Glencairn, the early years

Glencairn, the early years

Glencairn and the Else (also referred to as Els) river valley are located on the coast of False Bay, between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town.

In 1743 the Dutch East India Company established an official station and anchorage at Simonstown. An early map, drawn in 1870, shows the course of the river which was originally known as the “Elze Rivier” (Burman 1962). Throughout the early days of the Cape settlement, Else Bay (Glencairn beach) was mainly known as the last hazard on the difficult road to Simon’s Town, and other than a few fisherman who trekked from the beach, it was little disturbed – Tredgold (1985)

In 1811 the farm Elsje’s River was granted to Christoffel Brand, its main product being vegetables. Another farm called Elsje’s Baai was operated as a tannery. There is no mention at this time of the earlier farm Hartenbosch which was located in the area now known as Da Gama. Further up the valley was the farm Brooklands, which was where the water treatment facilities are now located. – Tredgold (1985)

Welcome Farm incorporated the Welcome Glen suburb and Naval Sports Fields. At Welcome Farm there was a mill to which farmers brought their corn to be ground. The farms raised cattle and grew vegetables – Tredgold (1985)

First resident, John Brown and his family settled in Elsje’s Bay in about 1875 – Tredgold (1985)

In the 1890s Stegman built his beach house on the Glencairn Heights side of the valley – Tredgold (1985)

The Glencairn residents built a tennis court in 1922 – Tredgold (1985)

In the 1920s the tidal pool was built – Tredgold (1985)

Glen Farm bought between the wars by W G Haines – Tredgold (1985)

Glen Cottage, 36 Glen Rd was used as Rest & Recreation by the military during the Boer War

56 plots sold on 23rd November 1901

The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1903, the hotel opened in 1904.

It is not known for certain how the former name of Glencairn, Else Bay, or the name of the Else River originated. Various theories are reviewed by Clifford (2003), favourite being that Rooi Els trees (Cunonia capensis) formerly grew along the river. However, none have been encountered during this study, and attempts by the local community to re-establish these trees in the vlei and lower river areas have largely proven unsuccessful. The second refers to a ship, the Esselstein, which stopped over in Simon’s Bay in 1671. Thereafter Simon’s Bay was referred to as Esselstein Bay, and the Else River as Esselstein River.

Cobern (1984) describes how a probable error in the transcription of maps could have led to the word ‘Elsestein’, the shortened version of which is ‘Else’. He further suggests that the careless translation of ‘Else Rivere’ from Dutch to French and finally to English, ‘Else’s River’, could have led to the further error, perpetuated to this day, of referring to Elsies River and Elsies Peak. Else Bay was later renamed Glencairn by its early Scottish residents, after the Glencairn area in the North of Scotland – (Clifford 2003).

The quarry was opened in 1898 (possibly earlier) adjacent to Main Road and the railway line. The quarry was operated by the Divisional Council and possibly closed between 1914 and 1918. Thereafter Strong and Moore re-equipped the workings and were still operating the quarry when it was closed in May 1978 due to environmental concerns, and appreciation of the tourist potential of the area.

The Cape Glass Company exploited the light grey sands found along the bottom of Glencairn Valley between 1902 and 1906. The industrial remains of the factory now form part of the Simon’s Town Museum’s collection.

The Cape Glass Company bought the railway siding built for the Salt River Cement Company and a narrow gauge cocopan that extended up the valley. The limited literature available on the company suggests that they were mining sand, but Clifford (2003) suggests that they were removing limestone. No evidence of its original presence remains.

Glencairn’s quicksands no longer exist and were stabilized by a change in the river’s discharge conditions caused by the construction of the railway embankment in 1890.

Glen Farm, dating from the 1800s stood where the warden’s house now stands. The de Villiers family lived in Welcome Farm and Glencairn Cottage, the de Villiers cemetery lies behind Glencairn Cottage.

Original farms were: Glen Farm, Welcome Glen, Oaklands and Brooklands

“Welcome Cottage Farm” by Lt Cdr (Mrs) D Visser. (undated) Simonstown Museum Files

Old flour mill with fine stonework and bricks dating from Batavian times1803-1806

Welcome Glen farm Deed of Grant completed in 1811, Welcome Cottage built between 1812 and 1815. it came into the possession of the de Villiers Family in 1871, remaining in the family for over a century. Over the years they produced vegetables, flowers, bark for tanning purposes and latterly, dairy produce. The land was sold to the Navy in 1970, except for 6 morgen on which the cottages stand. They were subsequently expropriated in 1974. Welcome Cottage no. 440 has been slightly altered by the addition of an enclosed stoep and a new roof, but otherwise remains unaltered with yellow wood beams, door and flooring, 5 triangular gables surmounted by pedimental caps.

Brown’s Cottage ca. 1890 possibly 124 Glen Rd.

Stegman’s cottages built in the 1892 by a farmer from Durbanville, who built a beach house at what is now 24 Fairburn Road

Bulletin Volume XIX No.2 Snippets from Old Simon’s Town July 1996

In 1928 there was a private Native Location near the old Glass Works. It consisted of 25 dwellings and a school (pg 37 Glencairn Mission School?). The Health inspector recommended it be closed and it was cleared in 1931.

The squatter-like shack community in what is now Glencairn Heights was associated with the Strong & Moore Quarry. The community was relocated under the Group Areas Act. A Wesslyan Mission School existed there years before, followed by a mission school and church.

From: Roger Jaques’ thesis

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The Fish Hoek Story

The Fish Hoek Story

Author –Joy Cobern

Imagine living in the southern suburbs of Cape Town in the 1870s, where would you go for a day out and how would you get there? There were no cars and horses were expensive to keep unless you needed them for your business. Perhaps you knew someone with a horse and cart so, as a great treat you could go to Muizenberg beach. Then, in 1882, the railway was extended from Wynberg to Muizenberg and suddenly it became easy to have a day at the beach.

In those days Fish Hoek was a farm in the country with a beautiful but remote beach. In 1883 the railway line reached Kalk Bay but it was not until 1890 that it was extended to Simon’s Town passing along Fish Hoek beach. The owners of the farm, having seen Muizenberg become a fashionable resort after the arrival of the railway, could not have been pleased when the railway authorities wanted to purchase land for the line but they could not refuse. A station was built opposite what is now Windsor Lodge. This was just a wooden platform with no shelter from the south easter and it was not until about 1910, after many complaints from travellers that a small waiting room was built at each end of the platform.

At that time the owner of the Fish Hoek Farm was Hester de Villiers who lived in the farmhouse, on the site of the present Homestead Naval Mess, with her husband Izaak de Villiers. She had bought the farm in 1883. She was then fifty one years old, a teacher who, with her sister, had run a small school in Cape Town. For an unmarried lady of her age to buy property was very unusual, but she came to Fish Hoek and ran the farm on her own. At the age of sixty nine she married Jacob Izaak de Villiers who had a farm at Noordhoek. He left one of his sons to run his farm and came to run the Fish Hoek Farm with her.

Previous owners of the farm had mainly wanted it for the fishing rights, but Hester de Kock, as she was then, cultivated fields of wheat and vegetables and it was probably Hester who built the barn, now Mountain View cottages, this is the oldest building in Fish Hoek. As the farm expanded more water was needed so in 1902 she bought the water rights to the Kleintuin spring at Clovelly and pipes were laid to bring the water to Fish Hoek to irrigate the fields and supply the farmhouse.

The first official grant of land at Fish Hoek was made in 1818, by Lord Charles Somerset. One of the stipulations in that grant was that the beach should remain open to the public but as it was not easy to access the number of visitors was small. However, the building of the railway line changed that. It was now easy for the citizens of Cape Town to get on the train to Simon’s Town, get off at the Fish Hoek station, and walk, and perhaps picnic, on the beach. Izaak de Villiers kept a strict eye on them, any rowdy behaviour or leaving of litter and they would be immediately reprimanded. Talking to visitors it soon became obvious that many of them would like to be able to stay in the area. So Hester de Villiers started letting rooms in the farmhouse and, when this became popular converted the barn and the coach house to rooms. Uitkyk, the building on the site of the old whaling station, was converted to a holiday cottage and camping was allowed next to the barn. So it was that Hester de Villiers became our first Fish Hoek tourist entrepreneur.

Having no children of her own it seems that Hester had come to regard the eight children of Izaak’s first marriage as her own. In her will she left the farm to her husband but asked that on his death the land should be sold and the proceeds divided equally between all her step children but the farmhouse was left to her two step daughters. She left a sum of £150 “to be placed in the savings bank at Cape Town and used for the maintenance of the family cemetery”. She died in 1914 and Izaak in 1916. They are both, with other members of the family, buried in the family cemetery which is now beside the Dutch Reformed church in Fish Hoek, whose members look after it.

This post is sponsored by Chas Everitt Cape Town South