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Cape Town History

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These pages are presented as a courtesy by Gwynne Schrire in association with Hillel Turok (authors) and Albert Louw of Citi Graphics (publisher)

The Dutch East India Company at that time was the greatest of thecompanies that traded with the East. They ruled the eastern seas with 150trading ships, 40 warships and 10 000 soldiers. They had diplomaticrelations with China and Japan and had built the town of Batavia. Whentheir ship the Haarlem was wrecked in Table Bay in 1648, its crewmanaged to survive for five months by growing vegetables and tradingmerchandise with the Khoikhoi for sheep and cattle. They were even ableto supply the scurvy-stricken crew of the ship that rescued them withfresh meat and vegetables. As a result, it was decided that a permanentsettlement adjoining Table Bay might be a sound business proposition.Jan van Riebeeck was sent out to establish this halfway house andlanded in Cape Town on 6 April 1652. He was to establish a garden togrow fresh vegetables, trade cattle with the Hottentots and keep a journal.

In March 1653 he was able to write, “Provided the ships with cattle, sheep,cabbages, carrots, milk etc and sent the Admiral in the galiot ten sheep,some cabbages, carrots and beef.” The development of the settlementwith its trials and tribulations can be followed in his journal.Once he had settled down, he ventured forth to explore theneighbourhood. He had soon crossed over the Kloof ( in Camps Bay) and discoveredCamps Bay with a fine big forest and later that year examined the baybehind Table Mountain ( Cape Town). He was delighted at the prospect of the profitsthat would accrue to the Company from this new territory.There were no doubts at that time about the morality or legality of sending ships out to the farthest corners of the world, unloading soldiers,civil servants and equipment and starting to plant gardens and buildhouses and forts on territory where others might have been living forcenturies. There were no thoughts of whether such people might object ormind, or whether as non-believers it really mattered what they thought.

The Heere XVII, who were in charge of the Dutch East India Company,had given Van Riebeeck instructions to behave peaceably with theHottentots and treat them well. It would have been unwise to seekconfrontation with an unknown opponent when the Dutch were vastlyoutnumbered and they needed to maintain good relations with them inorder to trade cattle both to supply passing ships and to build up theirown herd. Initially Van Riebeeck had difficulty in persuading theGoringhaiqua to trade their cattle, and he negotiated with theirinterpreter, Herry the Kaapman, to assist him in obtaining these.Over the years Herry proved to be an uncertain and untrustworthyassociate. By 16 December 1652 Herry was asking the Dutch to helpattack a rival tribe, the Fishmen. Once it became apparent that the Dutchwere putting down permanent roots and encroaching on their pasturage,theGoringhaiqua became rebellious. VanRiebeeck seemed rather surprised and aggrieved.On 20 February 1655 Herry voiced justifiablecomplaints to Van Riebeeck that the Dutch were“sitting on their lands and building very fast,never more to leave”, and his people tried toassert ownership by constructing their huts closeto the fort, threatening to kill the Dutch settlerssaying that as it was their land, they would buildwhere they liked. On 10 Ju their cattle along theCamps Bay coast behind the Kloof ( in Camps Bay) between thehead of the Lion Mountain ( in Camps Bay) and the Hout Bayalong the Camps Bay mountains which he calledthe Gevelbergen. Now the lands in Table Valleyand behind the Lion Mountain ( in Camps Bay) were for the use ofthe Company’s cattle only. Herry’s area becameknown as Roodekrantz – red bank.

The Goringhaiqua seemed satisfied with this.Camps Bay was part of their traditional territory.They had often stayed in Hout Bay, pastured theirflocks there and travelled to Cape Town over theNek through Camps Bay. This was also their pathafter raids on the Company.Because of the continual demand by the Dutchfor more cattle with which to supply the passingships, the Khoikhoi over the years traded morebreeding stock than they could safely afford. Theresult of the land and livestock lost to the Dutch settlers, particularly after 1713 when there was a series of epidemics thataffected both man and livestock coupled with a period of drought, was thedestruction of the Khoikhoi communities. Having wandered, hunted andherded over the Peninsula for hundreds or thousands of years, theKhoikhoi, independent no longer, were forced to become servants to thesettlers, stock thieves or bandits. Soon their flocks and huts in CampsBay, where they had been transient dwellers for thousands of years, hadbecome a forgotten part of history, a memory lingering only in the nameOudekraal – old kraal.

Over the years the Dutch constructed a fort, a garden, and a hospitaland slowly extended their farming and herding activities to Rondebosch,Constantia and Stellenbosch. Camps Bay with its winds, baboons andlions, remained unsettled except for trips to collect wood or stones.Camps Bay had few attractions for the early farmer and the line ofbreakers made the bay dangerous for shipping. On 27 May 1698 Het Huiste Crayenstein ran aground on the rocks at Oudekraal beyond Camps Bay,having missed Table Bay which was hidden by fog.19 No lives were lost andthe crew managed to land taking sixteen of the nineteen money chests onboard with them. An official inquiry was held in Cape Town and theofficers responsible for mistaking the bay were demoted and dismissed.The authorities managed to salvage much of the cargo and a thoroughsearch was made for the missing money chests – the remains of one wasfound with a few scattered coins among the rocks. The other two chestshad vanished – either stolen or lost beneath the waves.20 In 1967 diversbrought up Spanish pieces of eight from nearby. The sands have alsorevealed brass guns with the VOC coat of arms and bars of white metal.Maybe there are more pieces of eight lying below the waters of Camps Bay.


Commanders ignored Camps Bay with its barrier of rocks.Development and growth centred around the approaches toTable Bay which they fortified.When Valentyn visited in 1714 he counted 254 private houses in CapeTown, but none in Camps Bay which was still undisturbed although he didremark that:

“When one rides over the pass between the Lion hill and the Table Mountain ( Cape Town), one thereby comes to see the far side of the same, whence theburghers fetch coral-stone to burn it to lime.”21A few years later one finds the first record of someone settling in the Kloof ( in Camps Bay) in a book by Mentzel. Mentzel had been living happily in CapeTown between 1732-1741 tutoring children until one unfortunate day,eager to catch the mail, he boarded a ship to deliver a last minute letter.The wind came up suddenly and prevented him from returning to shorethat night so he had no choice but to sleep over. When he awoke the nextmorning, he found that the captain had forgotten he was there and he wason his way back to Holland, never able to return. Homesick for the Cape,he wrote a detailed description of his life in the town and the conditionsthere.“In my time,” Mentzel wrote, “there used to be a cottage there occupiedby a widow, who kept two cows and made a living by selling milk. HerChristian name was Anna, and she was commonly called MoederAnntje, and the kloof Moeder Anntje’s Kloof. Her deceased husband hadcleared a piece of ground, enclosed it with a mud wall, and tried tocultivate it. The venture was a failure and the land was subsequentlyallowed to run waste.”

By 1700 the land over the Kloof ( in Camps Bay) was known as ‘Roodekrantz’ or ‘redbank’ because of the colour of the soil. This area had been granted toJohan Lodewyk Wernich who had been baptised on 6 August 1687, theson of Joachim Wernich, Burgermeester of Bismark. A merchant, Wernichmoved to Holland and from there came to the Cape in 1729 as a soldier.He built a farmhouse called ‘Ravensteyn’ lower down the mountain wherethe land was flatter and close to a stream and kept cows and grewvegetables for the Cape Town market. A widower aged 42, he marriedMagdalena Elizabeth Taats from Hattem, Netherlands on 14 August 1729and had one child, Johan Jan Lodewyk Wernich (or Joachim JohanLodewyk Wernich) who was baptised on 6 August 1730. (Perhaps thedominee only visited in August!)

This son Johan had three wives, Anna van Reenen, whom he married in 1751, Johanna Beck, whom he married in 1756 and Anna CatharinaKoekemoer, the widow of Jan Abraham Meyer whom he married on 16December 1764.Fourteen years later it was the turn of Anna Koekemoer, now thewidow of J J L Wernich, Commissioner of Civil Affairs, to take her thirdhusband. She married Fredrik Ernst von Kamptz from Deven nearMecklenburg on 20 December 1778.Von Kamptz was a sailor who had been left behind at the Cape becauseof illness – after all the raison d’etre of the Dutch settlement was to serveas a refreshment station to enable sick and scurvy sailors to regain theirhealth. When his ship, the Holland, sailed away, and his health hadreturned, he saw a better future for himself in the arms of AnnaKoekemoer, a lonely widow with six children and a farm, than he sawscrubbing decks and eating ship biscuit.There is another version of this tale. A German family historypublished in Schwerin in 1871(Die familie von Kamptz by CGJ VonKamptz) said that he was christened Christoph Otto von Kamptz in May1748, became a page at the court in Strelitz, was granted a commission inthe British navy through connections with the Princess of Strelitz whobecame Queen Sophie Charlotte of England, made a fortune in India, lostmost of it and decided to go home before it all went but stopped off inCape Town on the way to visit his friend J J L Wernich, but found hislonely widow instead. Anna Catherina was wealthy, had the estateRavensteyn and many slaves which she treated cruelly.He was soon the proud owner of Ravensteyn at Roodekrantz near theKloof ( in Camps Bay) and used his slaves to construct a track along the coast from his house to Cape Town. He then took his new bride on holiday to Europe tointroduce her to his family. While he was there, the American War ofIndependence broke out. This delayed his return to South Africa andwreaked havoc with his farm and his future.

No part of thispublication may be reproduced without the prior written consentof both the publisher and Holiday Rentals in Cape Town

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