van der Stel
van der Stel, who arrived as Governor in 1679, was destined
to exercise marked influence on the Colony for the next
20 years. He enlarged and beautified van Riebeeck's garden
and built a slave lodge (today the Cultural History Museum)
at the entrance. It was during Simon van der Stel's governorship
that the Huguenots, who had been driven from France by the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes, arrived from Holland.
There were some 200 of them, so small a number that they
were quickly absorbed in the Dutch population. The lands
given to Simon van der Stel, by the Dutch East India Company,
stretched from Muizenberg to the Steenberg Mountains, right
across to Wynberg. He turned this vast region into rich
farmland, planted some eight thousand trees and designed
and built the stateliest of the Capes historic mansions,
Groot Constantia (named after his wife, Constance) in 1685,
where he lived until his death in 1712. Groot Constantia
remains one of the most favoured destinations for visiting
tourists to the Cape. The Estate gave its name to the Constantia
area, and its wines won the praise of even such connoisseurs
as Kings of France. Simon van der Stel is also the founder
of Stellenbosch, Drakenstein and Franschhoek, and is responsible
for the construction of many of the famous homesteads in
the Cape. More farmers soon settled in the Constantia area,
along the little streams pretentiously named the Spaanschemat
and Diep Rivers and on the soils so well suited to the vine.
West of the mountains, Kronendal in the Hout Bay valley
was granted to another enterprising settler in 1681 and
a wagon road into the valley was opened over Constantia
Nek twelve years later.
Simon van der Stel's eldest son, Willem Adriaan van der
Stel, who succeeded him as Governor, added a museum to the
gardens, and erected a lodge (now Government House) for
the reception of visitors. He built Nieuweland (on a site
now occupied by Newlands House) where he started a new garden.
Later it replaced Rustenburg as the country residence of
successive Governors and its pleasure gardens became almost
legendary in the writings of eighteenth century visitors
to the Cape. Willem Adriaan van der Stel also developed
the Vergelegen estate, where he built a house and planted
over 500 000 vines, large orchards and corn lands. He stocked
the farm with 800 cattle and 10 000 sheep. The fact that
the Governor traded his products with ships in the port
brought him into conflict with other farmers and eventually
led to his recall to Holland and confiscation of his estate.
The Dutch East India Company, which had reached the high
point of its power during the governorships of the van der
Stels, began to decline, chiefly because of English and
French competition in the eastern markets.
In 1737 eight ships were wrecked in a single storm in Table
Bay, with the loss of over 200 lives. In 1773, the Dutch
East Indiaman the Jonge Thomas drifted into the breakers
during a violent gale. Although 200 men were aboard, no
effort was made by the Company's officials to rescue them.
Enraged by this callousness, an old man, Wolraad Woltemade,
borrowed a horse and rode into the pounding surf towards
the doomed vessel. Eight times he made the journey and saved
14 men. He drowned during his last attempt. Ultimately the
Company was driven to establish another winter port at Simon's
Bay (modern Simon's Town). Named after Simon van der Stel,
who surveyed the bay in 1657, ships were safe here under
the lee of the Peninsula highlands.
is indeed fortunate that three men of outstanding architectural
talents were brought together at the Cape. In 1777 Anton
Anreith, a young sculptor and woodcarver from Freiburg,
arrived as a soldier in the Company's service. Four years
later Louis Michel Thibault, a Parisian architect, appeared
on the scene as an officer in the French garrison. In 1789
they were joined by Hermann Schutte, a young architect and
builder from Bremen. The trio settled at the Cape, and it
is due to their influence that the period of prosperity
and building activity in town and country, which marked
the late 18th and early 19th century, has left us such a
rich heritage of architectural beauty.
the little dorp in Table Valley began to assume the character
of a town. No longer was it referred to as Cabo de Goede
Hoop, De Caab or De Kaapse Vlek, but during the last quarter
of the eighteenth century it acquired the name of De Kaap
or Cape Town. During the war between Britain and Holland
(1780-1783) a British fleet sailed to take possession of
the Cape, but was attacked and disabled by the French. The
French then landed two regiments at the Cape to assist the
Dutch in the defence of the Colony. Part of the large hospital
on the outskirts of town was assigned to them as barracks.
(After 1795 the building was wholly occupied by troops and
in time the adjoining Ziekenstraat became more appropriately
known as Barrack Street, a name it still bears). When the
revolutionary armies of France invaded Holland, William
of Orange escaped to England and issued instructions that
the Cape should temporarily be handed over to the British
for protection against the French. Accordingly, in 1795,
a British force arrived at the Cape. The Dutch resisted
and after a brief battle (Battle of Muizenberg), retired
before superior forces.
The change of authority brought with it other changes which
many felt were long overdue. Many of the monopolies and
other restrictions on trade by which the Company had promoted
its own pecuniary interests at the expense of the colonists
were swept away. A large garrison again provided a ready
market for farm produce and thirsty patrons for the houses
which had already given Cape Town its reputation as The
Tavern of the Seas. The British remained in possession until
1803, when the Colony was relinquished to the Dutch by the
terms of the Treaty of Amiens. Within three months of the
restoration of the colony, war had again broken out between
Britain and Holland. In 1806, a British fleet of sixty-one
ships dropped anchor at Robben Island and landed 6 000 troops
at Blaauwberg. The Battle of Blaauwberg followed and Dutch
resistance crumbled. In 1814 the Cape Colony was formally
ceded to Britain by a convention under which Dutch vessels
were to remain entitled to resort freely to the Cape of
Good Hope for the purposes of refreshment and repairs.
In 1814, Lord Charles Somerset became Governor, and the
following year he inaugurated the first mail-packet service
between England and Cape Town. This was the beginning of
the Union-Castle Company's connection with South Africa.
The Union and Castle lines amalgamated in 1900.
Outside the town, satellite villages formed around churches
and inns along the road to False Bay. At the eastern foot
of Wynberg Hill was the village of Wynberg. With its white-walled
thatched cottages set among gardens and fruit trees, it
possessed at one time much of the atmosphere of an English
country village and became for a while the favourite resort
of officials of the British East India Company recuperating
at the Cape. At Simon's Bay, an extensive fishing village
began to expand, a whaling station had been established,
a Residency had been built, and the growing settlement had
assumed the name of Simon's Town. The naval establishment
had been transferred there from Table Bay in 1814 and it
had acquired an atmosphere more reminiscent of Portsmouth
or Plymouth than characteristic of the Cape.
In 1824, Cape Town's first newspaper , The Commercial Advertiser
was published. It was printed in English and Dutch. In 1830,
Sir Lowry Cole laid the foundation stone of St. George's
Church, now the Cathedral, the first English Church in South
Africa. The first civil hospital in southern Africa was
built on the western edge of the town, largely through the
public-spirited action of Dr. Samuel S. Bailey, a naval
surgeon who had served with Admiral Lord Nelson at Trafalgar.
Subsequently enlarged, it became the old Somerset Hospital
to a later generation. Schools also appeared and in 1829
the South African College was opened in Long Street (in
1841 a site at the upper end of the gardens was ceded to
the South African College).
One of the first duties of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, appointed
Governor in 1834, was to give effect to the Act for the
emancipation of slaves passed by the British Parliament
in 1833. Some 39,000 slaves, mostly in the western districts
of the Colony, were granted their freedom. The British Government
provided inadequate compensation for slave-owners and many
were reduced from affluence to bankruptcy.
News was brought to the Governor D'Urban at a convivial
New Year's Eve gathering of the irruption of the Bantu tribes
over the eastern border of the Colony. He instructed Colonel
Harry Smith (later Governor Sir Harry Smith) to make for
Grahamstown to organise the border forces. Colonel Smith
left, on horseback, at daybreak and arrived at Grahamstown
six days later, having ridden one hundred miles each day,
at fourteen miles an hour throughout, a wonderful equestrian
The British Government made an attempt in 1849 to form a
penal settlement at the Cape, but when the ship Neptune
arrived at Simon's Bay, with 282 convicts aboard, the citizens
declined to supply anything to persons having dealings with
her. So strictly was this pledge observed that no food whatever
was obtainable, either for the convicts or for the troops.
During the riots which ensued, Newspaper Editor, John Fairbairn's
house at Sea Point was wrecked by a crowd who had lost their
employment through the boycott. In the end the colonists
were victorious, and on 21 February 1850, the Neptune set
sail for Tasmania. In recognition of the services of C.
B. Adderley who had championed the colonists in this manner
in the British House of Commons, the name of Cape Town's
main street, the Heerengracht, was changed to Adderley Street.