Western Cape

Fifty years after van Riebeeck landed at the Cape, the Tygerburg hills were occupied by loan farms. Within these farms was an outspan with a good strong spring of sweet water that became an important stopping place on the road to the north.

Another process of research, another unlikely link uncovered between Hermanus and events of world significance a long way away. This time it is the “Burma Campaign” that took place in the country we now call Myanmar between 1942 and 1945. It started with the Japanese invasion of Burma in preparation for the final target – the invasion of India and access to natural resources to sustain the Japanese military campaigns.

I was recently given four photographs of early 20th century Cape Town. They are all in sepia brown shades. The dimensions are 8.5 x 11.30 inches. The edges of the photos are in poor condition but the main scenes are clearly visible. I would love to date these photographs.

They are clearly from the photographic studio of TP Ravenscroft and the one of Sea Point has a stamp on the reverse TD Ravenscroft. 

 

Ganzekraal is a farm dating back to the early 1700s. It was a key farm in the Groene Kloof (as the area north of Rietvlei and all the way to Geelbek on the Langebaan Lagoon was referred to in the time of the VOC) and is significant as part of the network of farms and buiteposte that stretched the VOC influence all the way from the Castle to Saldanha Bay.

In April this year the charming Victorian village of Matjiesfontein will host a weekend of talks and events commemorating the history of the South African / Anglo Boer War (click here for details). One of the speakers is Dr Dean Allen who has written the definitive history of Matjiesfontein and its founder James Logan (many readers will be familiar with his book Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa). In the article below, Allen explores key aspects of Logan's rem

Few visitors driving through Hout Bay on the way to Chapman’s Peak Drive will have failed to notice in the sea below the road a curious concrete and steel jetty - usually the resting place of a number of cormorants drying themselves in the sun! This marks the most immediately visible remnant of one of the Cape’s most remarkable early mining ventures, the Hout Bay manganese mine.

 

Fifty five years ago Hermanus experienced its longest and most high profile contact ever with the Royal Navy. The famous aircraft carrier HMS Victorious officially visited the town for two incident-packed days that galvanised the whole population.

 

Strubenheim is a majestic historic mansion in Rosebank, Cape Town. It belonged to Harry Struben who, along with his brother Fred, played a crucial part in the story of the discovery of the largest goldfield on earth. Although they cannot claim to have discovered the Witwatersrand's main reef, it was their pioneering efforts on the Confidence Reef nearby that drew others to Langlaagte where the big discovery was made (click here for further details).

In 1996 Michael Scurr penned the following article on the restoration of the Old Cape Archives (today the Centre for the Book). It was published in Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. Thank you to the University of Pretoria and the Heritage Association of South Africa for giving us permission to publish.

Hout Bay is the third oldest surviving formal settlement in South Africa, only Cape Town and Simon’s Town are its seniors. Its early existence was largely due to its abundance of timber, however, that valuable resource disappeared within 30 years of van Riebeeck’s arrival and agricultural activity was quickly established as a sustainable living for those who settled there.

Forest Hall is an historic estate located in The Crags near Plettenberg Bay. It hosts a spectrum of high end functions including grand weddings and corporate events (click here for some recent pics). In the article below, first published in Restorica in 1977, Patricia Storrar delves into the history of this unique property. Thank you to the Heritage Association of South Africa and the University of Pretoria for giving us permission to publish.

In the following article Patricia Storrar provides a brief history of the Harker graves in Plettenberg Bay. The piece was published in the 1977 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

Among the finished compositions that Berdine Luyt left in her papers is a file titled “Letters from Hermanus: 1942-1945”.  The file contains 36 lengthy letters from Berdine Luyt, the eldest daughter of P John and Joey van Rhyn Luyt, owners of the Marine Hotel, Hermanus (hotel pictured above). Many servicemen stayed at the hotel while on shore leave from Cape Town and the Luyts (two other daughters were also involved in running the hotel) went way out of their way to entertain the men.

About 50 kilometres from Cape Town, just off the busy R27 West Coast Road, lies the town of Mamre. The town itself is unremarkable, being a dormitory town whose inhabitants work in Cape Town or nearby Atlantis and Darling. However, there is a most remarkable Moravian Mission Station on the western side of Mamre.

In 1983 J. G. Brand, City Engineer of Cape Town, penned this brief article about Government Avenue, the oldest pedestrian thoroughfare in South Africa. The piece appeared in the 1983 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.  

This group of structures still survives. But in what form? They came on my heritage radar more than a decade ago but I would like to review the situation now. Originally established as a mission church in the town, there was an attached pastorie, plus school building divided between boys and girls. In the grounds behind the group is one of the wells that helped sustain the early town.

In the article below Cathy Robertson tells the story of the meticulous restoration of Onze Molen in Durbanville in the mid 1980s. The article was first published in the 1986 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

The following article on the history and restoration of the landmark Martello tower in Simon's Town appeared in the September 1973 edition of Bulletin. Thank you to David Erickson from the Simon's Town Historical Society for providing many of the museum photographs. See comments section for more recent details on the Tower.

[Originally published in 2014] In the following powerful opinion piece Richard Bryant, Chairman of the Kommetjie Heritage Society, takes a critical look at some of the City of Cape Town's development policies and how they are impacting the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (World Heritage Site). He argues that not only is the Word Heritage Site at risk but people's lives and properties as well.

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