The story of the wooden bridge (plankenbrug)

The story of the wooden bridge (plankenbrug)

On the western side of Stellenbosch flows the Plankenbrug River, next to a number of industrial businesses and factory stores, including 

the cheese factory,

engine parts and mechanics,


events hire

wood and construction materials.

Many people wonder whether the name is pronounced as PlankenBURG or PlankenBRUG.

Actually there is an interesting story behind the name …


Not only the Eerste River

The Eerste River is not the only river in Stellenbosch.

The Blouklip River, which flows from the mountains above Stellenbosch, runs past De Zalze, and then meets the Eersteriver in the area of Vlottenburg station.

I guess it is from ‘Bloukliprivier’ that the name ‘Blaauwklippen’ comes from.

Bridges are easily taken for granted in today’s Stellenbosch, but for the citizens of old it was a big expense in their small settlement.


1690 – Stellenbosch gets a bridge

In the minutes of a meeting on 21 August 1691, the Heemraad (then ‘city council’) decides that Stellenbosch needs a bridge.

The main bridge should be at the Western end of town so carriages and wagons can easily cross the river when travelling to the Cape of Good Hope.

The council only has money to build a single bridge.

This bridge, they decide, must cross the Dwars River, “over de dwarsryvier by Hans Jurgen Grimpe in de hoek“.

Hans Jurgen Grimpe was the burger who owned all the land from Papegaai Mountain to where Distell is today.

The ‘corner’ is at the intersection of the Eersterivier and the Dwars River, more or less where Bosman’s crossing is today.

(The Dwars River was one of the borders lines of Grimpe’s property. In addition to the 44 Morgen of land he acquired in 1690, he added the farm Libertas in 1692 when he married Adam Tas’s widow.)


A bridge for Hans Grimpe

The heemraad decided to ask for Hans Grimpe for a piece of land to build the bridge.

In return, he was exempt from other ‘burger duties’, such as building and maintaining roads.

Two builders were appointed (to build the bridge and break rocks) for about Rds. 50.

The construction was completed in 1691 and was known as the ‘Steenebrug’ as it was built of stone. Grimpe built another stone bridge on his farm Libertas 7 years later, this time across the Eersterivier.

What about the Plank Bridge?

It appears that the ‘Plankenbrug’ was only built a few years later, somewhere between 1707 and 1729.

The area in which it was built gradually became known as the Plankenbrug, and the section of the river known as the Plankenbrug River.



Hierdie foto van die plankenbrug verskyn in die boek 'Stellenbosch Drie Eeue, amptelike gedenkboek' 1979, met dank aan die Stellenbosch - museum
This historic picture of the wooden bridge appears in the book ‘Stellenbosch Three Centuries’

If you want to read more about the farm libertas, look at our blog about Libertas, Klein Libertas and Libertas Parva. There are also many interesting facts about this era in the Adam Tas’s famous diary.





‘nDromer is a young Stellenbosser who loves writing about the everyday things that often go unnoticed. She likes dusty books and seeing how the past isn’t always what it seems. She has written about Stellenbosch, it’s heritage and it’s people almost every week since 2015.


Article and main photo: Y Coetsee 2016
Sources: Stellenbosch Drie eeue (1979).



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