What do the four earliest streets in Stellenbosch tell us about what people valued at the time?
Dorp street – the unofficial first
Dorp street, ‘de wapad naar de Caab’, joined the Cape to Stellenbosch and was one of the first roads to develop. This was the main trade route for farmers wanting to sell wine, wheat and other produce.
During the first few years Stellenbosch wasn’t much more than ‘a few farms around an island’ (island? Yes – read on to find out how and where).
The ‘highways’ or publieke Wegen were of course also dirt roads. They led to the surrounding settlements and were indicated on the map as de wapad na Dorp Somerset, de wapad na Dorp de Paarl, de wapad na De Jonkershoek, de wapad na De Bange hoek as well as towards Klapmuts.
Look how broad and prominent Dorp street appears in this image below. For a complete blog about Dorp street follow this link.
Stellenbosch becomes a ‘real town’
Once the town was officiated, it seized being only a farmers community and acquired a certain structure.
The church and drostdy were among the first buildings needed, and the rest grew around these two focal points.
The drostdy was known as the ‘het Raadshuijs’ or ‘Compagnies huijsen’ and included the home of the Landdros. The building was located on an small island in the Eerste River, more or less where the Theological faculty is today. Read more about the drostdy and the island if you’re interested.
The first church was really small, a simple building close by. The front door faced west and Adam Tas mentioned that it had a lovely view over the ‘hills around Papegaaisberg and Vlottenburg’. (Funny: In his diary he also complains about the preacher, Dominee Beck, who started very late. When they left church it was almost dark outside.)
The church moves – the town grows
Like many of the early buildings, the fire of 1710 destroyed the small church building. Money was scarce and the new church building postponed by nearly a decade of fundraising.
For 9 years the congregation gathered in a wine cellar every Sunday (nice!) belonging to a certain Mr Jacob Botma, the owner of Welgevallen. The cellar still exists and is located in Ryneveld Street.
After the fire the town gradually recovered and many new streets were added. Hertzog’s famous map from 1817 shows the following streets (in their original spelling),
Dorp Straat, Kerk straat, Plein Straat, Drostdy’s Straat, Ryneveld’s Straat, Andringa’s Straat, Bird’s Straat, Molen Straat, Blom Straat, Alexander Straat. Brouwer’s Straat (perhaps Skone uitsig straat?), Herte Straat, Papegaay’s straat en De Cingel or laan.
Four streets around a church
The earliest streets in Stellenbosch (officially) are those that surrounded the original church building, circled on the map. What we call Church street today was called Kleine Kerkstraat and Ryneveld Grootte Kerkstraat.
Ryneveld and Andringa are both named after magistrates – you can read more about them in our blog here.
For a concise history of how the town developed, also check out this great resource on the Stellenbosch heritage website.
Ydi is a young Stellenbosser who loves writing about the everyday things people tend to overlook. She likes dusty books and cobwebbed houses and seeing how the past isn’t always what you’d think or expect. She enjoys researching Stellenbosch, its heritage and its people.
Article: Y Coetsee
Source: Stellenbosch Drie Eeue 1979