One of Stellenbosch’s heritage writers, Mrs Annie Hofmeyr, wrote a book about the street, tracing its history house by house.
She explains that Van Riebeeck street has had 3 different names. Names like ‘church street’ and ‘Andringa’ are much older (read about them here). But the name ‘Van Riebeeck street’ was only used since 1906.
- The first name was De Wagenweg naar Jonkershoek
- This was shortened to Jonkershoekweg (part of the street still retained that name)
- today it is Van Riebeeck street.
‘Kommandeur’ of the Cape
The street is of course named after Jan van Riebeeck, the first kommandeur of the Cape.
But did you know that his wife wasn’t Dutch, but from French descent?
Helena Liebenberg, another heritage writer, notes the following about Maria van Riebeeck (translated from Afrikaans):
Maria de la Queillerie, who was of Huguenot origin, played a tremendous and supportive role for her husband. The French bishop Nicolaes Etienne who visited the Cape described her in 1661 as one of the wisest women he had ever met. “She is loved by everyone” he writes.
Jan and Maria van Riebeeck plants a garden
When the family and the rest of the company left the Netherlands in 1651, their commission was to start growing fresh fruit and vegetables in the Cape, and to build a fort. They sailed from Hollande with three small boats, the Drommedaris, Reijger and Good Hope.
The company gardens in Cape Town is where they started with their horticultural projects.
In the first year they planted
- Turkish beans,
- aniseed, fennel,
- ‘als’, ‘mispel’,
- quince seeds, apple seeds,
- Spanish orange,
- yellow- en red beets,
- ‘moesgroente’ known as ‘warmoes’,
- cucumbers and pumpkins,
- waterlemons and other ‘meloene’
As the trees started bearing fruit:
- walnuts and berries.
The above information appears in the research of Helena Liebenberg, contact us if you want to know more.
Image Source: “Van Riebeeckstraat (noord)” Annie Hofmeyr
1700s to 1900s
When it was still the Wagenweg na Jonkershoek Van Riebeeck street was a quiet, remote dirt road close to Jonkershoek and therefore quite dangerous. A certain Jan van Ceylon apparently shot a verdwaalde leeu in Van Riebeeck street in 1712 (probably a leopard) .
Even in the early 1900s, Van Riebeeck street retained a certain rural character:
- Dairy cows walked via Van Riebeeck street to their pasture outside town.
- Most residents had large vegetable gardens or a vineyard.
- Coaches and cabs drawn by horses were common.
- Children collected acorns and were paid 1 penny for each tinful – the acorns were used to feed pigs.
Lush flowers grew in and around the meulsloot. Mrs Hofmeyer remembers ‘varkblomme, moederkappies, aandblomme, viooltjies en hondsroos’ (read our blog on indigenous flowers).
The first property owners
The first person to own property in Van Riebeeck Street was a certain Mrs Rachel Faure (previously de Villiers). Both she and her husband, who was the town’s ‘surgeon-teacher’, were children of French Huguenot parents. After her husband died in 1736, the church gave her a piece of land in Van Riebeeck Street.
Her property stretched all the way from Decameron to the Jan Marais park (14 Morgen, i.e. around 12 hectares).
The land remained in the Faure family for 5 generations, Annie Hofmeyr explains.
Local complaints and a petition
Historical records show that in 1966 there was a motion to broaden Van Riebeeck Street as a result of traffic flow problems. But the residents flooded the local newspaper’s letter column with protests. Later a petition with 1200 signatures was submitted to the Municipality and the plan was eventually abandoned.
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.
Sources : Annie Hofmeyr (1990) Van Riebeeckstraat, Stellenbosch (Noordekant).
Stellenbosch Drie eeue 1979
Article by Helena Liebenberg “Jan en Maria van Riebeeck, 6 April 1652”