands Avenue in the neighbourhood of the present Foresters Arms. By great
misfortune this fine house was later burnt down and the present house of the
name bears no relation to it. As the result of the abolition of monopolies after the
second British occupation, Van Reenen suffered serious material loss and was
forced to sell a portion of his estate. He died in 1825 and his son Daniel inherited.
By the 1840’s Papenboom had passed to Rudolph Cloete. The fine water of
Newlands Spring which rises close by, encouraged the continuance of brewing
and the now disused Anneberg Brewery (1883) was Anders Ohlsson’s
headquarters before he moved to the Mariendahl site in 1900. Ohlsson also lived
at Montebello, later the home of Sir Max Michaelis and now the site of the new
S.A. College School.
Newlands — originally Nieuwland, and laid out by W. A. van der Stel in 1700 —
has the most aristocratic connections of any of our estates after Groote Schuur.
Governor Rijk van Tulbagh built the house in 1771 and it remained a country
residence for Governors for the next twenty years, famed for the beauty of its
gardens. In 1791 however it was sold to Hendrik Vos. British Governors used it
after 1806 and Cradock much improved the house. In 1819 however the roof fell
in during a storm and Lord Charles Somerset rebuilt it at enormous expense,
only to see it sold for a mere £3,000 in an economy drive. From 1830 to 1850 it
belonged to J. J. Cruywagen who also owned Mount Pleasant.
Until a considerable sale of land in 1852, the limits of the estate lay between
Newlands Avenue and the Liesbeek and between Papenboom and the stream
that runs between Hiddingh Avenue and Paradise Road. In 1859 Dr. Jonas
Hiddingh, son of Judge Willem Hiddingh, bought the estate and it remained in the
family for many years though leased to the Cape Governors after Dr. Jonas’s
death as his nephew and heir, Michiel Hiddingh, preferred to live in the Red
House. As a hospital during World War I, it fell into disrepair but thanks to the
artist Gwelo Goodman who leased it in 1920, it was restored to its former glory.
In 1929 Goodman left to move into the old Cannon Brewery across the road,
which he had bought and converted into a magnificent artist’s residence.
Beyond Newlands to the south lie Boshof, Fernwood and Paradijs (Paradise) an
old Company’s farm, granted to W. ten Damme as early as 1706 and belonging
to the Van Bredas in the 19th century. The Barnards, Andrew and Lady Anne,
had a country retreat here from 1798 to 1802. Van Riebeeck’s farm Boschheuvel,
renamed Protea by a later owner, H. C. D. Maynier, and now Bishopscourt, lies
in the valley beyond.
1) The estate must at one time have extended to the Liesbeek.
East of the Liesbeek
We could go on further through Claremont but must return to take notice of the
eastern, or Cape Flats side of the road and the Liesbeek as we approach from
Passing by Koornhoop, scene of the first effort to grow corn outside the
Company’s Garden, we have Molenvliet between us and the river, while beyond
lies Vredenburg bounded by Durban and Liesbeek Roads with the Camp Ground
as its eastern limit. At the turn of the century Vredenburg was Julius Jeppe’s
Cape Town house.
Rygersdal, believed to have been granted to F. Gerrits as early as 1660,
stretched between the river and the Camp Ground from Liesbeek Road to the
private road serving the Government laboratories and St. Joseph’s School. In
1807 it belonged to H. de Vos and in 1817 to W. D. Jennings. In the 1830’s it was
split up into several well-known properties, notably Rosebank House, the home
of the Hon. C. S. Pillans, Charlies Hope, owned by Mr. Joseph Sturgis, and
Erinville, by Mr. W. G. Anderson of the firm of Anderson & Murison. In 1834
Charlies Hope was let to Sir Harry Smith, then Officer Commanding, and his
fascinating wife Juanita; but in 1840 the Rev. John L. Fry, second Rector of
Rondebosch, came to live there and was granted the whole of the Camp Ground
as his glebe. In those days this extended down to Strathallan Road off Park Road
and round to Sandown Park, hence the Glebe Road in this neighbourhood. From
1897 until the end of World War I it was under Imperial military ownership,
whereafter it reverted to the Union Defence Department. It was finally sold along
with part of the adjoining Erinville to the Cape School Board for the expanding
Rustenburg Girls’ High School whose new buildings there were occupied in
Erinville, or Erin-go-Bragh, as Mr. Anderson originally had it, was later also
military property and the residence of the Officer Commanding. The house was
burnt out during the first World War and never rebuilt. The part on the Camp
Ground is now Rustenburg School while that further west is occupied by
Adjoining Rygersdal is the old estate of Ekelenburg, now spelled Ecklenberg, of
which but a small surviving portion at the corner of Belmont and Erin Roads still
bears the name. This grant was made to Jacob Cloete in 1658 and extended as
far as College Road southwards and from the Liesbeek to the Camp Ground.
Later it actually crossed the river towards the Main Road where Rosendal used
to stand. In the mid-18th century Ds. Franciscus Le Sueur held the estate, while
from 1810 the Hon. Hendrik Cloete owned it for many years. The home-stead,
like so many others in those days, was burnt down in the 1850’s.
In 1835 Cloete sold a good portion of the estate to John Bardwell Ebden (d.
1875), celebrated Cape man of business, who built a new house Belmont, upon
it. He was succeeded by his sons Charles H. and the Hon. Alfred Ebden. After
the death of the latter in 1908 it was bought by a syndicate which in turn sold it to
the Marist Brothers in 1917 for a new school, St Joseph’s.
Crossing now to the Camp Ground Road, we must notice Bonair which, while not
ancient, did in 1845 stretch from Barkley Road to the Black River between Park
and Silwood Roads. Silwood, between Riverton Road and the Black River,
includes a grant made to J. C. Mokke in 1797.
Across Silwood Road is the Diocesan College, occupying the site of the farm
Woodlands. The original grant made to Jan F. Peens in 1791 was only two
morgen but later owners added to it by obtaining further grants. By 1831 this
larger farm was in the name of William Hawkins, and in 1849 Bishop Gray bought
it for his newly founded school which had outgrown accommodation at Protea.
East of Bishops lies Lutgensburg, bounded by the Black River, Milner and
Sandown Roads. This was granted to J. W. Lutgens in 1799 but was divided in
1828. The name survives in the Lutgens Vale Township.
Returning to the Liesbeek area, we come next to Roodenburg, later Myrtle
Grove, lying between College and Rouwkoop Roads. On some maps the old
estate is shown extending across the river to the main road where Liesbeek
House used to be, though this area is more naturally a part of Groote Schuur.
Already named Myrtle Grove in 1807, when it belonged to a Mr. Hopley, it
passed to William Hawkins before he acquired Woodlands and then in the 1830’s
it came into the Home family. Today Myrtle and Grove Roads remind us of its
Rouwkoop, another ancient grant, was given in 1660 to none other than Harman
Remajenne, the leader of Harman’s Colony of Free Burghers in 1657. It is
interesting to note that the name Rouwkoop means money paid to buy one’s
release from a contract. The old homestead, partly burnt and not likely to survive
long, was till recently a private hotel. The estate lay between Rouwkoop Road on
the north and Dulwich Road and Dundee Terrace (Vale Road) on the south. The
Liesbeek is again the natural boundary but a small piece of land was at one time
added on the west bank.
Further east and on the other side of Sandown Park lies the large wedge-shaped
estate of Weltevreden. Bounded on the north by Sandown Road and on the
south by Avenue de Mist, it extends as far as the Mayfield Estate. The original
house, residence of Sir John Truter, chief justice 1812-1827, stood a few
hundred yards down the present Weltevreden Avenue for which it was
demolished to make way. After the Truters, the estate belonged to the Savage
family, the Duncans of Juta’s and through marriage to the Homes family.
Canigou, originally Welkom, takes its name from a peak in the Pyrenees.
Granted to F. S. V. Le Sueur in 1818 it soon afterwards became the property of
General Sir John Bell whose son Charles Davidson Bell, the surveyor and artist,
lived there until about 1873. In 1900 the Rondebosch Boys’ High School bought it
from Mr. G. T. B. Twycross. The old house was used as a boarding house for
many years, but though now rebuilt the name still survives, while another old
house on the estate, Oakhurst, has given its name to a girls’ school founded just
fifty years ago.
The original compass of Canigou was from the boundary of Weltevreden down to
Keurboom Road but including a little less than half of the present Keurboom
Park. Sunnybrae Estate was originally part of it, being bought by the Duncans
after the sale of Weltevreden in the 1880’s.
Keurboom, granted to J. A. van Schoor in 1807, extended from Keurboom Road
to St. Leger and St. Michaels Roads while eastwards it stopped just beyond
Columbus Road. On Palmyra Road it bordered on Questenburg later called
Mariendahl. That Jan Stegmann was owner in the 1840’s accounts for Stegmann
Road, leading to the estate from Claremont. The old house is still there shut in by
newer dwellings on Keurboom and Palmyra Roads.
The area between Palmyra Road and the Liesbeek is covered by two estates.
The first Moeders Bewys must have originally been part of Questenburg which
lies to its south. It can be defined however as bounded by the railway line,
Dundee Terrace, Pinewood Road, Camp Ground and Palmyra Roads; and the
fence between Kelvin Grove Club and Newlands Cricket Ground. It was originally
the property of the Dreyer family, Hendrik C. Dreyer living there in 1848. About
1870 James Brodie bought the area which he nostalgicly named Kelvin Grove.
Mariendahl, formerly Questenburg and Louwvliet, was the property of the Hon.
Jacob Letterstedt for many years after 1845. He established a brewery on his
estate but was one of the several who sold out to the all-powerful Anders
Ohlsson who established his principal factory at Mariendahl in 1900. The
Western Province Cricket Club ground was opened in 1888 and the Rugby
ground in 1890. The boundaries are most complicated but may be traced by
following the Liesbeek, Dulwich Road, the railway, the northern fence of the
cricket ground, Palmyra Road, Stegmann Road, Vineyard Road to Corwen Street
and thence a line to the top of Sans Souci Road and down that road to the river.
Adjoining Mariendahl on the south-west is Sans Souci. This small estate was in
the 1830’s the country residence of the Hon. Hamilton Ross, though of much
earlier origin. Having a common boundary with Mariendahl from Vineyard Road
to the bridge over the river in Sans Souci Road, on the south-west it reaches to
Kildare Road and then shares a boundary with the Vineyard Estate. The
Vineyard is a narrow strip between the river and Protea and Collington Roads.
The original house has been much altered for the present-day hotel but the
Andrew Barnards lived there for a time in 1800.
Beyond Sans Souci and the Vineyard we come to Veld Huijzen, one of the oldest
estates being first granted in 1660. When Sir John Herschel, Bt., the astronomer,
made his stay at the Cape from 1834 to 1838, he bought this property, renaming
it Feldhausen. The name was later changed to The Grove and it is now a private
hotel at the end of Grove Avenue, Claremont. The obelisk commemorating
Herschel’s observations stands near by at the foot of Obelisk Road.
Before concluding, mention must be made of the Albion Mill Estate which lies
between the Main Road and the Liesbeek from Westerford Bridge to Schweppes’
factory. The Albion Mill was situated where the mineral water factory is now
making valuable use of the clear waters of the famed Albion Spring which rises
there. Another water mill, derelict these many years, is in Boundary Road
opposite the Brewery. This was Letterstedt’s or Josephine’s Mill, being named
after Jacob Letterstedt’s daughter.
This article cannot claim to be more than an introduction to a very considerable
but fascinating subject and it will have achieved its aim if it has explained
something of the origins and circumstances of Rondebosch topography in
relation to the men who helped the natural features to form it, and has also
shown where to begin further research into the estates and properties of old
The History of “De Groote Schuur”
With some account of its various Proprietors
by J. H. R. De Smidt
In the month of September 1902 there appeared in the pages of the now defunct
“Owl” a reprint of an historic instrument. It was the famous Last Will and
Testament of that large-hearted statesman, the Right Hon. Cecil John Rhodes.
Clause 13 and Condition III thereof, dealing with the landed property of the
Testator, are of such extraordinary interest as to be worthy of reproduction: –
“13. I give my property following, that is to say, my residence known as “De
Groote Schuur” situate near Mowbray in the Cape Division in the said Colony,
together with all furniture, plate and other articles contained therein at the time of
my death and all other land belonging to me situated under Table Mountain,
including my property known as “Mosterts” to my Trustees hereinbefore named
upon and subject to the conditions following, that is to say:-
“III. The said residence and its gardens and grounds shall be retained for a
residence for the Prime Minister for the time being of the said Federal
Government of the States of South Africa to which I have referred in Clause 6
hereof, my intention being to provide a suitable official residence for the First
Minister in that Government befitting the dignity of his position, and until there
shall be such a Federal Government may be used as a Park for the people.”
Although South Africa was not federated as contemplated by the Testator, yet his
Trustees, it may be recalled, in placing “Groote Schuur” at the disposal of the
Union Government as a residence for the Prime Minister, based their action on
the spirit rather than on the mere letter of the condition in the Will.
Many thousands of visitors, both South African and from overseas, have for
years past spent hours of delight in roaming over the delightful grounds of “De
Groote Schuur”, so generously placed at their disposal. They have admired the
unrivalled view of the mountain — or lingered with feelings of pleasure near the
paddocks watching the interesting occupants of the “Zoo”.
Amongst this multitude of visitors there must surely be many in whom interest in
the history of this beautiful estate must have been awakened — more particularly
its early and, if it may so be termed, its intermediate history. The writer, in whose
family the property was for some thirty-six years, spent part of his life at “De
Groote Schuur”. He has made a study of its history and has consented, it must
be confessed, with a feeling of diffidence, to commit to paper some account,
traditional and otherwise, of the estate, especially with regard to its past
ownership. It is to be regretted that many misconceptions would appear to prevail
as to the various proprietors — even in quarters where one would naturally
expect to meet with strictly accurate details.
The name “Schuur” or “de Schuur” is frequently mentioned in that deeply
interesting “Journal” of Van Riebeeck. They were granaries or magazines used
for the storage of produce. One of the largest of these “Schuuren” is said to have
been situated on Van Riebeeck’s private property. Its locality is described as
being “under the Bosch Heuwel” (the present Bishops Court property at Protea).
This may have been the scene of the startling occurrences which the terse and
quaintly practical old journal chronicles as follows: –
“October, 1661. The Company’s agriculturists shot a lion near the `Schuur’.
Three others are still roaming about among the agriculturists and are daily doing
damage among the latter’s cattle. During the night one robbed an agriculturist of
two of his sheep and another shoving open the door of the house, carried off the
dog from inside.”
“De Groote Schuur” estate, situated at De Ronde Doorn Boschje (Rondebosch of
today) was originally the property of the Dutch East India Company. The
buildings now forming the stables were then utilized as a storing house or
magazine in which were deposited the tithes in kind which all owners of land
were bound to deliver to the Company. It is on record that the massive walls
forming the quadrangle were at one time furnished with loop holes for the
purpose of defence against attacks of the Natives. On the neighbouring estate,
“Mount Pleasant”, are some ruins, half buried in vegetation, amongst which it is
believed may still be seen walls loop-holed, said to be the remains of an old
The dwelling-house of “De Groote Schuur” was at no time otherwise used than
as a residence for the Superintendent-in-Chief of the Company’s “Schuuren”.
There were three of the latter at Rondebosch, namely (1) “De Groote Schuur”; (2)
“De Onder Schuur” (now Westbrooke) and (3) “De Kleine Schuur”. They were all
originally one property, and it is a curious coincidence that they should again at
the present time be reamalgamated, so to speak, to form a Government estate.
The last overseer of the property under the Dutch East India Company was
named Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr, the ancestor of the Cape branch of that family. He
came from Eppenburen in Holland. His first employment was in the Company’s
Military Service, thereafter, as De Villiers’ Geslacht Register informs us, he
became “baas van’s Compagnie’s Post de Schuur”
Hofmeyr died there and was interred in a small private cemetery of pathetic
interest. The writer well recollects it, some five and thirty years back, as situate in
the midst of a poplar thicket (since cleared away). The other graves on the spot
were those of former residents on the estate and of slaves; on a few of the
headstones traces of inscriptions could, with difficulty, be recognised. Hofmeyr’s
grave is referred to in the Will as follows:-
“The grave of the late Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr upon the said property shall be
protected and access be permitted thereto at all reasonable times by any
member of the Hofmeyr family for the purpose of inspection or maintenance.”
The Company, being desirous of replenishing its coffers, had decided upon
disposing of De Groote Schuur. It was purchased by a Burgher named Hendrik
Christiaan Herhold, for 53,000 guldens (Indian Currency). The deed of grant, in
freehold, is dated 21 November 1791, and is signed by the Acting Governor —
Johannes Isaac Rhenius. The grant stipulates that the proprietor is not at liberty
to fell the trees planted along the wagon road. The road here referred to was the
Main Road to Newlands, which in those days passed over the property, between
the homesteads of Groote Schuur and Onder Schuur and behind that of De
Kleine Schuur, there joining what is now known as Newlands Avenue. It was
during Herhold’s owner-ship of the estate that the Kleine Schuur property was
separated from it. Traces of the public road over De Groote Schuur it is said, may
still be found here and there.
Passing over two intermediate transfers we find one under date 16 November
1802, in favour of WP em Stephanus van Ryneveld, who had purchased the
estate from J. P. Baumgardt for 50,000 guldens. The new proprietor was a man
of note and prominent Civil Servant, having held office under the Dutch
Government, and also under the English, after the capitulation of the Cape in
1795. He was the Chief Fiscal and Attorney General as well as President of the
Court of Justice and of the Orphan Chamber, and member of the Court of Policy
under the Dutch Administration. The Deed of Capitulation of the Cape bears his
signature as one of the eight Commissioners appointed for that purpose. A
treatise on the subject of the improvement of cattle is attributed to Van Ryneveld;
it is said to be one of the earliest books published at the Cape. During his
ownership of De Groote Schuur many magnificent oaks, firs, poplars, etc., were
planted. Indeed, in a memorial to the Government, it is set forth how much he
had accomplished in that respect — a man after old Simon van der Stel’s own
heart, in point of fact! On the 14 August 1812, Van Ryneveld died; the
Government Gazette of the period contains an eloquent tribute to his memory
and an expression of irreparable loss to the Colony.
During his proprietorship of De Groote Schuur he had succeeded in obtaining
from the Government an enlargement of his property in the shape of three
additional freehold grants of adjacent land. The first of these bears date 2
November 1803, and is signed by Jan Willem Janssens, the last Governor under
the Dutch regime, who was destined a couple of years later to suffer disastrous
defeat, after an heroic struggle on the plains of Blaauwberg. His caligraphy is a
striking one, some of the letters of the signature measuring nearly two inches in
height. It is curious that this title deed is not actually made out in favour of Van
Ryneveld but in that of the “President of the College of Orphans and Fiscal” —
offices held by him at the time. The grant required that the grantee was to plant
trees on the land within five years — which obligation, as we have seen, he
The two remaining grants are dated 26 June 1811, and signed by the English
Governor — du Pre, Earl of Caledon. It may here be stated that the grant of the
adjoining land named Mount Pleasant in favour of Pieter Laurens Cloete, bears
even date. Mount Pleasant is said to have been a fine homestead, at which
hospitality was dispensed on a lavish scale. Tradition has it that money was
buried on the property. The writer still remembers excavations having been
pointed out, the work of those who expected to reap a rich harvest but were
doomed to disappointment. This house was destroyed by fire and the ruins may
still be seen in places; in some parts huge trees have grown up amongst the
walls. Solitude reigns supreme, the only living creatures being the birds and
ubiquitous squirrels. Remains of the fine orchard may here and there be found in
the shape of fig or chestnut, half wild now, or a grape vine, clinging to the
moss-grown stem of a poplar. Van Ryneveld had also acquired the place De
Kleine Schuur. He was thus a landholder on a fairly extensive scale and had
possessed influence enough to induce the Dutch Government to free him from
the irksome servitude of a thoroughfare over De Groote Schuur. The
Government Resolution approving of the cancellation of servitude is dated 4 April
1804. The proprietor relinquished ownership of a piece of ground between Kleine
Schuur and Westervoort for the purpose of the alternative route. It is amusing to
find, from the rough chart attached to the Resolution, with what care and
precision it is pointed out how stony and unsuitable the old road was, whilst the
proposed new one is represented as “very good and without a single stone”.
In 1813 De Groote Schuur and De Onder Schuuren were sold by Van Ryneveld’s
executrix and purchased by a gentleman named David George Anosi, who got
transfer on 19 February that year. De Kleine Schuur was bought by Marthinus
Cerf. Transfer is dated 26 February 1813. A subsequent proprietor of the latter,
named Alexander Logie du Toit, in whose time the place was planted with
splendid vineyards and orchards, carried on a wine-making industry with very fair
success, it is said.
Serious inaccuracies had been found to exist in regard to the area of De Groote
Schuur assigned thereto by the original surveyor. Under a Government
Proclamation of 1814 a re-survey was made by Mr. Louis M. Thibault, Inspector
of Buildings and Fortifications and Surveyor, better known as the associate and
intimate friend of the famous sculptor, Anton Anreith. Thibault framed an
amended diagram, setting forth the true area of the property.
De Onder (Lower) Schuur, situated immediately below De Groote Schuur,
formed part of the latter, and was sold in 1822 to Mr. E. A. Buyskes by Anosi.
Buyskes, in turn, sold it in 1831 to Judge Wm. Westbrooke Burton, of the
Supreme Court at the Cape who changed the name of the property to
Westbrooke. Judge (later Sir William) Burton died in London in 1888, at the ripe
age of 94.
Mr. Anosi disposed of De Groote Schuur to Mr. Abraham de Smidt, transfer
having been effected on 20 January 1832. Mr. de Smidt served in the
Government Department of Lands and Woods (altered in 1828 to that of the
Surveyor-General), was Secretary to the Land Board and a Member of the
Legislative Council. During 1832 he also acquired Westbrooke, purchased from
Judge Burton. For many years Westbrooke was utilized by the Colonial
Governors as a summer residence, amongst the number being that sturdy
warrior, Sir Harry Smith, and Lieutenant-General Hay.
Mr. de Smidt had remodelled the homestead of De Groote Schuur in the year
1842, after a serious bush fire which occurred in 1836. He substituted a slate roof
for the original thatched one after the walls had been slightly lowered. The estate
was greatly improved during Mr. de Smidt’s time. The Grahamstown Journal of
October 1845 and the Cape Monthly Magazine in 1870 devoted considerable
space to a description of its charms. The proprietor is mentioned as taking great
pride and pleasure in the upkeep of the place, especially its gardens and trees.
He was a musician of some talent and had exercised great taste in the selection
of musical clocks of ingenious construction, of which there were several at
Groote Schuur. The finest specimen, evidently of French make, consisted of a
musical box on which rested an ornate gilded clock, so arranged that as each
hour was struck a musical selection was played. The top of the clock formed a
platform with an oak tree and trapeze, on which a ballet girl danced on a
slack-rope. Grouped on the platform were figures with various musical
instruments. The mechanism actuated these puppets so as to move their hands
on guitars, cymbals and the like, at the same time moving or nodding their heads
in time to the music. This unique ornament is happily in Cape Town today, and
permission was very kindly accorded the writer to photograph it.
Another interesting object was an upright pianoforte of singular pattern, being
furnished in its lower part with barrels actuated by clockwork, after the style of a
modern musical box, the only manner in which it differed from the latter being
that instead of the usual steel notes or “comb” the barrel-pins acted on the
pianoforte wires exactly as the hammers from the keyboard did. Mr. de Smidt
would frequently, it is said, cause astonishment to such of his audience not in the
know. He could play on the keyboard the identical tunes performed by the
barrels. Having started a selection he would, after a few bars, lift his hands from
the keyboard and set the mechanism going, previously adjusted so as to
continue the melody at the point at which it had been interrupted!
A large portion of the adjoining estate, named Rustenburg (also originally the
property of the East India Company) had also been purchased in 1833 by Mr. de
Smidt. This estate was granted in freehold to Mr. Jan Hoets in 1804 and on one
portion of it was situated the Belvedere (now known as Mr. Rhodes’
summerhouse) practically in ruins at the time the place was merged in De Groote
Schuur Estate; and so also was one of the old Dutch seats. The avenues of oaks
and firs have gradually been sacrificed in the past for the unromantic yet
necessary purpose of fuel. The traditional history of the Belvedere is rather
interesting. There, on moonlit nights the folks of a bygone age were wont to meet
at picnics and dance parties whilst a stringed band dispensed sweet music from
the platform or gallery of the building.
The estate Welgelegen, referred to in the Will as Mostert’s, was granted in 1803
to Gysbert van Reenen in freehold. It had a fine old homestead, vineyards and
orchards and an interesting little walled cemetery. Many of the old features,
including a windmill and this cemetery, still remain; indeed a very conspicuous
feature in Rhodes’ character was the reverent attitude he exhibited at all times
towards the resting places of the dead. This is the more striking in these
somewhat utilitarian times in which the vandalistic actions of those responsible
for the care of the ancient cemeteries of Cape Town have been adversely
criticised, and deservedly, too.
Welgelegen in time passed to the family of Mostert, from whom it was purchased
by Mr. Rhodes. The magnificent memorial, it may be pointed out, is situated on
the Welgelegen Estate.
But to return to De Groote Schuur proper, Mr. Abraham de Smidt, Snr., died in
1868. Under his Will De Groote Schuur became the property of his nephew, Mr.
Abraham de Smidt. W’s son (father of the writer). The new proprietor was for
some time Surveyor-General of the Cape Colony, and was an artist of great
Westbrooke devolved upon the testator’s brother, the Hon. W. A. J. de Smidt,
M.L.C., who was at one time Under-Colonial Secretary and later High Sheriff.
The transfers of both places are dated 21 November 1868. De Groote Schuur
was let from 1873 to 1876 as a residence during the summer months for the
Governor, Sir Henry Barkly.
Finding the responsibility entailed in the efficient maintenance of this large
property too burdensome, Mr. de Smidt decided to dispose of it. The work of its
sub-division into lots was entrusted to Mr. (later the Rt. Hon.) J. X. Merriman,
Government Land Surveyor, in 1878. The sale took place on 9 December, the
house lot being purchased by the late Mrs. J. A. van der Byl, formerly of Fairfield,
Caledon. Transfer was passed in the following year. The greater portion of the
estate was acquired in lots by different individuals. Mr. A. de Smidt retained a
portion, on which he afterwards erected the house Highstead. Mrs. van der Byl
altered the name of De Groote Schuur to The Grange. It was at one time
occupied by Sir Hercules Robinson, Governor (later Lord Rosmead) during the
summer. Mr. Rhodes had leased it in 1891 and later purchased it, transfer being
dated 8 September 1893. He gradually acquired the remainder, or at any rate,
the greater portion of the lots sold in 1878. He most fittingly restored the ancient
name of the property. Westbrooke was sold in 1886 in the estate of the late Mr.
W. de Smidt. Both this place and the adjoining De Kleine Schuur afterwards
became the property of the late Mr. G. Pigott Moodie, whose son sold them to
the Union Government as a site for the Governor-General’s residence.
The writer now proposes to place before readers some account of De Groote
Schuur during the period of his residence there. The homestead, though an
imposing and massive-looking edifice, could not by any means be described as
an ideal residence. The reception rooms and apartments on the ground floor
were commodious and lofty, but the bedrooms on the first floor were almost
uninhabitable in summer owing to the stifling heat. This defect was attributable to
the injudicious lowering of the walls and substitution of a low-pitched slate roof
for the old thatched one.
Passing through the hall and traversing a paved courtyard we arrived at a double
flight of steps, surrounding a cistern formerly supplied with water from a central
jet. These steps gave access to a series of terraces with hedges of dwarf roses,
syringa and old fig trees. Two of the first-mentioned trees had ancient bells (said
to have been slave bells) suspended from them. The top terrace contained
accommodation for poultry in the shape of two substantial buildings furnished
with massive conical-topped pillars supporting picturesque green railings. On this
terrace, too, were a couple of huge fig trees. Tradition had it that an unhappy
slave, weary of servitude, had in bygone days terminated his wretched existence
by hanging himself from one of these trees. The writer has a vivid recollection of
his youthful terrors when passing this fatal spot after nightfall. This last terrace
gave access to an extensive grassy courtyard with a circular fountain in its
centre. On the left side of the courtyard was a building styled “the Cottage”
(originally the slave quarters). This Cottage was utilized as quarters for the
Governor’s staff whenever he occupied De Groote Schuur as a summer
residence. On the opposite side of the courtyard could be traced the remains of
demolished buildings, also former slave quarters. The whole of the back
quarters, terraces and courtyard were enclosed within very substantial walls. A
quaint relic of former days may be briefly referred to here. This was an antique
coach of huge size, formerly the property of Mr. A. de Smidt, Snr. It was provided
with steps, folding up inside and at the back was a platform for the
accommodation of two footmen. Needless to relate, this vehicle was never
utilized during the period under review, but had been relegated to a special shed
(literally built around it) and left to the tender mercies of spiders and dust.
Occasionally some member of the household or a friend would pay a visit to the
shed and braving the cobwebs, curiously scan the deserted relic. It could very
fittingly have been compared to one of the mail coaches, so graphically
described by Dickens in his chapter “The Story of the Bagman’s Uncle” in the
immortal Pickwick Papers.
The orchards on the property were in those days very extensive. Many of the
trees were of huge size, especially the saffron-pear and plum trees. Other fruits
that throve well were chestnuts, medlars, guava and loquat. A circular fish pond,
having a miniature island in its centre, was a conspicuous object in the old
garden. Its walls may yet be traced at the foot of the main hydrangea walk. It was
supplied with water from the springs situated in the Glen. Latterly it proved an
impossibility to retain the water in the pond owing to the roots of the enormous
poplars in the neighbourhood causing cracks in the cement with which it was
paved. The main avenue leading to De Groote Schuur was originally entered
through massive gatepiers having ancient cannon at their feet. The latter were
removed by Mr. A. de Smidt to whom representations had been made that the
space between the pillars was too narrow to meet the requirements of the
increasing traffic. The two lesser pillars yet remain in situ. The cannon were
removed by Mr. de Smidt to his property Highstead where, it is believed, one of
them may still be seen lying prone on the roadside just below the dwelling house.
The Glen on De Groote Schuur was originally called the Wolve Gat (Wolf
Hollow). About the middle of the 19th century a large wolf trap might still have
been seen there. This Glen is still a charming spot, but many of its chief charms
have passed away. During Mr. A. de Smidt’s ownership of the estate the Glen
was his especial pride and he took considerable trouble to preserve its natural
beauties. Indeed, as the writer recollects the spot, it was a most beautiful dingle,
unexcelled for sylvan grandeur. Amongst the oak and poplars were to be found
some of the largest and choicest specimens the Colony had produced. The
trunks of several of these were moss- and lichen-covered for some distance from
the ground, presenting a truly beautiful appearance. In those days the hydrangea
plants were not found further up the Glen than the top of the main walk facing the
fish pond, at which spot there was a delightful arbour surrounded by ferns
growing amid rockwork.
How wonderfully the ferns, especially the maiden-hair varieties, flourished in the
Glen! This fern was found in rich masses of most luxuriant growth on the steep
northern slope, in some spots completely covering the ground like a carpet. Here,
too, the Newlands Creeper (of the Asparagus family) twined round the saplings
and foliage or about the moss-covered boulders. The arum lily and autholiza also
grew in profusion. Many acts of wanton spoliation were wont to be perpetrated
here by ruthless trespassers, the pity of it being that the fronds of the ferns
quickly withered after removal from the damp ground. This shady dingle was an
ideal spot in which to while away a couple of hours on a hot summer’s afternoon.
The springs located in the head of the Glen constituted the sole water supply of
De Groote Schuur as well as of Westbrooke.
About Christmas-tide the forest would re-echo with the quaint insistent cry of the
“Piet-mijn-vrouw”, a bird of the cuckoo tribe, whose voice consists of three clear
notes in the descending chromatic scale. This bird is very rarely seen, as it has a
habit of frequenting the tops of the highest trees; this may account for its
ornithological name, cuculus solitarius. The back and outside of the wings are
dark brown, the breast and under parts white or light grey.
Mention must also be made of another plant which throve in the Glen, and that
was the wild vine, also called the monkey-rope (Baviaan touw). The naturalist, Le
Vaillant, tells us that the latter name was given to this creeper in consequence of
its pendulous stems being utilized by the baboon in order to gain access to the
tree-tops to feed on the berries of the plant. In the Glen the rope-like stems were
in many specimens nearly one hundred feet in length growing from the highest
branches of the enormous trees. In some places the foliage would so densely
cover the tree tops as almost to exclude the daylight. One of these “ropes” which
hung from a tree about midway down the sloping bank, had been severed and a
cross-bar or rough cradle affixed to its end. By means of this it was possible to
swing across the Glen — an exhilarating pastime, with just a spice of danger
about it. The wild coffee tree, with its dark glossy foliage and crimson-coloured
kernels greatly added to the beauty of the scenery. During the severe north-west
gales in the winter, havoc would occasionally be wrought in the Glen. Huge trees
were uprooted to crash down and spread destruction amongst the vegetation.
The fallen tree stems would bridge the hollow. But a more mischievous agent
than the wind was soon to appear on the scene and that was the woodman
armed with his keen axe!
After the sale of the property by Mr. De Smidt the purchasers of the Glen lots
caused many of the trees growing on the hill and also in the hollow to be felled or
lopped. The result of this vandalistic treatment was disastrous as far as the
sylvan beauty of the Glen was concerned. The wild vine disappeared for ever.
The only plant that profited by the change was the prolific and unlovely poplar
scrub, which rapidly sprang up in those places formerly denied to it by reason of
the shade. The ousting of the ferns was speedily effected. The recent extensive
planting of hydrangea within the Glen area was well planned. For a certain
portion of the year at least the “azure glory” of their blooms beautifies the place,
compensating in great measure for the loss of its former natural charms.
The homestead, as originally rebuilt by Mr. Rhodes, the design of which was
adopted to match the old house of 1825, was destroyed in a disastrous and
mysterious fire on 15 December 1896, but most fortunately the richest contents
of the house were preserved. Though deeply grieved at his loss, the owner’s
characteristic stoicism did not desert him. Without delay the restoration of the
ruined portion was put in hand and completed in 1899. The original scheme of
design was preserved, but as a precautionary measure a tiled roof was
substituted for the former thatched one. The tiles were specially selected so as,
from a distance, to resemble thatch as much as possible.
Thus, phoenix-like, arose from the ashes a perfected dwelling, with the
appearance of which most of us are by this time familiar.
In conclusion let us realise how fortunate it is that this magnificent estate did not
fall into the hands of the land jobber or ferry-builder as unhappily has been the
fate of many another fine property in the Cape Peninsula. The consequences of
such a fate would have been too lamentable to contemplate.
(With acknowledgements to the “Cape Times”)
History of a famous Suburban Estate at Rondebosch
by J. H. R. De Smidt
To speak of Rondebosch under present-day conditions as being, in the sense in
which the phrase is now accepted, “in the country”, would be to use a solecism
for which there would be no justification. But the term would certainly not have
been deemed an inappropriate one during the days when the settlement was first
established. The original domain over which the Dutch Commanders held sway
extended to within a few miles from van Riebeeck’s fort in Table Bay, and
civilized life practically centred around that primitive yet indispensable bulwark.
The road leading to the district lying at the back of the “Windberg”, now Devil’s
Peak, must, at that period, have been little more than a mere sandy and
stone-littered track in summer and a veritable slough of despond in winter. It was
chiefly utilized by the clumsy and heavy wagons conveying timber from the
mountain forest for building and other purposes, including repairs to the fort, the
walls of which frequently collapsed through the action of the heavy winter rains. A
journey of five miles by a “road” of this kind may well have been an undertaking
which nobody would ever, save when compelled by sheer necessity, have cared
Meanwhile the settlement was growing, and the constant demands of the
Company’s ships and hospital for fresh vegetables and other supplies had to be
met; the garden in Table Valley had its drawbacks, for it had proved inadequate
to fill these demands. The fury of the south-easters was the chief cause of such
inadequacy, the young plants frequently being either dried up or blown out of the
ground. Relief was accordingly sought elsewhere, and happily found.
Ronde Doorn Bossein
We gather from Theal’s Chronicles of Cape Commanders that “it was noticed
that even when it was blowing a perfect storm at the Fort, there was nothing but
a pleasant breeze back of the Devil’s Peak; an attempt to raise grain was
accordingly made there. At a place where a round grove of thorn trees was
standing giving rise to the name `Ronde Doorn Bossien’ (subsequently
contracted to `Rondebosch’) a plot of ground was cultivated and some wheat,
oats and barley sown as experiment, the results of which were highly gratifying,
an abundant harvest being secured.”
We may imagine the joy with which van Riebeeck recorded in his journal, under
date 2 November 1656, the result of an inspection of the new-born lands. He
found that not one ear of the ripe barley had been injured by the wind, and that
all the other grain was progressing admirably. (When he left Table Valley a heavy
south-east gale was raging there.)
For protection of the new garden a small redoubt of sod-walls was next erected
and garrisoned with a few men. The earliest reference to a substantially-built
house there, is found in the Journal, under date 3 February 1657, to the effect
that van Riebeeck had ordered bricks to be prepared for that purpose. During the
same year the authorities had sanctioned the location of approved parties of
freemen at the “Round Thorn Bushes” (also referred to as Hollantson Thuyn —
Dutch Garden). The present name Rondebosch is found in a memorial of 1771,
as “Het Rondeboschje”.
In order to show how agriculture was progressing at the Cape at this period, a
despatch of 1659 may be quoted. In it the Directors of the Company report
receipt of intelligence that “the Cape Residency will henceforth be able to depend
upon itself for supplies”, also that “some grain has already been exported to
Batavia”. The fact that gardening operations at the Cape were sometimes
hampered by human and insect pests is well shown in a report of 1660, when it is
recorded that a number of detected stowaways on the Company’s ships in Table
Bay had revenged themselves by wantonly destroying everything in the gardens.
Stupidity, or worse, was responsible for the non-arrival of a supply of hop plants
from Holland in the same year. These, we are told, were “perhaps through
ignorance” used on board the vessel for salad!
Enter the Vine
Three years later we read of the progress of the vine at Rondebosch. An official
inspection was made by the Commander to ascertain whether the plants were
being properly manured and otherwise attended to. In 1669 the vineyard was
again so inspected, and found in a flourishing condition. The house previously
alluded to is mentioned in despatches of 1663 and 1664, in one of the latter year
it is spoken of as “the Company’s house lying on the High road at Rondebosch”.
In the records of 1671 we find the earliest mention of the place under the name
“Rustenburg”. From this time also dates the inception of the use of the house as
a summer resort for the Dutch Governors. The Journal informs us that
Commander Pieter Hackius visited the Company’s pleasure-house,
“Rustenburg”, to investigate affairs there and “to inhale the fresh country air,
which may help in throwing off some of his humours”.
Three years after this a set-back is recorded, as the Company was found to be
suffering a heavy loss on the place. The lands were therefore leased to two
approved burghers at a fair annual rental, the pleasure-house alone being
retained for the Governor’s use, and when not so wanted, for the Secunde’s.
About 1680 some idea of selling the property seems to have been entertained.
This was abandoned, however, for in the same year we are told of its lease to
one Bothma for three thousand Cape gulden per annum and two leaguers of
good Cape wine.
The general progress of agriculture at the Cape in 1690 is well illustrated by the
records, which show that the Company was at that time gradually abandoning
farming operations, and could depend upon obtaining abundant food supplies
from the Colonists. As to Rustenburg, it is recorded that the best vegetables were
grown there, the soil being more fertile than that of Table Valley. Strangely
enough, an attempt to grow hops there had proved a failure.
The vines succeeded admirably; on 31 December 1687, there were 100,000
plants in full bearing in the country garden. The Governor may well have felt
pardonable pride in having been able in 1700 to send to Holland a sample
shipment of two leaguers of wine produced from the Rustenburg vineyards. A
further important use was made of the property as a plantation for oaks. Here,
indeed, had been established the very first nursery garden and plantation in
South Africa. In 1698, orders had arrived at the Cape from the Home authorities
that the forest plantations at Rustenburg were to be well tended in view of the
valuable timber obtained thence. Stringent conditions had accordingly been
inserted in the lease as to felling of trees. From the Journal of 1699 we learn that
on 29 August two wagons were to be sent to Rondebosch to obtain 20,000
young trees for transmission to Stellenbosch and Drakenstein. The very wise
decree was at this time enacted that “all spots where trees have been felled,
must be replaced with three young trees.” Would that this wise rule were in force
But Rustenburg had been used by the Company for other purposes also. In the
winter of 1686, certain officers of the wrecked Portuguese ship Nestra Senera de
les Milagres were allowed to lodge at the house and draw monthly rations. With
the party were some priests who had lost their effects in the same vessel. Others
were lodged there too, but in very different circumstances. From a despatch to
Batavia in 1708, we gather that the Company’s officials “would take good care of
the exiled King or ex-Rajah of Tambera, to have no communication with passing
ships, especially foreign ships. To cut him off thus, from his countrymen, he is
located permanently at the Company’s garden Rustenburg, or at the stable,
where other Macassarian exiles of courtly rank are located.” Special vigilance
was exercised to prevent him from writing home. How ardently these wretched
captives must have longed to return to that land of spicy breezes and intrigue!
Contemporary references to an historic place like Rustenburg are of great
interest. Thus wrote Thunberg, the famous botanist and traveller, in 1775:
“Besides a handsome house in the Company’s garden in town, the Governor
also has one at Rondebosch,… to which he may retire at times and unbend his
mind when oppressed with the cares of State.” Mentzel’s impression derived in
1783 is somewhat quaint, so far as the derivation of the name Rondebosch is
concerned, although his description of the garden and orchards is a very good
one. He considered that the fruit trees standing on the boundary, and leaning to
the north-west, from the action of the south-east wind, gave the garden a
somewhat “round” appearance, hence the name! An event of historical
importance occurred at this spot on 16 September 1795. Sluysken, the last
Governor in the Company’s service, with members of his administration, met the
British delegation here, and the Deed of Capitulation of the Colony to Great
Britain was duly signed.
This brings us to the close of the official chronicle of the property. A few
supplementary facts bearing upon its subsequent history may, however, not be
considered out of place.
The resources of the Company had been at a low ebb towards the close of its
rule, and means had to be devised for raising funds. The adjoining “Compagnies
Post de Schuur” (later De Groote Schuur) had already passed into private hands,
but under the succeeding regime of the Batavian Republic, matters had
apparently not improved from a financial standpoint. Hence Rustenburg had
perforce to follow suit. We find that in 1803 it became the property of Mr. Jan
Hoets (the ancestor of the Cape branch of the family of that name). In 1804 he
received a freehold grant to the property, the purchase price being 60,000 gulden
(Indian currency), and the extent over 50 morgen. Across the Main Road it was
bounded by the Liesbeek River, northwards by Zergvliet and Brandeenburg, and
north-westwards by lands of De Schuur. Part of the southern boundary was a
strip of Government land between Rustenburg and De Schuur. Portion of a large
beacon of Rustenburg was still to be seen a few years ago, near the foot of
Highstead Road. The centre stone had the letter “R” deeply cut therein. Mr.
Hoets soon set to work improving his property, paying special attention to its
gardens, vineyards and orchards. Finding its area somewhat limited according to
his ideas, he turned his eyes towards the strip of vacant ground above referred
to, for which it may be stated, other parties had already applied. The Land
Commission in 1814 had strongly recommended his application, “as no one else
can have the smallest right of opposing it”, stress being laid upon “the opulence
and power of the said Mr. Hoets”. The Government could scarcely have ignored
such very flattering testimony, so we find that in 1821 a title on quitrent tenure,
under the hand of Acting-Governor Sir Rufane Donkin, was duly issued. The
grant was made on condition “that no wine or liquor shall ever be retailed on the
land”. By purchase in 1822 from Mr. Anosi, of Lot 4 of De Groote Schuur, and
adjoining his newly-made grant, Mr. Hoets’ southern boundary was extended to
the main avenue of De Groote Schuur, and the area of his property thus
exceeded 62 morgen.
He had cultivated as much of it as possible, and may well have been looked
upon as a man after Simon van der Stel’s own heart, many of the fine oaks we
see on these lands today having been planted during his tenancy. Mention has
been made of his opulence and power. But he possessed a virtue rarely found in
conjunction therewith, namely, generosity. A striking instance of the latter was
afforded in 1830 by his gift to the first Dutch Reformed Church in Cape Town, of
a splendid organ. This instrument, restored and greatly improved in 1897, is still
in use in the Groote Kerk.
In 1831 Mr. Hoets, on the score of advanced age, advertised his property
Rustenburg for sale. Included in the list of goods and chattels we find “a quantity
of very old wines made on the estate, and about 70 or 80 capital slaves”. The
subdivisions containing the fine old house, its gardens, and the famous Summer
House, were bought by Mr. P. L. Cloete, a former owner of the extensive place,
Mount Pleasant, on the hillside to the southward, the homestead of which had
been destroyed by fire.
The remainder of Rustenburg passed in 1833 to Mr. A. de Smidt, senior, then
proprietor of De Groote Schuur. The Summer House had also been known as the
Belvedere. That name the writer’s father remembered having noticed on the
About 1894, when Mr. Rhodes acquired the upper portion of Rustenburg lands —
later merged in De Groote Schuur proper — this Summer House was in a
ruinous condition, and the old masoned seat to the left, in similar plight. The
house was properly restored, and the old seat rebuilt to match the one to the
right. On a resurvey plan made in 1814 by Thibault, are depicted oak avenues
leading up from the two seats, as well as one from the homestead to the Summer
House. During the late “eighties” of last century, the upper portion of these three
avenues still led from the road known as the Lover’s Walk. Not far from the
Summer House was a spot overgrown, and known as the Slaves’ Graveyard.
One or two of the graves, however, were of a type which seemed to indicate that
persons of a station far less humble had also here found a last resting-place.
A Disaster of the “Fifties”
The property transferred in 1833 to Mr. Cloete had passed in 1850 to Mr. Michiel
Louw, but a melancholy fate was soon to overtake the mansion thereon, once the
Dutch Governor’s Pleasure House. For during the early fifties a number of
houses in the village, including the one referred to, were destroyed by a
disastrous fire which had originated on the densely-wooded mountain slopes.
The homestead of Rustenburg was shortly afterwards re-built. Two very
interesting guardrooms fortunately escaped the disaster that had involved the
adjoining buildings in ruin. These remain as notable links with the official period,
as it may be styled. As such, they are well worthy of careful preservation.
Without going into further detail regarding ownership it is of interest to note that
an old resident has recorded recollections of having attended a school conducted
at Rustenburg as long ago as the year 1866. During later years a boarding
house, which has taken the place of the early school mentioned, was a very
popular resort; but an event of far greater importance was the opening, in
January 1894, of the now well-known Rustenburg School for Girls. It was a wise
choice, truly, to have selected for a purpose so useful, a setting so historic.
A Fashionable Rondebosch Wedding 1845
by Browne – De Smidt
In the Grahamstown Journal of October, 1845, was given the following account
of the wedding of Captain Browne, R.A., with a niece of Mr. Abraham de Smidt,
the first de Smidt to own Groote Schuur, and the daughter of Mr. Johannes de
Smidt, Assistant Commissary General, by name Sarah. She was the
grand-daughter of a British (Albany) settler.
“This wedding will excite some agreeable reminiscences in the minds of many of
our readers, the fair bride being a grand-daughter of an Albany British settler
(Johannes de Smidt born 21.6.1794 died 18.1.1866, was the 4th son of our
great-grandfather Abraham — Johannes married Jane Shallon Biggar on 10th
August 1824. Her father Alexander Biggar. He and his two sons, George and
Robert, fell in fighting the Zulus in Natal, in 1838. The Biggars had rushed from
Port Natal to aid the Voortrekkers.)
“One of the most elegant and effective entertainments was given on Thursday
last 9th October, 1845, at Groot Schuur the residence of Mr. Abraham de Smidt,
an uncle of the bride, after the marriage ceremony in St. George’s Cathedral. The
ceremony was performed by the Rev. C. D. D’Acre, Captain of the Forces. The
whole line of road to Rondebosch was a scene of gaiety from the numerous
equipages hastening to this fete of hospitality and splendour. The approach to
the Mansion winds thro’ an avenue of stately Italian pines. The house itself is
spacious and handsome. The gardens and pleasure grounds which surround it
are laid out with infinite taste and skill. The shady walks extend to every part of
the grounds — here and there one comes to a cool arbour wherein to rest and
enjoy the surroundings and the fragance of the air. Now and then one hears the
sound of the mountain streams in the Glen — (It used to be called the Wolvegat
— we found an old rusty trap in the glen) — flowing down to the garden where
were several fountain and jets d’eau. It is an enchanting spot rich in every charm.
“The entire range of the splendidly furnished apartments forming the lower Suite,
drawing rooms and ante-rooms, library, sitting room and dining room, were all
thrown open for the occasion, where rich Turkey and Brussels carpets vied in
magnificence with the gorgeous damask and silken curtains, lustres, girandoles
and other costly articles and where a self-acting grand piano afforded infinite
surprise and delight to the assembled company. There were musical clocks of
the most intricate and valuable kind, Mr. de Smidt being a great connoisseur in
all these elegancies of art.
“The company invited were the near relatives of the family, also Lieut. General
Sir Benjamin D’Urban, Lieut. Frederick Kerr, His Honour Sir John Wilde, Lieut.
Col. Ortel, Mrs. Wood, Lieut. Col. Cloete, Baron and Baroness Lorenz, Captain
and Mrs. McClean, Captain and Mrs. Lewis, 29th Regt., Captain and Mrs.
Curruthers, Lieuts. Russell and van Sillarh R.A., Mons. Duval, vice consul for
France, the Chevalier du Plax, Captain Maitland ADC., Rev. B. Maitland, Rev.
D’Acre, with very many other guests. Covers were laid for over 70 guests.
“The elegant plate, glass, and china upon which the dejeuner was served were
the admiration of all, whilst every delicacy which the seasons could afford in
game, and fruit were laid out and decorated with beautiful and variegated flowers
in which this luxurious climate abounds — it presented a coup d’oeil, not
unworthy of comparison with the description of similar ceremonies abroad, whilst
wines of every country were enjoyed and quaffed amidst greetings and
congratulations to the newly married couple. After several well-chosen toasts the
party separated, all overflowing with praise of the hospitality of their kind attentive
host and hostess — for an entertainment which as to the beauty of the great
mansion where the fete took place, and the delicacies of every sort with which
they were regaled, could not have been surpassed in any other country.”
When the Southern Life Association of Africa found it necessary to erect new and
larger premises to cope with its progress and to provide more adequate
accommodation for its staff, no happier choice could have been made than to
move to Rondebosch and to acquire the historic site of Great Westerford for its
Head Office. The Great Westerford estate stands on the prominent site in the
Main Road adjacent to Dean Street on the boundary of Rondebosch and
It was most appropriate that this South African Insurance Company should have
taken occupation of its new Head Office at Rondebosch on the 303rd anniversary
of the landing of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape, the move from the former Head
Office in St. George’s Street, Cape Town, having been made on 6 April, 1955.
The imposing new three-storey building has been designed not only to tone with
the charm of its lovely surroundings in this beautiful part of the Peninsula but to
accord with the earlier history of the once famous Great Westerford homestead.
The architecture is based on the Cape Dutch style of dwelling house found in the
towns as distinct from the gabled farmhouse found in the countryside. Features
of this architecture were the spacious dignity of style, white walls, pediments,
heavy cornice mouldings and vertical sliding windows.
The new building is on the site of part of the old Great Westerford estate, which
is thought to have formed the northern section of the Van Riebeeck farm, “De
Nieuwelanden”. The Great Westerford homestead, one of the oldest in Cape
Town, was a beautiful eighteenth century home and the Great Westerford estate
which covered a much larger area in those days extended from the Main Road to
Newlands Avenue. It was one of the show places of the district — its history can
be traced back to the beginning of the eighteenth century, to the days when the
Dutch East India Company began to transfer land to the Free Burghers of the
On 20 April 1706, the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel,
transferred 10 morgen of land at “het Ronde Boschje tusschen ‘s Companje
koornschuur en de Brouwerij van Mensink” to Johannes Phijffer. The “barn”
referred to was the company’s group of barns Groot Schuur, Klein Schuur and
Onder Schuur; the latter is now known as Westbrooke and is, of course, the
residence of the Governor-General. Phijffer named the land Westervoort after the
district in Holland whence he had come.
In 1743 the land was sold to Steven ten Holder who later sold it to Capt. Johan
Daniel Wieser; he built the Great Westerford homestead which was not
demolished until 18 November 1953. Capt. Wieser sold the estate to Rudolph
Cloete in 1801. By this time more land had been acquired and the estate covered
29 morgen. On Rudolph Cloete’s death the farm was left to his son, Jacob Pieter
Laurens Cloete, and he, in turn, left it to his son, Peter Lawrence Graham Cloete.
In 1850 part of the estate was divided into 83 stands, Cloete retaining
Westervoort which, however, at some time since 1801 had been renamed Great
Westerford. (This is the Great Westerford site now owned by the Southern Life
Association.) The estate was then sold to a Mr. Little and since then has changed
hands several times. In recent years, the homestead was used as a
boarding-house and when the site was taken over by the Southern Life
Association, the famous 200-year-old homestead was in a tumbledown state and
incapable of restoration. As a reminder of the past, some magnificent chestnut
trees on the Dean Street boundary are said to be the oldest in the Union. These
trees are being carefully nurtured.
It is interesting to note that a descendant of Peter Lawrence Graham Cloete,
owner of Great Westerford in 1850, is Mr. M. Graham Cloete, who until his
retirement on pension on 1 August 1955, was District Manager of the Southern
Life Association at Springs, Transvaal.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century the old outspan in front of Great
Westerford was known as Little’s Outspan. Here under the large oaks as many
as fifty farm wagons, piled high with bundled forage and pulled by upwards of 16
horses or mules, used to outspan for the night. The appetising smell of the chops
or sausages being fried on the open fires used to waft across on the breeze to
the houses opposite, one of which is still standing today. Little’s Outspan is now a
modern parking area.
When the Germans fought the Hereros in South West Africa they imported
hundreds of mules from the Argentine and these were stabled at Great
Westerford. The mules were taken in batches down to the river for water and the
half-wild animals would career down the Main Road with the stable-boys chasing
Another interesting story is that the famous Doctor James Barry frequently used
to spend her leave with the Cloete family, and it was from Great Westerford that
she rode to Newlands House to fight a duel with another officer.
And so Great Westerford, tranquil old homestead, has made way for the home of
the Southern Life Association of Africa which was founded here towards the end
of last century and since that time has provided, on the mutual principle,
insurance facilities for the people of Southern Africa.
The Rondebosch Common
by M. Kuttel
There is no need for the inhabitants of Rondebosch to motor to Namaqualand to
see wild flowers — they have in their midst a bit of veld, a relic of the old
“Kaapsche Duinen, which from June to November is a bright panoply, a tapestry
broidered in buttercups and arums, in golden stars and vygies, in cerise sorrels,
in yellow daisies and irises, in sky-blue flax, in white scented catstails and orange
This is the Rondebosch Common, the only level open public ground in the more
populated suburbs where the elderly can stroll and the young fly kites and model
The number of blue flowers growing here is astonishing — drifts of small glossy
blue liliaceae, patches of pale short and longer dark baviana, strips of delicate
irises and other bulbous plants, and that loveliest of daisies which is dark blue in
colour with a navy centre. Tortoise berries drop now unheeded on the sandy soil
and the observant may even find a kukumakranka, a deliciously scented yellow
juicy seed-pod, in days past much sought by buck and Hottentots, sticking out of
The story of the Common is as varied as its floral wealth.
There is in the Cape Archives a most interesting map of a hundred and fifty years
“A Military Sketch of the Ground near Rondebosch with the Situation of the
Encampment under the Command of His Excellency, the Hon. Lieut.-General
Grey, — November, 1807.”
This map extends in fact from Wynberg to the military lines ending at the Castle
and shows the farms along the banks of the Liesbeeck, against the Mountain,
and those few on the verge of the enormous stretch of vacant land, the Cape
Flats, which provided wood and thatch for the homes of the Cape and where
cattle were driven out to graze — a difficult obstacle with its deep sand for the
traveller to the east.
The properties marked on the mountainside of this map are the Newlands
Headquarters going right down to the Liesbeeck, with Mr. E. L. Truter’s farm Zorg
en Rust on the lower side of it; the Schuur (the “Fiskall’s Country House”) on the
upper bank; the Rondebosch Farm (Rustenburg); Eksteen’s farm, below that of
Mr. van Reenen (Welgelegen); and the holdings of Messrs. Breda, Smuts,
Maude, Blankenberg, Kelter and Robinson extending east along the upper banks
of the Liesbeeck; while on the lower banks westward from Colonel Baird’s
Valkenberg there were those of Huyser, Groenewald, de Vos, John Munnik, Mr.
Hopley’s Myrtle Grove, Col. McLean’s, and John Truter’s. J. A. van Reenen’s
farm stretched into the dunes (now Pinelands) and so did Mr. Veyll’s with a Mr.
Barn’s holding above it.
On the Common several army regiments were encamped: the 87th under Lt.-Col.
Sir E. Butler, the 89th under Major Hilliard, the 72nd Highlanders under Lt.-Col.
Halkett, the 83rd under Major Collins, the 4th Battalion of the 60th under Lt.-Col.
Austin, and the Royal Artillery under Lt.-Col. Spicer.
Before the second English capture of the Cape in 1806, the Dutch too had
encamped on the Common, but a sad event had made them move their army to
higher ground at the Wynberg Camp. Recruiting for the Dutch army in
preparation for the expected invasion had been tardy, so to spur it on General
Janssens had had his own teenage son enlist, after he had returned from an
extensive tour of the country with Commissioner-General de Mist. His tutor, the
botanist Dr. Lichtenstein, who also was a member of the party, has left a
well-known description of this expedition.
That army, too, camped on the Common. The winter of 1805 was cold and wet,
with many of the familiar mists on the Common. Large numbers of the recruits
contracted dysentery and many died. Among these was young Janssens, aged
only 17, who died in June 1805.
These military occupations gave its name to the Camp Ground Road. Even
today, school cadets carry out military exercises on the Common.
Slowly the land on the fringes of the Common became the homes of new English
colonists, many of them belonging to the legal profession, but the Common, then
69 morgen in extent, was kept as an open space, the army under Lord Charles
Somerset moving elsewhere.
In 1855 Governor Cathcart, at the request of that dynamic first Anglican Bishop
Gray, granted the use of the Common to Rev. J. Fry, Rector of St. Paul’s Church
above Rondebosch Fountain, for grazing his cows — it being stipulated, though,
that the public should always have access to the Common. At the same time two
adjoining squares of ground on the Common were given to the Wesleyan and
Mohammedan communities for cemeteries. Pines edged each square, and these
form the little wood in the middle of the Common today. There was a “Doordrift”
near the present Park road for the passage of cattle to the dunes.
In 1870 the Common was taken over by the Rondebosch and Mowbray
municipalities, being later transferred to that of Cape Town. Parts were lopped off
it — one of these is now Rondebosch Park — and its extent has dwindled to a
hundred acres. A small golf course was laid out on it, on its southern edge. A
bunker and the depressions which were water hazards still form winter pools. A
house in Milner Road is named “The Links”, and a Links Road leads off Park
Road on the southern edge. But the golf links have been moved to the northern
part of what used to be commonage, while the New Children’s Hospital is also on
part of it over Milner Road. The Rondebosch Cottage Hospital and several
nursing homes overlook the Common. Perhaps the best-known Capetonian living
close to the Common was Mr. William Anderson, founder of the shipping firm,
who was the owner of Erinville, now the Rustenburg Senior School. Colonel
Gorges, a picturesque character, lived at Mont Clair in Park Road, and later, near
by, Sir Robert Kotzé, a famous mining engineer.
The Common is a wonderful natural asset to Rondebosch. May it ever remain
open and free — as free as the falcons that wheel above it.
When Rondebosch was a town on its own
by Eric Rosenthal
If any proof were necessary of the individuality of the ancient and notable
community of Rondebosch, it could be found in the survival, directly opposite the
Railway Station, of the Rondebosch Town Hall — a double-storeyed building in
the solid Victorian style constructed largely of dressed stone and still in use as a
meeting-place for the local public.
For many years indeed Rondebosch was an independent municipality complete
with Mayor and Council, a fact only dimly remembered even by middle-aged
people and almost completely forgotten by the generation of today. The birth of
civic government here may be traced back well over a century, to 3 November
1837, a few weeks after Queen Victoria had ascended the throne, when the
Cape of Good Hope Gazette published the following notice:
“Building Lots at Rondebosch”
“On Monday morning, the 3rd November next, at 10 o’clock, will be sold by Public
Auction, several Lots of Ground delightfully situated on that healthy and
salubrious spot, the Camp Ground, about five miles from Cape Town. The Soil is
excellent and worthy of attention of Persons desirous of erecting Country
“The advantages they offer to the Builder are scarcely to be equalled, there being
an Ironstone Quarry only 200 yards from the spot, and the ground itself well
adapted for the purpose of Brich Making, etc., and the distance from the Village
Church about five minutes walk.
“On the Lots there is a Cottage fit for immediate occupation.
“The whole may be viewed any day previous to the Sale, (Sundays excepted) on
application to the Proprietor,
Camp Ground. 27th Oct. 1839.
ELLIOTT BROS. AUCTIONEERS.”
This marked the beginning of Rondebosch as an organised suburb, and brought
with it a substantial rise in the population. Unfortunately there was no provision
for amenities, and everybody made his own arrangements, with the result that
the Liesbeek River — the common source of water for drinking and washing —
became little better than a cesspool.
Although the community was already far enough advanced to have justified the
Government, as early as 1846, in setting up a Post Office, the health conditions
here and even nearer Cape Town would today be described as appalling. It was
not till 2 September 1850 that, as a result of a number of meetings, a petition was
prepared and forwarded to the Governor from the inhabitants of Rondebosch, the
“Mowbray Camp Ground” and other areas, asking for a pure water supply.
Nothing effective was done for another generation, but the incident helped to
stimulate civic feeling.
From all parts of the Colony demand arose for the provision of some form of
machinery by which communities too small for municipal honours could be
effectively administered. In 1870, Act No. 10 made an attempt to provide for
Village Government and Rondebosch was among the first places to take
advantage of its possibilities. Hence, on 10 July 1873, there is a record of a
meeting being held in the schoolroom of St. Paul’s Church, to “consider
Municipal Regulations”, and in the following month, on 28 August, an existing
“Act for Abating Nuisances in Municipalities” was formally extended to
Another decade, began before the Colonial Parliament provided any more
adequate facilities. On 25 June 1881, Governor Sir Hercules Robinson signed an
Act “to provide for the Management of Villages and other Communities, not being
Its principal feature was the creation of that now familiar institution, the Village
Management Board. Before the year ended, at a meeting of Registered Voters
on 22 August 1881, Rondebosch set up the first “Committee of Management”.
This comprised the well-known merchant prince of those days, R. M. Ross, with
J. Reid, and J. Gaisford.
Before the new administrative machinery could be set in motion, however, certain
preliminaries had to be complied with; and though we find that Mowbray led the
way in this field, by 1882 Rondebosch, Claremont, Wynberg and Maitland were
We still have a record of the earliest attempt at a Town Hall, located next to
Mossop’s Tannery, and consisting of two tiny semi-detached cottages thrown into
one to form a room large enough to accommodate not only the assembled
Councillors, but, we are assured, the reporters of the local newspapers as well.
In May 1883 the Rondebosch Village Management Board was already hard at
work, issuing regulations against the uncontrolled roaming of dogs and banning
the noisy hooting of fish cart drivers. Traffic problems also demanded attention
and the Community helped to lead the way in specifying that every vehicle must
carry a light after dark.
Despite this promising beginning, Rondebosch soon found that its independence
brought attendant difficulties, largely on account of the growth in population, with
the accompanying severe demands on its finance. Cape Town, Green Point and
Woodstock (till then known as Papendorp) were given the status of municipalities
in 1881. The new railway to Wynberg helped to bring large numbers of
inhabitants further south and, as a compromise, the surrounding areas were
In 1883 we are told: “The villages of Mowbray, Rondebosch, Newlands,
Claremont and Wynberg, with a portion of the Field Cornetcy of Deep River, have
also been constituted a municipality, under the name of Liesbeek.”
The first Mayor was G. Bembridge, who worked with G. V. de Kock and S. van
Breda to represent Ward No. 1, Wynberg. Rondebosch was Ward No. 4, its local
affairs being under the aegis of A. Bell as Chairman, John Forrest, the miller, and
J. Gaisford. Claremont was Ward No. 2, with J. Bissett as Chairman, assisted by
F. Bacon and B. H. Hudson; Newlands, Ward No. 3, with J. Endean (Chairman),
A. Manson and H. Thompson; and No. 5, Mowbray, with J. F. J. Wrensch
(Chairman), S. Tonkin and J. Thorne. The Municipal Clerk (now Town Clerk) of
Liesbeek was H. Bower, and his staff comprised five inspectors: J. McGee, C.
Kirkham, W. Moore, A. Batchelor and E. Bond.
How modest was the scale of operation is indicated by the fact that the entire
municipal revenue of Liesbeek was £3,751, with an expenditure of £5,417. An
account, published in 1886 by the Cape Post Office Directory, mentions: “The
Municipality of Liesbeek consists of six local Wards. The population is roughly
estimated at 20,000, and the assessed value of rateable property is stated to be
£2,000,000. The municipality comprises a series of suburban retreats along the
line of railway, all of which have more or less independent status. The district is
well planted with trees, and boasts a large number of handsome and stately
houses, the country residences of the aristocracy and the leading merchants of
Cape Town. These form part of the Western Suburbs, and extend as far as
Wynberg, about 9 miles. The scenery is very lovely, being always in the vicinity
of Table Mountain, and in ample shade and woodlands, and the lengthy avenues
of oaks and firs, the numerous gums and lofty trees of every description add to
the general picturesqueness, while the culture of flowers serves to heighten the
charming appearance of the country houses.
“The water supply is now chiefly maintained by wells, but a scheme to supply the
entire Municipality from the Table Mountain spring, at a cost of £20,000, has
been brought forward, and is likely to be adopted eventually. There are four
breweries, each of which derives a good revenue; and each Ward has its
necessary supply of schools and churches.”
The scattered nature of its population proved the downfall of the Liesbeek
Municipality and in 1886 it broke up again into Claremont, Rondebosch and
Wynberg. Rondebosch then became a municipality on its own. R. M. Ross was
the Mayor, along with W. F. H. Pocock, the chemist; W. Balme, R. Hare, J. R.
Gaisford, M. Haybittel, I. H. de Villiers and T. Tregidga. W. A. Batchelor was the
Secretary (Town Clerk).
After two years of service R. M. Ross was succeeded by W. F. H. Pocock. The
new municipality started in an enviable financial position — with a Municipal
Valuation in 1887 standing at the then considerable sum of £475,064, on which
the rates were lid. As a matter of comparison, Cape Town that year had a
municipal valuation of £2,800,000, and rates of 2d. in the £ on land and 1d. on
improvements. In Rondebosch the total amount of loans outstanding in 1887 was
nil, and the arrear rates came to only £41. A year later they were £98.
In 1889 we read: “The Municipality of Rondebosch embraces the distinct villages
of Rondebosch, Rosebank and Mowbray. It is bordered on the East by the Black
River, on the West by the slopes of the Devil’s Peak, North by Maitland and
Woodstock, South by the Claremont Municipality. The boundary runs East from
the junction of the Kromboom and Black Rivers, to a point on the Black River cut
by the Eastern boundary of the Royal Observatory; thence in a straight line to the
Prince of Wales Blockhouse, which forms the Northern boundary ; thence in a
straight line to the North-West Beacon of the Mount Pleasant Estate, which forms
the Western boundary; thence in a straight line to Newlands Avenue, along the
avenue to Dean Street, and from thence to Westerford Bridge; thence along the
Liesbeek River and Northern boundary of the Mariendal Estate to the railway;
then to the Forrest Lodge on the Campground Road; thence to the Black River,
then along the river to the point first named.”
By 1890 the Municipal Council consisted of W. F. H. Pocock, R. M. Ross, W. P.
Balme, J. R. Reid, W. Thorn, J. Forrest, J. Tregidga, R. Hare and J. Mossop, Jnr.
For several years the constitution of this body showed remarkably little change.
Rondebosch’s financial progress was marked by the queerest fluctuations. In
1891 the revenue came to £6,582, against an expenditure of only £2,592, but the
position was reversed in 1892, when the revenue for some reason dropped to
£2,497, and the expenditure rose to £6,696. The recession was also marked by
the fact that Rondebosch for the first time had a bank overdraft of £209, with
arrear rates of £112 and outstanding loans of £4,009. Because of bad times the
valuation, incidentally, went down to £315,950 in 1892, on which a rate of 1½ in
the pound on land was levied.
The Municipal Treasury was still in a bad state in 1893, when the revenue came
to £4,139, against an expense of £6,752, but the following year Rondebosch
made a sudden financial recovery, for its income was £7,002 and its expenditure
cut to £4,487, yielding a tidy surplus. The better times were also reflected in the
drop in its bank overdraft to a mere £110, while the ordinary debts totalled
Although within another 12 months, on 31 December 1895, Rondebosch was in
the proud position of having no bank overdraft at all, only £24 arrears in its rates
and a total indebtedness of £6,400, the revenue had dropped again to £4,196,
and the expenditure came to £4,905. A new valuation, made that year, showed
that the place was worth £537,000, paying 2d. in the £ on land and 8d. on
Before the turn of the century, Rondebosch had acquired not only its Medical
Officer of Health, Dr. M. L. Hewat, but a Surveyor in the person of J. Stonier and
a Municipal Inspector, J. Williams. The Rate Collector was W. R. Whitton.
During the Boer War period, E. J. Earp was Mayor (three times in succession),
and was largely responsible for a new water supply. His Council comprised S. S.
Hutton, J. Andrews, A. W. Sawkins, J. Jenkinson and T. H. Lewis.
A leading Cape Town attorney, Charles Willoughby Herholdt, was another
prominent Mayor of Rondebosch at the time of Union in 1910. With him were
Councillors A. W. Sawkins, J. Chalmers, C. H. Smit, F. W. Rix, C. H. Dufton, A.
Shoyer, J.P., Lt.-Col. W. E. Stanford, D.S.O. and J. W. Wright. The Municipal
Clerk at the time was Walter M. Martin, while the Municipal Engineer was P.
Ashenden, A.M.I.C.E. Dr. M. L. Hewat remained Medical Officer for many years.
Rondebosch continued to have a personality of its own, and, whereas Cape
Town had its Council Meetings in the evenings, the Rondebosch Council
preferred to meet on alternate Fridays at 4.30 in the afternoon.
On 31 December 1909, the valuation of Rondebosch had risen to £1,137,725;
with a civic debt of £57,105, carrying interest at 4 and 5 per cent and a rate of 2½
per cent on land and 6d. per cent on improvements.
But the days of Rondebosch’s civic independence were drawing to a close. For
years the need for unification bad been growing more obvious to the inhabitants
of the Peninsula, and negotiations were now begun between the representatives
of the various Councils to achieve a merger. This was finally carried through and
took effect in 1913, when the old municipality of Rondebosch became a portion
of greater Cape Town.
The Churches of Rondebosch
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk
In 1665, agt jaar nadat die Vryburgers hul grond in Rondebosch in besit geneem
het, is die eerste gemeente van die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk formeel in
Kaapstad gestig. Vir meer dan anderhalf eeu sou hierdie gemeente vir die
geestelike behoeftes van die gemeentelede in die verspreide Kaapse Skiereiland
Die toename in lidmate en die vervoerprobleem vir die lidmate wat tussen
Simonstad en die Soutrivier, en Kuilsrivier en Houtbaai gewoon het, bring mee
dat sir J. A. Truter, die eerste hoofregter van die Kaapkolonie, hom vir die
afstigting van ‘n aparte gemeente beywer. Na langdurige onderhandelinge, o.a.
met die Goewerneur, word die gemeente Wynberg tydens ‘n diens in die huis van
E. A. Buyskes, van De Onder Schuur (tans Westbrooke, wonirig van die
Goewerneur-generaal), onder offisiele toesig van sir. J. A. Truter “geconstitueerd
en ingezegend” deur dr. A. Faure in die jaar 1829.
Drie jaar later word die eerste Kerkgebou in Wynberg ingewy. Die bearbeiding
van die lidmate in die Rondebosch-Mowbray area bly egter ‘n probleem, en op 16
Junie 1864 word die “kapel in Mowbray” deur dr. P. E. Faure, dr. A. Faure en
prof. John Murray ingewy. Hierdie gebou is naby die plaas Welgelegen opgerig
op grond deur die eienaar, mnr. Sybrand Jacobus Mostert geskenk, en vir baie
jare word hier buitedienste op Sondagmiddae gehou. (Die kapel behoort tans
aan die Provinsiale Administrasie en staan in Rhodeslaan, net onderkant die
In 1891 word besluit om die lidmate wat dit verkies, tot ‘n selfstandige gemeente
te Rondebosch af te stig. Op 11 Oktober vergader die eerste Kerkraad, en die
name van die lede dien vermelding: J. G. L. Dreyer, C. D. G. Mostert, A. A.
Philip, G. Twycross, P. G. Wege en C. H. Beck. Die gemeente bestaan uit slegs
76 lidmate, die voertaal by alle eredienste en vergaderings is Engels, en die
lidmate behoort aan beide die blanke en nie-blanke groepe van die samelewing.
Op 9 November 1891 lê sir Henry de Villiers, hoofregter van die Kolonie, die
hoeksteen van die Kerkgebou in St. Andrew’s-weg, Rondebosch, en ‘n jaar later
word die Kerkgebou deur die bekende dr. Andrew Murray ingewy. Op die grond
waar die eerste Vryburgers geboer het, het ‘n selfstandige gemeente tot stand
Die gemeente Rondebosch het ‘n leidende aandeel in die lewe van die
gemeenskap gespeel. Deur die ywer van die eerste leraar, ds. B. P. J.
Marchand, is die Rustenburg-meisieskool gestig, en later die Rondebosch-skool
(lg. in die kerksaal van die jong gemeente). Baie jare later, in 1936, word ‘n klein
Afrikaansmedium skool in die Kerksaal gestig, wat vandag uitgegroei het tot die
Laerskool Groote Schuur.
In 1895 word ‘n dogtergemeente, die Rondebosch-sendingkerk, in die Kerksaal
gestig. In 1908 word sommige van die dienste in die Nederlandse taal gehou,
maar eers in 1936 word die Engelse dienste heeltemal afgeskaf. In 1939 word ‘n
selfstandige gemeente in Lansdowne afgestig. Onder die leiding van dit leraar,
ds. Marchand, en sy opvolgers, di. L. M. Kriel, H. E. du Plessis, P. G. J. Meiring,
A. M. Meiring, P. de V. Grobbelaar, W. S. Conradie, A. J. van Wijk, A. P.
Treurnicht en O. S. H. Raubenheimer, groei die gemeente tot ‘n lidmaatskap van
1,600 en neem die gemeente deel aan die gemeenskaplike en opvoedkundige
aktiwiteite van die kinders van die Vryburgers en diegene wat hulle in hierdie
gebied gevestig het.
Rondebosch Congregational Church
The first thing one sees on entering the lobby of this church is the tombstone of
the missionary, Dr. van der Kemp, placed there for safe keeping when the old
Somerset Road cemetery was abandoned. When he landed on the wooden jetty
at the foot of Adderley Street in 1799, Cape Town was a small town of 18,000
inhabitants, of whom 7,000 were slaves. A year later there came a new recruit for
the mission field, James Read, who founded the “Calvanistic Society” before
leaving for the work to which he had been sent; and in 1820 the London
Missionary Society sent Dr. John Philip to take charge of its growing work in
Southern Africa. His head-quarters were in Cape Town, and it was not long
before the “Calvanistic Society” called him to be its minister; he consented, on
condition that the first claim on his time should be his missionary duties, and that
the Church should be governed by the Church Meeting. Thus the first definitely
Congregational Church in South Africa came into being.
As the town grew and large suburbs sprang up, other churches were formed in
them; and in 1900 a group of Congregationalists in Rondebosch gathered in the
Town Hall, and having formed themselves into a Church, held services there for
a time. They purchased a piece of land in Belmont Road and in 1903 the present
building was opened for worship. The first minister was the gracious and fatherly
Rev. Wm. Forbes, and the beautiful stained glass windows and the fine
workmanship throughout the whole building are a reflection of the spirit that
inspired both minister and people.
The Thorne Hall was added in 1913, and has been in constant use for Sunday
School, badminton, and many other activities; it was named in memory of Sir
William Thorne, a staunch supporter of the church. In 1941 the Mary Giffen
Memorial Hall was built; it is a smaller hall, more like a little chapel, of great
beauty, and is used for the Primary Sunday School, and smaller meetings,
especially those of a devotional character. The Giffen family presented it to the
church in memory of their mother.
On Christmas Day 1945 the church “bells” were heard for the first time. They are
broadcast by a recording apparatus. Peals of bells, hymns, anthems etc., are
played, and can be heard half a mile and more away.
In 1945 a heating system was installed, which makes a great difference to the
comfort of the worshippers in the damp and chilly winter months.
In 1950 the Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee and is steadily growing in its
service to the community, and to the Kingdom of God in South Africa. Among its
officers are both the Secretary and the Treasurer of the Congregational Union of
South Africa, and it contributes richly, in money and personnel, to the work of the
The ministries of Rev. J. H. Atkinson and Rev. G. P. Ferguson are still
remembered with gratitude, and the present minister is Rev. W. N. H. Tarrant,
who has served the Church since 1939.
The Churches of St. Paul and St. Thomas, Rondebosch
Together with the Parish of St. Francis, Simonstown, and the Cathedral Parish of
St. George, Cape Town, St. Paul’s Church, Rondebosch holds the honour of
being in the vanguard of Anglican Church activities at the Cape of Good Hope.
The first recorded Anglican service took place in April 1749 in Cape Town and
later records mention Anglican Services which took place in the Dutch Reformed
Church in Adderley Street.
From the time of the First British Occupation (1795—1803) onwards there was
gradual development; but there was no episcopal control and the Colony was
dependent on the visits of the Bishop of Calcutta on his way to and from India.
Bishop Daniel Wilson called at the Cape on his way to Indiabn 31 August 1832
and amongst many other duties, he consecrated the gound upon which St. Paul’s
Church now stands, on 5 September 1832 — it was formerly a location of
On the Sunday following, Bishop Wilson conducted the first Anglican Ordination
Service held in South Africa in the Dutch Reformed Church, Adderley Street. One
of the two candidates was Mr. E. Judge, M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge, first
rector of Rondebosch.
The building of the new church at Rondebosch was first opened for Divine
Service on Sunday, 16 February 1834, the Governor, Sir Benjamin D’Urban, and
his wife being present at the first service. It was designed by Major Michell in the
Gothic style, was roofed with thatch and could accommodate 150 people. It was
much smaller than the present church and was afterwards used in the chancel of
the later building. In 1843, at the ninth anniversary service in February, the
collection was for the purpose of providing a gallery in the chruch owing to the
growing demand for accommodation. In the same year, a Free school to
accommodate about one hundred pupils was erected near the church, marking
the beginning of the Church’s provision for the education of the poorer people in
Rondebosch. This building remained as a school beside the church until a few
years ago when the children were accommodated in other schools and a Parish
Hall replaced it.
A further scheme to enlarge the church was completed in 1854 and it could now
seat 450 persons. Further development was envisaged and when the money
became available St. Paul’s Church as it stands today was finally completed in
1884 during Archdeacon Badnall’s incumbency.
The erection of the Mission Chapel, now known as St. Thomas’s Church, was
first mentioned in March 1864. The purpose of the new building was to take the
place of the Rouwkoop Road School where services were held on Sunday
afternoons and Thursday evenings in addition to the ordinary school work. The
new building was completed and formally opened by Bishop Gray in July 1865. It
was used primarily as a mission school and chapel, and a night school for adults
was held there at the same time. In the same year school and church services
were commenced in Black River and the Parish of Rondebosch became
responsible for church development in that area.
In 1894 increased accommodation was secured at the Mission Chapel as the
gradual development of the residential areas on the Camp Ground had made this
extension desirable, and there were still further extensions in 1903. The chapel
was without chancel or transept and the alterations successfully carried out by
Messrs. Baker and Macey gave the parish, St. Thomas’s Church much as it
stands today. The building was dedicated on 20 December 1903. It ceased to be
used as a day school as the number of pupils had dwindled considerably.
Subsequent development included a new vestry at St. Thomas’s and a hall
erected on parish ground near St. Thomas’s Church and opened in May 1923.
As time went on it is worth recording that the services at St. Thomas’s
unquestionably increased in the number of worshippers; so great has been the
development east of the railway line that it became neccessary to divide the
Parish of Rondebosch into two parishes — the new parish of St. Thomas’s,
Rondebosch, dating from May 1947.
Under the original grant made by Sir George Cathcart to the Bishop of Cape
Town in January 1854, the church held a limited title to the Rondebosch Glebe
Lands. The area included the Common and certain strips and detached pieces
along the Camp Ground Road. The title was limited mainly to the grazing of
cattle, but the church had important rights to the title. After lengthy negotiations,
the terms of a private bill were agreed upon between the church and the
Rondebosch municipality. When Parliament dealt with the matter and the
Rondebosch Church Lands Act was passed in December 1909, the terms agreed
upon were departed from to the detriment of the Church. However, an awkward
question had at last been settled and the Church did secure outright ownership of
a small area near to St. Thomas’s Church in front of St. Thomas’s Parish Hall.
St. Michael’s — Rouwkoop Road — Rondebosch
Early in the 1850’s the Catholics living in the suburban villages from Cape Town
to Wynberg had to go all the way to Cape Town for their Sunday Mass. A few of
them had private carriages or carts, others — less well off — took advantage of
Cutting’s omnibus; many walked.
Bishop Patrick Raymond Griffith was anxious to make things easier for those of
his flock living at a distance from town, but the building of St. Mary’s Cathedral
had nearly exhausted the people’s means and funds were low. Money was
gradually collected, however, and a piece of ground was bought at Rouwkoop,
Rondebosch, for the establishment of a mission to which in 1853 the Bishop sent
his own brother, Father John Joseph Griffith, as its first priest.
Mass was first celebrated in a cottage which stood near the site of the present
Dutch Reformed Church and was hired as a residence for the priest.
The church itself was begun, but heavy rains caused the river to overflow,
swamping the building — which collapsed. But the presbytery was completed
and there the people heard Mass, the two front rooms forming a temporary
In 1858 Father Joseph Griffith had to return to Europe owing to ill-health and was
succeeded by Father Thomas Meagher, who remained as pastor for nearly thirty
Father Griffith left before the second church was completed. It was solemnly
opened by Bishop Griffith on 8 May 1858, the choir of St. Mary’s Cathedral
rendering the music at the ceremony.
Soon after taking up residence, Father Meagher started a little school in one of
the rooms of the presbytery.
The number of Catholics in the suburbs began to increase steadily from the time
of the arrival of the emigrant ships “Gypsy Bride” and others, and many German
Catholic families settled in Wynberg, Claremont, Newlands and Rondebosch.
During this period Father Meagher, who acted as pastor, schoolmaster, sacristan
and sexton rolled into one, had to devise increased accommodation for the
growing number of pupils. A “lean-to” structure was built between the church and
presbytery and there the youngsters got their early education.
This was the schoolroom until 1887 where Father Meagher taught, assisted by a
Miss C. Barry.
The next Bishop, Dr. Leonard, found the overcrowding so serious that he decided
to build another church and presbytery — the low-lying position had impaired
Father Meagher’s health — and to turn the old church into a schoolroom. The
plans for the new church were drawn up by Dr. Rooney (who later became
Bishop) and it was opened by Bishop Leonard in 1886. The homely stone
building, which stands today —slightly enlarged — has been beautified down the
years by the devotion of generous parishioners and friends of St. Michael’s.
In 1886 the parish was taken over by Father James Kelly and he remained parish
until 1922, his simple kindliness and faith living on in the memory of the parish to
Father Thomas Cullen succeeded Father Kelly for two years and then in 1925
Father (later Monsignor) John Morris became parish priest. When he died in
1954 he and Father Kelly had between them given almost 70 years’ service to
Both were for a time editors of the Southern Cross, the Catholic weekly
newspaper. Two assistant priests at St. Michael’s have also been connected with
the paper. One, Father Hugh Boyle, is now Catholic Bishop of Johannesburg.
Another, Father Desmond Hatton — one of Monsignor Morris’s altar boys — was
assistant priest from 1943 to 1956 and an associate editor of the Southern Cross.
During Monsignor Morris’s last years, when he was incapacitated by increasing
ill-health, Father Hatton bore the brunt of the parish work. During this time he
enlarged the church to accommodate new confessionals and to provide more
space for the baptismal font.
The late Monsignor Morris was succeeded in 1954 as parish priest by Father E.
Kiernan but shortly afterwards he suffered a stroke and resigned, Father S. Peart
taking over as priest-in-charge. The present parish priest, appointed last year, is
Father T. Gill, assisted by Father M. Hulgraine.
The present Church is built in the early English style of architecture, and is
divided into nave and chancel. The roof is an open one and in perfect harmony
with the style of the rest of the building. A mellow light streams into the chancel
through a beautiful three-light window of stained glass, the work of the celebrated
firm of Mayer of Munich. The subjects are the Sacred Heart, occupying the
centre light, the Blessed Virgin with her Divine Child and St. Edward, King and
Confessor, on either side. Another stained glass window of St. Bridget is near the
entrance and there are twelve lancet windows, all stained glass, which contribute
most of the necessary light. The beauty of all these stained glass windows can
best be appreciated during the early morning shorty after the sun has risen.
St. Michael’s parish celebrated its centenary in 1953.
Rondebosch as an Educational Centre
by R. F. M. Immelman – Librarian, University of Cape Town
In the area of Rondebosch today there is probably a greater concentration of
schools and other educational institutions (such as the University, Training
College and Art Centre) than in any other centre of similar size in South Africa. In
fact, Rondebosch is pre-eminently an educational centre. Today there are 8,373
pupils attending government and private schools in Rondebosch, as well as
4,782 students at the University and Training College; that is, a total attendance
at educational institutions in the area of approximately 13,155, and 1,935 residing
in school and university hostels. A feature is the great variety of these
institutions, which offer a wide diversity of educational facilities.
The earliest schools at Rondebosch were private establishments or mission
schools, run by the various churches. The Cape Almanac for 1840 states that
“there is at present no government free school, or infant school, in this populous
part of the environs of the Cape”, i.e. Rondebosch. One of the earliest private
schools is mentioned in “The Findlay Letters” to the effect that in 1838 “Miss
Hanbury has taken Miss Smith’s school at Rondebosch” and that a daughter of
the Findlay family, living on Camp Ground Road, was attending it. In January
1844 the Rondebosch Infant School was established with a committee consisting
of John Montagu (Colonial Secretary) as chairman, and as members the veteran
J. B. Ebden, Rev. J. Fry, Lt.-Col. Alexander, A. Steedman as treasurer and J.
Duff Watt as Secretary.
It was a “free school established chiefly through the benevolent exertions of
Maj.-Genl. and Lady Catherine Bell, immediately prior to their departure from the
Colony. A neat and appropriate school house built from funds raised principally
by the voluntary contributions of the gentry and inhabitants in the neighbourhood”
was erected. In 1845 there were 100 pupils. This school, it was claimed, “now
furnishes the less wealthy and poorer part of the community that desideratum, so
long earnestly desired, viz. a good school for the education of their children.”
This school was later known as St. Paul’s (Church of England) Mission School.
In a newspaper advertisement in April 1855, Mrs. R. P. Solomon informed the
public of Rondebosch that she had just opened a preparatory school for boys “at
the cottage adjoining Rev. Mr. Shaw’s. Mrs. Solomon hopes, by devoting her
attention to the moral and intellectual education of the children committed to her
care, to give satisfaction to their parents.”
Diocesan College (“Bishops”) founded in 1849 by Bishop Robert Gray was at first
located at Bishopscourt, but, about a year later, moved to the farm at
Rondebosch, “Woodlands,” which had been bought to accommodate the School.
The first principal was Rev. Henry Master White, a grandnephew of the famous
naturalist, Gilbert White of Selborne. In 1852 the first new buildings were erected.
John X. Merriman, later Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and parliamentarian
of long standing, was a pupil there during the 1850’s when there were about 25
pupils. In a letter which he wrote at the time, he mentions that his school
challenged two neighbouring schools at sport, viz. McNorton’s and Droosel’s
respectively. The Congregational Minister, Rev. Sam Elliott, also conducted a
flourishing school in Rondebosch at the time. Diocesan College has always been
a church school for boys, largely a boarding school.
St. Pauls at Rondebosch and St. Peter’s at Mowbray were undoubtedly the two
largest schools during the 1850’s. Both of them received grants not only from the
Cape Government, but also from the Bible and School Commission and from the
trustees of the Slave Compensation Fund. Although they were primarily church
mission schools, there were in 1858 at St. Paul’s school 81 European children,
149 “children of emancipated slaves and 132 of other persons of colour”, while at
St. Peter’s the figures were 67, 75 and 59 respectively. St. Paul’s ran an infant
school, a juvenile school for boys and girls, as well as a girls’ industrial school,
with a staff of three teachers. English was the sole medium. It is very noticeable
that though the enrolment was large, the actual position was that there were 116
children under five years of age and 19 under two years. Then, too, the
attendance in all schools in those days seems to have been very irregular; the
daily average attendance was usually about 40 per cent (e.g. 80 out of 180 in the
A curious feature in many inspectors’ reports is the comment “the school room
was furnished with a gallery”, that is, teaching was carried on largely by the
monitorial method according to the Bell and Lancaster system. Comment was
made when a school had a plank floor; apparently, therefore, others were
without. Schools at that time ran evening classes as a matter of course. In the
case of St. Peter’s, 32 adults were attending evening school in 1858 “entirely for
religious knowledge and training”, using English and Dutch. The Newlands
Mission School, “lately opened in a very destitute district” (about 1860), had an
average attendance of 45, of whom 20 were Europeans. A Methodist Mission
School in Rondebosch in 1861 was conducted “in one end of a chapel fitted up
for this purpose”, with one teacher and an average attendance of about 50. At St.
Paul’s the children learnt “vocal music on the tonic sol-fa method and evince
considerable proficiency in it”. In 1875 most of the senior boys were drafted to
the Camp Ground School, where they even learnt Latin. At this time too there
was a Rouwkoop Roman Catholic Mission School with 52 pupils. In inspectors’
reports at that time the reasons for withdrawal were usually stated, e.g. “anxiety
to put children to trades and other means of earning a livelihood”, while in
another instance “the prevailing examples of idleness and indolence around”
were a drawback to a school’s progress.
In 1874 B.A. classes were introduced at Diocesan College, so that a preparatory
school, a high school and a university college were carried on under one roof.
The Preparatory School, however, was conducted at Claremont from 1884 to
1896. The university classes were discontinued in 1910, when they were taken
over by the South African College. The Rev. George Ogilvie, who was principal
from 1861 to 1885, was responsible for the introduction of rugby football in South
Africa and therefore our national game was first played in Rondebosch. Before
his death, Cecil Rhodes in 1901 established the first Rhodes scholarship at this
school. Later by his Will one scholarship was awarded to the school. The
Preparatory School since 1918 has been accommodated in property purchased
in College Road. The first College Chapel was built in 1880, but a new War
Memorial Chapel was erected after World War I. Rev. R. H. C. Birt, principal from
1919 to 1943, led the school through its period of greatest expansion. The
College Magazine has been in existence since 1886, while the Old Boys’ Union
dates from 1873.
In the course of time the suburbs of Cape Town developed from small collections
of farms into little villages and gradually into well-populated residential areas. The
need for more schools became increasingly apparent. Rustenburg Girls’ High
School was opened in January 1894 in historic Rustenburg House on the Main
Road, with 87 pupils. The first principal’s aim was “to prove to a somewhat
sceptical public that girls were the equal intellectually of their brothers.” In 1896
its pupils first sat for the matriculation examination. On 20 August 1901 the pupils
were massed in front of the beautifully decorated school when King George V
and Queen Mary (then Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York) passed through
Rondebosch. In 1913 an Old Girls’ Union was established. When Miss Kemp
became principal in 1916, of the 440 pupils, most were under Std. VII. The
Erinville and Charlie’s Hope estates — the home of Sir Harry Smith from 1834 to
1838 — of 26 acres on Camp Ground Road were acquired in 1929. The new
High School building was occupied in July 1932, with 311 pupils. Rustenburg
Girls’ Junior School then became a separate school with 377 pupils, occupying
the buildings adjacent to Rustenburg House. The grounds of the school have
been beautifully laid out by the active Parent-Teachers’ Association.
In 1897 the Rondebosch Boys’ High School was opened with 8 pupils as a result
of the private enterprise of public-spirited persons. The new school in Camp
Ground Road was occupied in 1898. The first principal started taking boarders in
his home, but by 1900 had bought Canigou homestead for a private school
hostel. There were then 15 boarders in a school of 150 pupils. In 1901, three
pupils sat for matriculation, of whom one passed. Instruction in science was
started at that time too. Mr. S. Mason, M.A., as principal from 1904-27, really built
up this school. By 1927 when Mr. Mason retired there were 521 pupils and 112
boarders. The junior school was established as a separate school in 1929. A
second hostel, Mason House, was built in 1930. When free education was
introduced, the two Boys’ Schools (as well as the two Rustenburg Girls’ schools)
elected to remain fee-paying. By a recent interchange, the High School moved to
the new building at Canigou and the Preparatory school to the Camp Ground
Road buildings. Today there are 510 pupils in the High School, 447 in the
Preparatory School, with 108 boarders. A memorial library and a very fine Hall
were erected at the High School to commemorate past pupils who had lost their
lives in the two World Wars.
St. Joseph’s College (Marist Brothers) in Belmont Road occupies “Belmont”,
which during the 19th century was one of the best-known gentleman’s estates in
Rondebosch, having from 1835 belonged first to J. Bardwell Ebden and
subsequently to his son Alfred Ebden. It was purchased by Marist Brothers in
1917. In this house the Transvaal delegates to the National Convention were
housed in 1909 – including Generals Botha and Smuts. St. Joseph’s College was
started in Cape Town in 1867 as a fee-paying private school with 9 pupils. There
were 100 pupils at the time of the move in 1918. Subsequently a classroom
block, a chapel and other tuitional and hostel buildings were erected, as well as
new dining rooms, gymnasium and a swimming bath. The school has grown very
much so that by 1955 there were about 600 pupils of whom about one fifth were
The Marsh Memorial Homes were established by William Marsh, a wealthy Cape
Town businessman, his son Rev. T. E. Marsh and Mrs. Marsh in 1901. The
institutional character of orphanages has been overcome in this instance by a
series of family flats, in a number of houses, where boys and girls grow up in
small family units with a housemother in charge — in as natural an atmosphere
as possible. In 1903 there were 20 children; today there are 116 (65 girls and 51
boys), mostly of primary school age, but 9 are at high school and a few under
school age. A primary school exists at the Homes, which also have their own
church. The Watson Training School was established a few years ago — the only
one in South Africa to train child-care workers — for training staff for all the
Methodist children’s homes in South Africa. After a two-year course a certificate
is given. Students live in a hostel. A nursery school, too, has been in existence
since 1954. The Homes Farm supplies fresh produce for the institution. Sport
facilities of all kinds exist. The institution is dependent on contributions by the
public and by Methodist church organizations.
St. George’s Orphanage was founded in 1862 in Harrington Street, Cape Town,
as a Church of England institution. A school was formerly attached to the
Orphanage, but in 1925 the European girls were moved to Rosebank and the
Non-European girls to Claremont. Today the 18 girls in the Orphanage go to
Mowbray and Observatory schools.
Oakhurst Girls’ Primary School was founded in 1906 and became a free school
in 1921. It had one of the first Parent-Teachers’ Associations in the Peninsula
(1936). The activity method of instruction was introduced in 1944, whereby
children are encouraged, working in groups, to acquire knowledge through their
own efforts, with the classroom as a laboratory. This school has always been
known for its pioneering work in modern educational methods.
Micklefield School in Sandown Road is a private fee-paying kindergarten and
preparatory school, founded in July 1928 by Miss M. J. Wilson and Miss D. R.
Beazley. It started with two pupils, but today has 165 and eight teachers. During
the war years (1941–45) a senior school was run in Lochiel Road.
Cape Town Training College was founded in 1894 in Queen Victoria Street,
Cape Town, but was transferred to Mowbray in 1931. In 1928 a College hostel
was started in “Charlton”, formerly the residence of the late Dr. W. H. I. Bleek, his
sister-in-law Miss Lucy Lloyd and daughter, Miss Dor’othea F. Bleek, eminent
authorities on African Languages. Situated on the Main Road, Mowbray, the
homestead was renamed “Viljoenhof”, and was rebuilt in 1956. The Mowbray
Public School became the practising school for the Training College, which offers
a special two-year course for physical education, as well as a course for art
teachers in primary schools, in addition to general courses for training women as
primary and kindergarten teachers.
Today there are 171 students (75 in residence), with a staff of 12 full-time and 8
In January 1936 the first Afrikaans-medium school in the area was established
with the opening in a church hall of the Laerskool Groote Schuur, with 19 pupils.
In 1937 the school moved to a private house purchased in Camp Ground Road.
In 1940 a Parent-Teachers’ Association was established which has been very
active in adding to the School’s facilities. A nursery school was started in 1944,
while in September 1948 the foundation stone was laid and the new school
building inaugurated a year later. A school hall costing £11,000 was opened in
1955. Elocution, music, ballet, domestic science and art are taught, while
extensive sport fields have been laid out of recent years. Today the School has
350 pupils and a staff of 12.
The only Afrikaans-medium high school in the area is the Hoërskool Nassau in
Main Road, Mowbray (established in 1938), which now has a staff of 15 and 308
pupils. This school is to be transferred in the near future to a large new site
adjoining the Government Vaccine Institute and Rustenburg High School at
Rosebank. Plans for the necessary buildings are at the moment being prepared.
The site will be large enough to establish hostels in the future, if desired.
Westerford High School, Main Road, Newlands, is the only co-educational
English-medium school in the area and started in 1953 with 29 pupils. It is built
on the site of the Klein Westerford homestead. The school has grown very
rapidly and now has 406 pupils and a staff of 22 teachers. Art and domestic
science rooms, as well as a library have been included in the new building.
There are many schools for coloured children in the area, some of them having a
long and interesting history. Several of them were established after the
emancipation of slaves and have been in existence for nearly a century or longer.
St. Paul’s School (founded in 1842) was one of the oldest of these, but was
closed a few years ago. St. Peter’s (founded 1854) is still in existence. In the
early 1860’s there were Methodist mission schools too in Rondebosch and
Newlands and a Church of England school in Newlands, as well as one on the
Camp Ground Road in the 1870’s.
The largest school for coloured children today is the Stephen Reagon Primary
School in Camp Ground Road, Newlands, established in 1943, with 550 pupils
and 19 teachers and having extensive sports facilities for tennis, netball, cricket
and soccer. The Newlands Primary School (off Main Street, Newlands), has 348
pupils and 11 teachers. At the Newlands Cripples Home there is a primary school
with 64 pupils and four teachers. The Mowbray Methodist School, too, has just
over 100 pupils, and St. Andrew’s Primary (Church of England) at Newlands has
over 200 pupils. There are 12 or more other coloured schools close to the
Rondebosch area, but not actually in it.
Many nursery schools exist in the area, but for reasons of space they cannot be
individually enumerated here.
St. George’s Grammar School established its School House at the old
homestead Bloemendal, Mowbray, about 20 years ago and there are now 64
boarders. They attend school in Cape Town, but the Preparatory School with 100
pupils is at Mowbray. The School’s playing fields and swimming bath are there,
In the Rondebosch area there are other schools not previously mentioned, such
as the Golden Grove Primary School, the Rosebank Primary School, and St.
Michael’s (R.C.) Primary School, statistics concerning which are included in the
table at the end of this section. There is also a Chinese Primary School in
Mowbray. The Cape School for Cerebral Palsied Children, with three teachers
and 32 children, is in Milner Road. In addition, two physiotherapists, one speech
therapist and one occupational therapist are employed. The Government has
bought a large site, on which it is proposed to erect a building costing about
£35,000 to house 100 children. In addition, the transfer of the South African
College School from the Gardens to Newlands is under way. The Junior School
has partly moved already and Sir Max Michaelis’ mansion has become a hostel,
Michaelis House. In due course the High School too will move, thus adding
nearly 1,000 more pupils to the large number already attending Rondebosch
Schools and concentrating yet more of the large schools of the Cape Peninsula
The Frank Joubert Art Centre has been located in Rustenburg House since 1943.
It has a weekly enrolment of approximately 400 children, who come from all parts
of the Peninsula. A variety of media are supplied for picture making, modelling
and craftwork. This centre for advice regarding child art training is staffed by
qualified art teachers, to whom teachers, parents and children can turn for help.
Training College students who take a one-year course for art training in primary
schools are also housed in this Centre. A special teacher attached to the Centre
visits schools to lecture on the history and appreciation of art. Annual exhibitions
of children’s work are held.
The largest educational institution in the area, is the University of Cape Town
with approximately 4,200 students, the majority of whom are located at its Groote
Schuur buildings, including 700 students at its Medical School, Mowbray. From
the South African College founded in 1829, both the University and South African
College School have sprung. They used to be located in close proximity in the
Gardens and will now again be near neighbours at Rondebosch-Newlands. After
obtaining its charter in 1918, together with the magnificent site on the Groote
Schuur estate and the generous Wernher-Beit endowment, the University
immediately tackled the problem of excavating the site on the mountainside, and
planning the layout. The old Dutch Summer-house (originally part of Rustenburg
estate and later of Groote Schuur estate) with the adjoining japonica gardens is
now in the University grounds. J. M. Solomon, the original architect, died and left
it to others to translate his sketch-plans into bricks and mortar. In 1925 the Duke
of Windsor laid the foundation stone of the first building at the new site, and the
Earl of Athlone that of the Medical School. The University occupied its new
buildings in 1929, when its centenary was celebrated on the Groote Schuur site.
The original buildings were completed about 1935. After the war, the University
purchased the Rosebank Showgrounds for additional space for expansion,
nearer the Main Road. On this site at present a new women’s hostel costing
£225,000 called Baxter Hall, is nearing completion. On the main site, the School
of Architecture’s building is now in course of erection. The College of Music is
accommodated in the former mansion of the Struben family on the Main Road,
Rosebank, while the Administrative Offices are located immediately behind it.
The Medical School buildings are situated on the De Waal Drive near Groote
Schuur Hospital. The Child Guidance Clinic operated by the University has
recently moved to its new building in Chapel Street, Rosebank.
From the foregoing it is clear that Rondebosch, with its wealth of schools and
other educational institutions, may indeed be termed an educational centre par
Educational Statistics for 1955
Teachers Pupils Boarders
Diocescan College 40 345 170
Diocesan College Preparatory 205 69
Golden Grove Primary 5 163
Groote Schuur Laerskool 12 350
Marsh Memorial Home Church Primary 3 77 116
Mickelfield Primary 8 165
Mowbray Public School (Practising) 15 308
Nassau Hoerskool 15 298
Oakhurst Girls’ Primary 8 249
Rondebosch Boys’ High 25 598 119
Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory 15 508 5
Rosebank Primary 3 81
Rustenburg Girl’s High 27 529 82
Rustenburg Girls’ Junior 21 595
St. Georges’ Grammar Preparatory (2) 4 100
St. Georges’ Grammar School House (2) 64
St. Josephs College (Marist Brothers) 18 600 120
St. Michaels (R.C.) Primary 4 152
South African College Boys’ High (1) 20 462 105
South African College Boys’ Junior (1) 19 605 83
Westerford High 22 406
Chinese School, Mowbray 60
287 6,856 933
(1) In process of moving to Newlands
(2) The School is in Cape Town
Coloured Schools Teachers Pupils
Mowbray Methodist 03 104
Newlands Cripples’ Home 04 64
Newlands Primary 11 348
St. Andrews Church of England Primary, Newlands 06 202
St. Peters, Mowbray 07 218
Stephen Reagon Primary, Newlands 19 549
Cape Town Training College 12 (1) 171 75
University of Cape Town (2) 500 4200 900
Frank Joubert Art Centre (3) 400
St. Georges Orphanage (4) Rosebank 18
Cape School for Cerebal Palsied Children (5) 3 32
Child Guidance Clinic, Rondebosch (6) ?
Watson Training School (at Marsh Memorial
1 9 9
5161 4,812 1,002
(1) In addition 8 part-time lecturers
(2) Majority of staff lectures at Rondebosch and students attend there (including
Rosebank and Mowbray)
(3) 400 Children per week attend from schools in Rondebosch and from outside
the area. Very difficult to give the same kind of statistics as in other cases.
(4) Children attend schools in Mowbray and Rosebank
(5) In addition, there are 2 physiotherepists, 1 speech thereapist and 1
(6) Children come from all over
Boarders in schools and University Hostels 1,935
Teachers and University Staff 853
Rondebosch se Grootste Skinderstorie
Seker die grootste skinderstorie wat Rondebosch in die driehonderd jaar van sy
gebeurtenisvolle bestaan belewe het, het te doen gehad met Cecil John Rhodes.
Die ding het later in die hof beland. Daar het dit so ‘n opspraak verwek dat die
Anglo-Boereoorlog, wat destyds net in sy laaste fase was, amper vergeet geraak
het. Rhodes self was dood voordat die herrie oor was. Maar vandag leef daar in
Rondebosch nog iemand wat persoonlik met die saak gemoeid was, en self by
daardie beroemde hofsaak getuienis moes aflê.
Hy is mnr. Philip Jourdan wat destyds Rhodes se private sekretaris was.
Die saak self het gegaan om die betrekkinge wat Rhodes met ‘n dame sou gehad
het: met Catherine Maria, Prinses Radziwell. Die kwessie op die spel was: het hy
wissels ter waarde van sowat £29,000 aan haar gegee?
En die skinderbekke wat dit maar alte graag wou glo, het agter hul hand
gefluister: “En wáárvoor sou hy haar dit gegee het, waarvóór?”
“Het die Prinses dikwels Groote Schuur besoek?” is gedurende die hoofsaak
—waarvan die woordelike verslag van die Cape Times later in pamfletvorm
herdruk is — aan die ou Groote Schuur-koetsier John Carter gevra.
“Het sy dikwels heelmiddag gebly?”
“Het sy dikwels heeldag gebly?”
“Het sy dikwels heelaand gebly?”
“Nee, sy het nie …”
Dat Rhodes in een stadium groot losiesrekeninge van die Prinses blykbaar uit die
goedheid van sy hart by die Mount Nelson betaal het, is waar. Maar wat die
kwaadstokers verder wou te kenne gee, was gans en al ongegrond.
Die Prinses self het allerhande gerugte laat fluister: dat sy in die geheim aan
Rhodes verloof was; dat sy die kamers wat sy eendag self sou gebruik, al
uitgesoek het in Groote Schuur… Daar was niks van waar nie.
Haar verhaal is ten slotte net die bietjie patetiese storie van ‘n vrou wat groot
dinge voor oë gehad het, ywerig gemaneuvreer het om dit te bereik, maar op die
ou end nie net in haar strewe misluk het nie, maar haar sake so rampspoedig
bestuur het dat sy in ‘n jammerlike finansiële toestand beland het. Eers één paar
oorkrabbetjies na die pandjiesbaas. Later ‘n horlosie en horlosieketting vir £4
10s… In een stadium het sy aan ‘n vriendin geskryf (maar dit moet onthou word
dat sy darem lustig kon lieg): “Die afgelope drie dae lewe Francine en ek net van
koffie en rys. Selfs my rottangstoele is verkoop…” Op die ou end het sy met die
astrantste dog terselfdertyd naïefste set geld probeer jaag uit die koffers van òf
Rhodes òf diegene wat geglo het dat sy op vertroulik genoeg voet met hom
verkeer het om duisende ponde van hom te ontvang.
Tog, die dag voordat Rhodes in sy huisie op Muizenberg oorlede is, het sy aan
hom geskryf en hom “vergewe vir alles wat hy aan haar gedoen het”. Dit skryf sy
met kennelike waardering vir haar eie grootmoedigheid in die rare boek van haar
Die Prinses, as mens die woord van haar regsgeleerde in die hof moet glo, was
‘n dame “edel van geboorte en deur haar huwelik; gebore en getoë in die
hoogste kringe, opgevoed met die grootse sorg — ‘n verfynde, beskaafde,
talentvolle persoon.” Sy was van afkoms en deur huwelik verbonde aan die helfte
van die Europese aristokrasie. Haar man, lees mens in haar herinneringe, was
verbonde aan die huishouding van die Duitse Keiser. Sy het die Keiserin soms
met korrespondensie gehelp. “Ons was almal baie geïnteresseerd in Turkye…”
Daardie dae al het sy ‘n intense belangstelling in die wêreldpolitiek gehad.
Tussen haar en haar man, die Prins, het sake later nie te rooskleurig verloop nie.
Sy het later jare graag aan mnr. Jourdan vertel hoe naar hy met haar was, “how
Die vandag 86-jarige ou heer — ek het nou die oggend nog weer met hom oor
dié dinge sit en gesels — kan goed onthou hoe bewoë hy as jong man oor haar
bitter lot geraak het!
Die Prinses het Rhodes ontmoet aan die huis van ‘n vriend van lord Salisbury
met wie sy in Londen bekend was. Daar moes sy horn beslis in die oog gekry
het; want terwyl hy daarna in Egipte was, het sy aan hom geskryf om dan te vra
hoe sy die £150,000 kon belê wat sy pas van ‘n oom geërf het. “Wie is die vrou?”
het Rhodes gevra. Mnr. Jourdan het hom herinner: dit was die een wat langs
hom gesit het by lord Mulberry se eetmaal. “O sy? Sy was nogal lewendig en
interessant gewees…” Hy het haar die Mashonaland Railway Debentures vir die
belegging van haar geld aanbeveel. Toe wou sy weet hoe sy te werk moes gaan.
Toe, wat die adres van die sekretaris was. En toe Rhodes uiteindelik na
Suid-Afrika terugkeer, was dit alles behalwe toeval dat Prinses Radziwell se
passaat op dieselfde boot bespreek was.
Mnr. Rhodes, vertel oubaas Jourdan, het op ‘n seereis altyd graag sy eie tafel
eenkant gehad sodat hy van tyd tot tyd iemand kon nooi om by hom te kom
aansit. Op die betrokke reis is die tafeltjie gereserveer vir Rhodes en sy
privaatsekretaris en sir Charles Metcalfe. “By geleentheid van die eerste eetmaal
aan boord, het ek kort-kort ‘n vrouefiguur buite die eetkamerdeur sien verbyflits,
en die ete was al ‘n endjie op dreef toe die Prinses, honderdpersent slaggereed
wat haar kostuum betref, die kamer met ‘n geritsel van sy binnegevaar kom,”
vertel mnr. Jourdan.
“Sy het danig rondegekyk waar daar dan ‘n leë stoel vir haar sou wees, maar
onderwyl reëlreg op mnr. Rhodes se tafel afgestuur. Toe kom kry sy haar tot
haar groot verbasing skielik voor hom, ‘Oh, Mr. Rhodes?!’ Mnr. Rhodes kon nie
bra anders as om haar te nooi om aan te sit nie, en die res van die reis het sy
saam met die drie mans geëet.”
Sy was toe so vier-en-vyftig, nie juis ‘n mooi vrou nie, so effens aan die
gesetkant, maar nogal indrukwekkend met haar swart hare en haar vinnige swart
“Sy was,” beken oubaas Jourdan, en hy skryf dit ook in sy boek oor Rhodes,
“heeltemal ‘n aanwins vir ons tafel. Sy kon lewendig gesels oor enige denkbare
onderwerp,” en blykbaar het haar kontinentale agtergrond gemaak dat sy
uitgesproke was oor dinge waaroor die Victoriaanse vrou nie gedroom het om te
praat nie. Mnr. Jourdan sê sy het Cecil John by geleentheid laat bloos. Maar hy
het die geselskap klaarblyklik geniet. Hulle het dikwels saam op dek gesit en
gesels — en die Prinses het elke oomblik en elke moontlike laai benut. Eendag,
terwyl sy en Rhodes sit en gesels, het sy dan ineens flou geword. Dit was ‘n hele
ontstigting. Rhodes moes haar vashou totdat hulp en vlugsout opdaag. “Ek sal
nooit die absoluut bedremmelde uitdrukking op sy gesig vergeet nie,” skryf sy
privaatsekretaris van dié middag!
Nietemin, in Kaapstad aangekom, het mnr. Rhodes die Prinses uitgenooi om net
wanneer sy lus het “bietjie oor te kom Groote Schuur toe”. Aangesien dit net was
wat sy wou gehad het, het sy van die uitnodiging ruim gebruik gemaak en
dikwels net ‘n telegram gestuur dat sy vir middag- of aandete daar sou wees…
Eers het Rhodes daarmee genoeë geneem. Maar stadigaan het sy gesindheid
teenoor haar verander. Sy was ‘n vrou met bybedoelings, het hy agtergekom. Sy
was die Kaapstadse korrespondent van koerante in Engeland en in Rusland. Sy
wou maar alte graag hê dat hy politieke uitlatinge moes maak. Hy het die vrede
nie vertrou nie. “Die uitlandse (foreign) vroue,” het hy vir Philip Jourdan gesê,
“mens weet nooit wat hulle agteraf konkel nie…” Betrekkinge tussen die twee het
Rhodes was ‘n tydlank met die Engelse magte in die veld — want dit was nou die
kommervolle dae van die Anglo-Boereoorlog — en die Prinses het intussen haar
politieke ambisies uitgebrei en begin met ‘n tydskrif wat sy Greater Britain
genoem het, omdat haar gedagte was om die ou moederland in nouer voeling
met al sy kolonies te hou. (Van die tydskrif is vandag skaars ‘n eksemplaar in die
Kaap te kry.) Sy wou ook om haar eie redes Rhodes weer as eerste minister van
Haar planne was groot, maar haar geld was duidelik in die stadium min.
Kaapstadse koerantmanne wat artikels vir haar blad gelewer het, skryf in hul
herinneringe dat hulle nooit ‘n pennie vergoeding uit haar kon kry nie. Die
drukkers wou ook hul geld hê…
Dit was in alle waarskynlikheid die uitgawe van hierdie blad wat die Prinses laat
beland het in die droewe geldelike penarie waaruit sy haar op so ‘n onbeholpe
wyse probeer help het.
Onderwyl Rhodes oorsee was, het sy finansieel erg in die knyp geraak. Daar was
onder meer die kwessie van die huis wat sy in Kenilworth wou huur. Maar sy
moes ses maande se huur, wat £435 bedra het, vooruit betaal. Sy had dit nie,
maar op ‘n dag kom sy te voorskyn met ‘n wissel wat Rhodes net voor sy vertrek
— is dit nie merkwaardig nie — vir juis die bedrag aan haar sou uitgemaak het…
En skielik was die Kaap vol wissels van Rhodes… Onder meer was daar ‘n
wissel van £2,000 wat oubaas Jourdan, volgens haar, in Rhodes se naam vir
haar uitgeskrywe het.
Hierop het sy £1,000 deur die geldskieters voorgeskiet, gekry — glo teen 180
persent rente! Maar net die aand toe hierdie geld aan haar uitgekeer is, het ‘n
berig in die Cape Argus verskyn waarin Rhodes ten enemale ontken dat hy enige
van die wissels wat aan hom toegeskryf word, uitgereik het…
Nou het die poppe begin te dans. Maar as julle twyfel, kabel aan mnr. Rhodes
self, het die Prinses geskerm. Niemand wis egter waar presies mnr. Rhodes in
dié stadium was the. Nou maar kabel aan sy Londense prokureur. Sy sou self
met hom in verbinding tree. En nie lank nie, of sy kom aan met ‘n kabelgram,
oënskynlik uit Londen afgestuur, waarin die wissels onderskryf word. Maar die
man wat die geld voorgeskiet het, was nou op sy hoede. Hoekom, wou hy weet,
is daar dan duidelik eers iets uitgegee op die telegram voordat Londen as die
plek van herkom van die mededeling neergeskryf is?
Die feit is dat die Prinses die telegram self, van haarself in Kaapstad aan haarself
in Kenilworth gestuur het. Toe wou sy die posmeester — vir ‘n groot grap wat sy
in die mou sou voer — oorreed om Kaapstad met Londen op die telegramvorm te
vervang. Die man wou nie daarvan hoor nie. Maar toe hy van die kantoor weg
was, het sy haar kans afgewag en ‘n kantoorseun met tien sjielings omgekoop
om dié veranderinkie vir haar te maak.
Die hele ongeurige ou saak sou bes moontlik nooit in die hof beland het nie as
die Prinses in haar wanhoop nie daartoe oorgegaan het om vir Rhodes te
dagvaar om sy (vervalste!) wissels na te kom nie! Hierop het Rhodes uit Egipte
— waar hy vir sy vinnig kwynende gesondheid was — na Kaapstad teruggekeer.
Voor die Prinses en haar prokureur by ‘n geleentheid wat pynlik moes gewees
het, is getuienis van hom afgeneem waarin hy uitdruklik ontken dat hy ooit enige
wissels uitgereik het of enige van die briewe geskryf het wat sy aan hom
toegeskryf het (die tikmasjien wat sy gebruik het, het later self bewys dat sy self
die briewe geskrywe het). Sy is as leuenaar ten volle ontmasker.
Cecil Rhodes is oorlede voordat die saak, net ‘n bietjie meer as ‘n maand na sy
dood op 28 April voor die Kaapstadse hof gekom het.
Die verloop van die hofsaak beslaan blaaie en blaaie van die destydse koerante.
Daar is stories oor dié wissel, daardie wissel; sprake dat die Prinses hulle van ‘n
“ander dame” — wat sy later selfs op die naam durf noem het! — sou gekry het;
diskussies oor briewe wat Rhodes, om sy politieke toekoms te verseker, van die
Prinses sou wou afgekoop het…
Vandag is dit ‘n moeisame taak om die hele omstandige verloop noukeurig te
volg. Maar wat mens met die lees bybly, is die gesig van die Prinses, in haar grys
kostuum en haar groot swart volstruisveerhoed, wat getuies en mense in die hof
aandagtig deur haar langsteel-lorgnet beskou… Toe sy moes antwoord op
skuldig of onskuldig, het sy gesê “Skuldig,” net om haar onmiddellik, skynbaar op
‘n wenk van haar regsadviseur, te bedink en terug te krabbel, “Ek bedoel
onskuldig…” Die verhoor was nie sonder vermaaklike insidente nie.
Maar nadat hoofregter lord de Villiers so simpatiek vir haar as wat moontlik was,
sy opsomming van die saak gegee het, was daar vir die jurie eintlik net een
uitspraak moontlik: Skuldig.
Die Prinses is tot twee jaar tronkstraf, wat eintlik met harde arbeid moes gewees
het, gevonnis. Met die oog op haar “swak gestel” is sy, ná nege maande in ‘n
Huis van Bewaring, op vrye voet gestel en kort hierna het sy die land verlaat
waar sy in elk geval daarin geslaag het om die grootste opskudding van die
halfeeu te veroorsaak.
Rondebosch crest 1886
Thomas Bowler, camp ground, 1862
Mayoral chair, Rondebosch
Rustenburg by Sir Thomas D’Oyley
The Old estates of Rondebosch
Rustenberg, home of Dutch Governors by Thomas Bowler
Southern Life Association of Africa
J. C. Poortermans, Papenboom
Rondebosch Down the Years 1657 – 1957
Edited by F. J. Wagener
We wish to express our sincere gratitude to the following sponsors, whose
donations have made the publication of “Rondebosch Down the Years” possible:
Cape Town City Council
Southern Life Association of Africa
Ohlssons Cape Breweries, Ltd.
Sasko, Flour millers
Robb Motors Ltd., Rondebosch
Mossop and Son Ltd.
Chairman: Mr. Hector Deary
Councillor Mrs. J. J. J. Bakker
Mr. Colin G. Finch
Miss P. Fowkes
Councillor N. T. Goodhew
Councillor A. H. Honikman
Mrs. H. Krueger
Mrs. S. E. Hopkins
Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
Mr. B. M.-K. Roscoe
Mr. Mark Shinns
Mr. F. J. Wagener
Editor: F. J. Wagener (Regional Organizer of Adult Education, Western Cape)
Councillor Mrs. J. J. J. Bakker
Mr. Frank R. Bradlow
Mrs. M. Kuttel
Dr. W. J. B. Pienaar
Mr. A. M. Lewin Robinson
Mr. Eric Vertue
Mrs. F. J. Wagener