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Old Wynberg

Old Wynberg Village

Cape Town - South Africa

Linking Europe
to the East

For many year seafarers sought a trade route to link Europe and the East in order to cut out the Arab middlemen who controlled the land routes.

Vasco da Gama, sent by Manual I of Portugal, was the first to reached India in 1498 sailing around the Cape.

Dutch East India Company (VOC), established a refreshment station in 1652 at the Cape of Good Hope to supply ships of the company trading between Europe and the East. 

Arrival of the Dutch

Van Riebeeck
Jan van Riebeeck

Jan van Riebeeck, the first Dutch commander of the Cape, distributed land along the Liesbeeck River to nine "Free Burghers" on March 1, 1657, in order to establish farms. These farmers were to supply produce to the VOC company, to ensure that their trading ships had fresh supplies on route to India and Europe.

Local Khoikhoi people that settled in this area prior to the arrival of the Dutch, were forced to retreat or to be incorporated forcibly into the economy of the European settlers. Van Riebeeck established a vineyard on a prominent hill on the south-eastern end of the Table Mountain chain, naming it Boschheuvel (Bush Hill). In 1683, the first estate in this area passed into private hands. Herman Weeckens established this farm called De Oude Wijnbergh (Old Wine Mountain). Two other farms named "Vredenhof" and "Rust en Werk" were established nearby.

A formal winter anchorage was established during 1743 in Simon's Bay due to unfavourable conditions in Table Bay during the windy winter season. A wagon route linking this False Bay settlement with Cape Town led over the hill adjacent to Oude Wijnbergh.

Cape Town to Simon's Town
Wynberg in relation to Cape Town and False Bay, formerly called Simon's Bay

The Wurttemburg Regiment and a troop of Khoikhoi people were to defend the Dutch settlement from the Wynberg military outpost established against any attack from False Bay.

British occupation

The British arrived in False Bay in July 1795 under the pretext as caretakers of Dutch business as Napoleon was overrunning Europe. They took control of the Cape settlement on 16 Sept 1795 after the British troops, supported by gunfire from their ships, swept up the coast towards Muizenberg.

The small farming area of Wynberg developed rapidly into a garrison town, as the British settled a large amount of troops in the area. Being the halfway house between Table Bay and False Bay made it an attractive village for commercial activity. Farmers now had a new offset point for their produce besides the market in Cape Town. Subdivision of farms took place and commercial as well as residential properties were developed to supply the needs mostly of the military camp but also travelers on the wagon road between the two bays.

The Cape was returned to the Dutch in 1802, but the British took control of the Cape again after the start of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806.

Property continued to be the most attractive investment in Wynberg and soon a commercial bourgeoisie was formed looking for social advancement. The most prominent of these landlords were Philip Morgenrood, Higgs and James Maynard, whose estate became the largest privately owned property in Wynberg after consolidation in 1844.

Magistrative Centre

The importing of slaves was abolished in 1807, but slaves were not set free until much later. Major George Longmore was appointed Special Magistrate to Wynberg during 1834 to implement the Emancipation Act whereby all slavery in the Cape were to be abolished. The controlled apprenticeship period of four years resulted in Wynberg becoming the magistrative centre of the Cape by 1838, when all slaves were free.

CLICK HERE to read more about the San and Khoi Khoi people who lived in southern Africa before European settlers arrived.

Many free blacks and emancipated slaves were or became members of the Muslim faith. One Wynberg property owner in the late 1830's, Philip Ryklief, described in the deed of transfer as a free black, converted to the Islamic faith after his marriage to the step-daughter of Abdul Logies. Abdul Logies was the first Imam of the Palm Tree Mosque in Cape Town. Wynberg and the neighbouring district of Plumstead became a focal point for Muslim families.

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