Where does the name Merriman Street come from?
John X Merriman was a British politician who became Prime Minister of the previous Cape Colony in 1908. Here he is seen sitting on the stoep with his wife, friends, servants and dogs.
He wasn’t a life long Stellenbosch resident, but is often associated with the farm Rustenberg, where he and his wife retired. He was born in England (1941) but immigrated with his parents as a young boy. Apart from the red and white wines he made and exported on Schoongezicht (later Rustenberg), he also cultivated soft fruit and bred with horses and Jersey cattle. Rustenberg named their red BORDEAUX BLEND after him.
Image of a politician
John Xavier Merriman was a tall, slender man with a strong personality and talent for public speaking – he was 28 years old when he became a member of the Cape House of Assembly and he served long after his retirement.
The highlight of his career was when he served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony for a short while.
A liberal leader with strong views
Among his liberal contributions was that he tried to prevent the British government declaring war on SA (the second Anglo-Boer war) and spent his life trying to bring unity between the four former colonies (Cape, Transvaal, Orange Free State and Natal), and thus reconciliation between English and Afrikaans speaking people.
He was also one of the few MPs opposed to the Native Land Act of 1913. (Read on wiki for more on his various political views.)
Agnes, his Dutch wife
At 34, Merriman married the young lady Agnes Vintcent (the daughter of one of his Dutch colleagues). They were married for a lifetime but never had children.
Later they moved from Cape Town and retired on the farmstead Schoongezicht. Here Merriman completed the last 9 years of his parliamentary career. He also served on the Stellenbosch Hospital Board, Fruit Workers’ Association and University Council. He died at the age of 85.
Today, Schoongezicht is part of the farm Rustenberg, which is known for its beautiful gardens. The pergola that Merriman planted can still be seen along the house.
Sources: Deborah Sauer, Stellenbosdch Drie Eeue – Amptelike gedenkuitgawe.
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.