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Farm Owners in South Africa

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  • Hillegonda Johanna Duckitt, b3c8 (1839 - 1905)
    Hildagonda Duckitt 1839 – 1905 A South African Mrs. Beeton. Compiled by Lilla Copenhagen. According to the baptismal records in the Archives Hildagonda was baptised as Hillegonda Johanna Ducki...
  • Henry Cloete (1817 - 1888)
    Henry, Jacob and Frederick Henry (1818-1888), Jacob’s eldest son, who had already gained an intimate knowledge of the farm under his father’s stewardship, acted as farm manager from 1871 ...
  • Jacob Peter Cloete, b4c2d2e3f6 (c.1793 - 1875)
    'A concise history of Port Beaufort & White Sands (also known as Witsand) including Family Trees White Sands & Port Beaufort' by John McGregor e3 Hendrik ≈ 30.7.1758, eienaar v. Groote Schuur ...
  • Anna Catharina Scheller (1760 - 1834)

South African Farms and their history

Groot Constantia

The main object will also be to have the profiles of the owners of the farms on Geni.

  • Read abou the history of Groot Constantia here:

A short start: The History of Groot Constantia Wine Estate. Commander Simon van der Stel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) arrived at the Cape supply station in 1679. Estranged from his wife he arrived in the company of his children and sister-in-law, Cornelia Six. Back in the Netherlands van der Stel had gained a solid background in viticulture at his vineyards in Muiderbergh. There he learnt the art of wine and brandy making which he was soon to implement here in the Cape.

Commissioner Rijckloff van Goens, a former governor of Ceylon and Council Member of India, visited the Cape while recuperating from an illness. He recommended to the Chamber of Seventeen, the governing body of the VOC, that land should be granted to Simon Van der Stel. After a visit by High Commissioner Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein, Van der Stel received title to 891 morgen (about 763 hectares) on 13th July 1685. The land stretched southwards to the neighbouring free burgher farms of Steenberg and Zwaanswyk and to the north it reached as far as the wooded area named The Hell.

Van der Stel named his farm Constantia. It is thought that Van der Stel named the farm after Van Goens's daughter in recognition of his help and support in obtaining the farm land. Another theory is that the farm was named after the VOC ship "Constantia" which, with the "Alphen" was anchored in Table Bay.

The original Manor house appears to have been designed in a late Dutch Renaissance style. The traveller Francois Valentijn (1666-1727) described it as a double-storey dwelling with two or three steps leading to a front room or voorhuis, paved with white marble and red stone. There was a big pentagon in the shape of the Castle of Good Hope tiled into the centre of the floor. On both sides of the voorhuis were grand rooms, also with white marble floors.

Origin of the name Constantia

The oldest supposition put forward by the German traveller Peter Kolbe (1675-1725) in his book Caput Bonae Spei Hodiernum (1719) and also by the traveller Francois Valentijn (1666-1727), was that is was named after Van der Stel's wife. The idea, however, does not fit in with the fact that her name was Johanna Jacoba.

The French engineer and writer Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737-1814) said the farm was named after Van der Stel's daughter. That also did not make sence as her name was Catharina.

The American naval chaplain CS Steward, who visited Constantia in 1830, had yet another improbable theory. According to him, the French Constantia grape was the first to have been planted on the farm and this grape made the farm well known. However, French varietals were not planted by Van der Stel, but by his son Frans (c. 1668-1718).

There is also a theory that the farm was named after a VOC yacht with the name Constantia which sailed between the Netherlands and Batavia. On one occasion the Constantia and two flutes, or supply ships, the Wapen van Hoorn and Alphen, anchored in Table bay. In 1716, a farm, which formed part of Constantia, was bought from Theunis van Schalkwyk (died 1717), then by Jan Brommert, who at that stage was in charge of equipping VOC ships in Table Bay. Because this farm had the name Alphen, there is conjecture that both farms may have been named after ships.

The most romantic theory came from the writer Hymen Picard, who claimed the name commemorated the daughter, named Constantia, of Pieter Sterthemius, commander of the fleet with which Van der Stel sailed in 1659 from Batavia.

According to Picard, she and Simon had fallen in love during the voyage. Constantia died in the Netherlands some time later.

Another candidate was the daughter of Van Goens, whom Van der Stel may have honoured out of gratitude for Van Geon's support of his original application for the land.

A final possibility is that the word, derived from Latin, means constancy or steadfastness, and these were attributes Van der Stel held in high esteem. Owners of Groot Constantia

Contemporary documents describe Simon van der Stel, the first owner of what is now Groot Constantia, as having been born in Mauritius. In fact, he was born at sea while his parents were on their way to Mauritius from Batavia in 1639. His father, who was in the employ of the Dutch East India Company (VOC, as contracted in Dutch), had been posted there, but was eventually transferred back to Batavia, were Simon remained until the age of 20, having by then lost both parents.

Oloff Bergh, who took possession of Constantia on 13 November 1716, was born in Göteborg, Sweden, in 1643 and joined the VOC in 1665. He spent a few years in Ceylon as a soldier and was a sergeant when he arrived at the Cape in 1676.

Carl Georg Wieser and Jacobus van der Spuij (1734 1778)

On 9 August 1734 Groot Constantia was acquired by Carl Georg Wieser. Wieser, a soldier in the service of the VOC who came from Heidelberg, Germany, arrived at the Cape in 1728. He was promoted to corporal in 1730 and two years later married Johanna Jacoba Colijn, sister of Johannes Colijn, then owner of Klein Constantia. In 1724 Johanna owned a farm at Camps Bay and evidently had some farming experience. Their only child, a boy, was born in 1732. In the following year Wieser resigned from the VOC to become a Free Burgher. Wieser bought Groot Constantia with borrowed money, some of which was provided by his brother in law Johannes Colijn. As he was then heavily in debt, he did not have the capital to develop the farm. Colijn on the other hand, was busily promoting the popularity of Constantia wine and for all practical purposes controlled both Groot and Klein Constantia. When Johanna died in 1737, however, Wieser inherited her entire estate and had enough capital to pay off all his bonds, thus freeing him from financial dependence on Colijn. In 1740 Wieser married Maria van der Poel (1694-1771), widow of Melt van der Spuij. She had eight children from her first marriage. None were born from the marriage to Wieser. Maria’s father and first husband were wealthy and she had inherited money and property from both, thus she was able to give her new husband the financial support which enabled him to develop Groot Constantia. However, it can be assumed that Colijn retained an interest in its viticulture. Not much is known about Groot Constantia’s architecture during Van der Spuij’s ownership. Saint Pierre, who visited the house in 1771, referred to a painting on the façade which depicted a large and, in his estimation ugly, woman leaning against a pillar. He interpreted the painting as a Dutch allegorical figure of chastity, but was told, presumably by Van der Spuij, that it was a portrait of Madame Constantia, daughter of a governor of the Cape. It seems that at that stage, truth and legend had already become confused, since, as we have seen, Van der Stel did not have a daughter named Constantia. Saint Pierre said further that Van der Stel had intended to enlarge the homestead with one or two more storeys, but ‘orders from Europe’ had prohibited it. This piece of information also presumably came from Van der Spuij.

Jan (or Johan) Serrurier, the son of a minister, Louis (or Lodewyk) Serrurier, and Esther de Vis, came from Hanau in the Netherlands. In 1747 he married Catharina Kretzschmar, the widow of Jan van der Swyn, who from 1738 had owned and lived on the farm Alphen, not far from Groot Constantia. Two sons were born from this marriage. In 1755, after Catherina’s death, Serrurier married Geertruyda (baptised 1736), daughter of the wealthy farmer Jacob van Reenen (died 1764), owner of Witteboomen, also near Groot Constantia. They had seven children.

Three years later Serrurier bought Alphen, consolidated the land around the homestead and farmed there for seven years. In 1765, when he became a member of the Civil Council, he sold the farm to the German Johan Frederik Kirsten (died 1784). On 15 January 1778, Serrurier became the new owner of Groot Constantia, having bought it from Van der Spuij for 53 000 guilders. The price is an indication of the neglected condition of the estate seeing that in 19 years its value had increased by only 8 000 guilders. Included in the purchase were movable property and 16 slaves. Serrurier’s ownership was brief, however. His vineyards were damaged by hail and the poor crop which resulted, added to the property’s general state of neglect, apparently contributed to his decision to sell. Thus, only 11 months after he had bought it, the farm passed into the hands of Hendrik Cloete ‑ and a new era in the fortunes of Groot Constantia began.

From 1778 to 1885 three generations of Cloetes owned Groot Constantia and five Cloete generations were responsible for its viticulture. Hendrik Cloete was born in 1725, the younger son of Jacobus Cloete (1699 1757/8) and Sibilla Pasman (1693 1778). Sibilla, who was previously married to Johannes Albertus Loubser (born 1686), was the daughter of Rudolph Pasman and Sophia van der Merwe (born 1670). In 1714 Sophia had bought the farm Nooitgedacht near Stellenbosch and given it to Sibilla. Her marriage to Jacobus in 1722 brought Nooitgedacht into the Cloete family, whose property it remained until 1836. Sophia Pasman, Sibilla’s daughter from her first marriage, was the wife of Petrus Michiel Eksteen (born 1728), the owner of Bergvliet (which, as previously mentioned, once formed part of Simon van der Stel’s Constantia). In 1753 Hendrik (later known as Hendrik senior to distinguish him from his eldest son, Hendrik) married Hester Anna Lourens (1734 1794), daughter of Pieter Lourens (1703 1748), landdrost of Stellenbosch. They had eleven children. The family lived at Nooitgedacht, from which base Hendrik became one of the Cape’s largest land owners. In the Stellenbosch district he owned, apart from Nooitgedacht, Dekker’s Vallei, Vryberg, Hardenberg, Weltevreden, Vogelenzang and De Berg Sinai. He also owned the farm Zandvliet near the present Faure and a cattle farm in the Overberg, as well as holding several on quitrent.

Hendrik Cloete junior had a close association with the estate since 1778, the year that his father had bought it and had given him the job of farm manager, for which his remuneration was a share of the produce. Born at Stellenbosch on 30 July 1758, Hendrik junior spent his early years there, probably helping his father with the farming of his various properties. He married Anna Catharina Scheller (born 1 June 1769), the daughter of Sebastian Valentin Scheller (died 1780) and Gesina Franck (baptised 1729), on 9 July 1780.

The couple had seven children and also an adopted son. This was Francois Maturaillon, who was born in Brest, France. During the night of 16 17 October 1788 news reached Groot Constantia of the stranding on the Cape coast of the French frigate La Penelope. Hendrik junior hurried to the scene and swam into the sea to save several of the shipwrecked people. One of them was the seven year old Francois, whom the Cloetes took into their home and legally adopted. Francois was still living with them in 1800.

When Anna became the new owner of the farm its size was about 624 ha. Its size was diminished in February 1823, when her son Johan Gerhard bought part of the estate measuring nearly 376 ha - property that then adopted the earlier name of De Hoop op Constantia and became known as Klein Constantia. Living with Anna after Johan Gerhard’s move to his new home, were her other son, Jacob Pieter (born 26 January 1794) and his wife, Catharina Cornelia (1793-1837), the daughter of Jacob van Reenen and Maria Catharina Persoon of Stellenbosch. In 1820 a distantly related couple also lived on the farm, possibly in the Jonkershuis complex. They were Dirk Gysbert Eksteen and his wife, Johanna Catherina Cloete, daughter of another Hendrik Cloete who was a cousin of Hendrik junior, and his wife Catharina Sophia van der Byl. During this period there were 84 000 vines on the farm from which an average of 16 890 litres of wine was produced annually. Production of brandy averaged 563 litres a year.

Officially Groot Constantia

On 3 December 1824 Jacob Pieter bought Groot Constantia from his mother. The price set for the farm and its movable property was 500 363 guilders, part of which he raised with loans from his mother and other sources. At that time the enlarged estate extended over nearly 550 ha with another 105 ha on lease. It is from that date that the farm became known officially as Groot Constantia to distinguish it from Johan Gerhard Cloete’s property, Klein Constantia. Thereafter, various travellers mentioned the two white pillars (still in existence) at the entrance to the farm with the name Groot Constantia written on them. Descriptions dating from this period also refer to the long whitewashed wall to the left of the drive in front of the homestead from where a fine view could be obtained, as is still the case, of the vineyards, surrounded by trees, with False Bay and Hangklip in the distance. The homestead was well kept and also painted white. Lady Jane Franklin (born 1791) described it in 1836 as ‘a respectable looking old mansion in the Dutch style’. She and the Dutch agriculturist and cattle breeder Martin Douwe Teenstra, who had visited Groot Constantia 11 years earlier, both gave their impressions of the interior. Both saw the stalactite described by Latrobe in 1815 in the south western corner of the entrance hall. The room to the right (now the drawing room) had 10 big mirrors hanging opposite each other. Lady Jane and the missionary James Backhouse, who went there in 1838, also saw a stuffed reclining leopard on a carpet in this room. There is no description of the dining hall dating from this period, but later accounts put it at about 33 m in length and having partition doors which divided it in half. These were probably the folding doors ordered by Jacob from Edward Durham & Co. in Cape Town, on 26 March 1830. Documents relating to building work suggest that a Victorian fireplace seen in this hall between the two doors leading into the bedroom could have been installed at this time. The alterations presumably resulted in the old dining hall functioning as a dining room on the kitchen side, and sitting room with fireplace on the bedroom side. During cold spells the fireplace was probably used to warm the whole hall.

Henry, Jacob and Frederick

Henry (1818-1888), Jacob’s eldest son, who had already gained an intimate knowledge of the farm under his father’s stewardship, acted as farm manager from 1871 to 1875. His wife was Maria Catharina Duckitt, daughter of Frederick Duckitt and Hillegonda Johanna Versfeld.

After his mother died in 1867, he and his wife and seven children moved from the Jonkershuis into the homestead. Two years later their eighth child, Constance (or Con) was born. Henry’s eldest sons, Frederick (Freddie) and Jacob (Jappa) had joined the Kimberley diamond rush in 1867 but returned to Constantia in 1873, apparently without having had much success. Jappa and his friend, Percy Fitzpatrick, author of the well-known book Jock of the Bushveld, also prospected for gold in the Lydenberg area - again without much success. The two brothers probably lived in the Jonkershuis and helped their father with the farming.

It is evident that the Cloetes must have been plagued by phylloxera over a long period. In 1875 Henry, in desperation, travelled to France to study methods of treating this dreaded vine disease. While there, he sent disease resistant vine stocks and many varieties of pear trees to Groot Constantia. He remained overseas presumably not merely studying phylloxera for 10 years, while his son Freddie acted as farm manager and son Jappa took charge of the estate’s office in Adderley Street, Cape Town.

Grand old Place

Hildagonda Duckitt (1839/40-1905)

, Henry’s sister in law, who wrote about Groot Constantia round this time, regarded the homestead as a grand old place with an air of old world nobility about it. She said the house was entered by a hall not as large as in some other Cape houses. The floor was of polished, tesselated Batavian stones and the ceiling of dark, polished wood. The stalactite acquired by Hendrik senior was still there, standing in a corner.

On the right of the entrance hall was a big drawing room, about 16 m to 19 m long and beautifully proportioned. It was prettily furnished and a basket of cut flowers hung from the centre of the ceiling. Long mirrors in old style frames hung against the wall of the drawing room, reflecting the trees, sunshine and blue skies seen through the front windows. Rare Chinese and Delft porcelain was displayed in this room and fragile plates were displayed on stands. Underneath the homestead were cellars, in some of which choice bottled wines, potatoes and other commodities were stored. The family’s servants, emancipated slaves and their descendants, lived in the front cellars, which had windows.

  • Government (1885 - 1993)
  • Groot Constantia Trust (1993 till present)

Epilogue: Groot Constantia Manor House and Wine Museum In 1885 Groot Constantia was sold to the Cape Government which used it as an experimental wine farm.

In 1925 the house was seriously damaged by fire. It was decided to restore the house and the work was done under supervision of the architect FK Kendall. The art collector Alfred Aaron de Pass (1860-1952) visited the farm in 1926. From 1927 until his death, De Pass bought and donated historic furniture, paintings, brass, copper and metal objects and textiles to be used in the house. These donations still form the nucleus of the exhibitions in the house and are known as the De Pass Collection.

During this period the house and the collection were under control of the Public Works Department and a Board of Trustees. In 1969 this task became the responsibility of the South African Cultural History Museum. Since then all the exhibitions have been adapted and expanded. The agricultural interests on the farm became the reponsibility of the Department of Agricultural Technical Services. In 1976 the newly established Groot Constantia Control Board took over these functions. In 1993 the Groot Constantia Trust, which at present controls the farm in its entirety, was established.

The project by Revel Fox & Partners to restore the architectural nucleus of the farm which includes the manor house has been referred to earlier. It started in 1993 and was completed in 1994.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Books, magazines and newspapers