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Bredasdorp in the Overberg – South Africa’s first dorpie

Text: Yolanda Wessels. Photos: Sharon Brink and Yolanda Wessels.  Article from “Experience Overberg” Issue 3.

The picturesque platteland town abundant with rich history, colourful fynbos, people and talented artists.

Bredasdorp South Africa's first dorpieI had the privilege to visit the southern most tip of Africa on vacation many years ago, so when my parents fell in love with the Overberg and made it our home, it left a clear memory that I can easily recall to this day. It is interesting that one of the first things I can remember is the characteristic primary school and the impressive Dutch Reformed Church. So no wonder when Michiel van Breda had the opportunity to develop this Strandveld town, he rightly was rewarded with the town being named after him. Like in the development of many other towns in South Africa, Bredasdorp originated when the Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1838 on the farm Langefontein. Michiel van Breda, the first mayor of Cape Towns Van Breda Estate, better known as Oranjezicht, had the Zoetendals Vallei farm and is also known as the father of South Africa’s merino sheep industry after introducing the animals on his farm in 1817. The Overberg may legitimately be seen as the founding region of the wool industry. Today this area is still one of the most productive providers of wool with farmers who have stud sheep. In honour of the merino sheep, a merino statue has been erected at the entrance to Overberg Agri. Michiel van Bredas’s residence was the Van Breda Estate, known as Oranjezicht. Van Breda and another leading personality, Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, could not agree where the church should be built, and two towns, Bredasdorp and Napier, were established in 1838. Bredasdorp was the first town in South Africa with the suffix dorp added to it.

1. The beautiful Dutch Reformed Church designed by architect Antonie de Wit. 2. In honour of the merino sheep, a merino statue has been erected at the entrance to Overberg Agri.

The beautiful Dutch Reformed Church and one of the last Cape churches built in Victorian-Gothic revival style, the second to stand on this site, was designed by architect Antonie de Wit. The arrangement can be described as transitional and progressive and was completed in 1912. The first church was erected in 1842 and enlarged in 1856. As in other buildings by de Wit, the church has features from other stylistic periods, such as the Renaissance panelling of the pulpit and the classical form of the louvervent over the crossing. The church served as the authority in town during the 1800’s. The church was also responsible for approving liquor licences, where cattle watering-places were arranged, arable land and fodder were let, the production of bricks was negotiated, stands were sold, irrigation turns were arranged and reservoirs and drainage systems were planned. The Oude Sloot (a cement furrow running parallel to Kloof Street) and which still runs through town, was also constructed by the church. The old Anglican Church (now All Saints Church) was constructed in 1863. Church services and weddings are still conducted here today.

The pictorial and tranquil town, situated against the slopes of the Heuningberg, have kept its platteland feeling despite fairly rapid development in the town. The establishment of Denel’s missile test range (OTB) and the SA Air Force’s Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC) in the mid eighties near Arniston, accelerated the development of the town and most essential services are available in town.

Besides sheep farming, the town boasts agricultural activities such as wheat, canola, milk and indigenous fynbos cultivation. The Heuningberg Nature Reserve provides a panoramic view of Arniston, De Hoop, Struisbaai and Soetanysberg. It comprises over 800 hectares and various fynbos species (some endangered and some indigenous to the region). The Bredasdorp lily, indigenous to the region, flowers during April and May.

There are two hiking trails in the reserve; the white and yellow routes. The white trail, which includes the amazing Lot’s Wife rock formation on Heuningberg, winds along the slopes of the Drinkwaterkloof to the watershed, after which it continues above Uitvlugkloof before meeting up with the yellow route. The yellow route contours around the northern slopes of Heuningberg to yet another rock formation, the Pulpit Rock, followed by an ascent to the plateau. Both trails offer incredible views not only across Bredasdorp but also of Arniston, De Hoop Nature Reserve and south to Struisbaai.

Places of interest to visit and stay in Bredasdorp

The first must definitely include a tour to the only Shipwreck Museum in South Africa. Inaugurated in 1975 and including records of almost every shipwreck since 1673 off the Cape Agulhas coastline, it offers an extensive collection of artefacts and furniture from ships wrecked along the South African coast. Chinaware, porcelain, bottles, coins, figureheads, cannons, buoys and ships bells salvaged from shipwrecks are some of the articles that can be seen in the museum. A corner in the museum is attributed to well- known South African author, Audrey Blignault, born here in Bredasdorp. The museum consists of three sections: the old former Independent Church which was developed into the shipwreck section, the Old Parsonage which consists of a room furnished with antiques and the Old Coach House, a section with vintage horse carriages and fire engines on display.

The buildings are beautifully restored examples of old Cape architecture. Independent Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 424 1240

In the centre of town lies the PE Roux Memorial Garden, named after the Town Clerk from 1917 to 1952. Though it may seem like just a garden, taking a walk through the garden is like being taken back in time. According to minutes of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mr. J Herold requested the church council in 1886 for permission to upgrade the land in front of the public office to be used to play lawn tennis. The first big change happened in 2002 when the original tennis court, now the PE Roux Memorial Garden, came under threat of development with plans to turn it into a parking area by the municipality. With a sketch and a business plan Zoon Jacobs collected R45 000 from local businesses to develop the garden. The original town square fountain that was demolished on the library site was the main inspiration for the design of the fountain and the rest of the garden.

Bredasdorp Square, the double storey Victorian House situated at the back of the memorial garden, was built by Hendrik Robert Du Preez around 1894. They occupied the house until his death in 1940. Over the next few years the properties were sold and converted into units that were let; The Earl of Clarendon Guest House, Jack of Diamonds Club, Blue Parrot Restaurant, Peaches Coffee Shop (later Kippen) jointly known as The Rooi Granaat building. In 2001 Juanita Jacobs bought the Kippen Coffee shop. Number 22 today houses the Tourism Information Office and number 24, the “Eat Sleep Shop”. The name Bredasdorp Square was adopted in 2004 with the jingle “Eat Sleep Shop” to acknowledge its prominent central location in the old heart of Bredasdorp. With its graceful Victorian buildings dating from the 1890’s overlooking the beautiful formal landscaped town square with the obelisk fountain, the Bredasdorp Square is a proud icon. The four double en-suite rooms are spacious, each with an olde world Victorian bath. C/o Long & Claredon Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 1420

The old goal (old jail), situated in 16 Hoop Street, dating back to 1859.

The old goal (old jail), situated in 16 Hoop Street, dating back to 1859, is another place of interest to visit. It was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 1993. The sketch plan made provision for four cells, a kitchen, a courtroom and two offices. The gaol has a courtyard containing a whipping post.

Washing in town was done at the river and the washing stone has been declared a national monument.

About 4km out of town towards Arniston, the old Bontebok fence, constructed in 1837 by Alexander van der Bijl, the erstwhile owner of Nacht Wacht, one of the oldest farms in the vicinity, can be seen.

On the farm, Rhenosterfontein, the centuries old White Milkwood tree can be seen.

The Foot of Africa marathon sets off from town annually during October and is supported by local and international athletes. It is famous for being the toughest marathon in South Africa. Be sure to visit the Foot of Africa exhibition room, housed at the Tourism Bureau. Bredasdorp is home to four schools; Bredasdorp Primary School, Bredasdorp High, De Heide Primary School and Albert Myburgh Secondary School. The first school was a private school, established by Mr. Hendrik Matthee, in the previous Nedbank building. Another private school was situated behind the Victoria Hotel. The first public school, known as the “Geelskooltjie” was constructed during 1860 until 1870, where the NG Church hall is today. Mr. Altman was the first teacher. A school building was erected where the municipality is today. The first section of the building that today still houses the primary school, was erected in 1913 by Mr. Moon and Ledbury, who also erected the NG Church. The school was inaugurated on 10 February 1914. Three improved additions were since constructed. In 1942 the primary and secondary children were schooled in separate parts of the building. In January 1957 the secondary school moved to Heuningberg and the primary school to Long street. Buitekant Street schooled only the primary children. In 1992 the school moved its main entrance to Buitekant Street.

This year the Bredasdorp Primary School, or the BD’s as the pupils are known, celebrates a century of excellence. Minister Donald Grant took part in the celebrations this year on Monday 10 February 2014, exactly 100 years since the school was first inaugurated. The festivities included a colourful and energetic carnival hosted by the school, teachers, pupils and parents – a definate highlight!

Go back in time – trace the train tracks at the Southernmost Train station in Africa. It was once a place of beauty, in fact the Stationmaster, Mr. Wilson, won several trophies for the neatest station and prettiest garden of all stations in the Union of South Africa. The Overberg branch line runs from Cape Town through Somerset West and Caledon to Bredasdorp. The railway arrived at Eerste River in 1862, a branch to Somerset West opened in 1889 and further on towards Sir Lowry’s Pass Village in 1890. The Hottentots-Holland Mountains were a significant obstacle to any further development, and construction of a line over Sir Lowry’s Pass began in 1899. The Anglo-Boer War slowed progress and in 1902 the line was opened to Caledon. Construction on an extension began in 1914, reaching Rietpoel on 5 January 1914, Klipdale on 6 April 1914, and Protem on 30 June 1915. In the mid-1920s the South African Railways embarked on a new phase of railway building, as part of which the line from Klipdale junction south to Bredasdorp was opened on 19 April 1924.

Go back in time - trace the train tracks at the Southernmost Train station in Africa

Plenty of overnight accommodation is available, ranging from historic cottages such as De Volkshuijs, which tells the story of simple dwellings where farm labourers worked and lived. The cottage named Sakkie, was built circa 1780, and was at first most probably inhabited by slaves. The cottage Saartjie was built circa 1850. Both cottages were declared National Monuments in 1978. When the families moved to another neighbourhood, the deserted cottages fell to ruins. Fortunately Mr. J de Waal bought what was left of the cottages and restored it using mostly traditional methods. In 1998 the cottages were sold to the present owners and the courtyards and new interior amenities were added in accordance with the regulations of the National Monuments Council. At De Volkshuijs, guests can now share in the history and humble living that the cottages provided over centuries. 16 Lourens St, Bredasdorp Cell 084 701 5528

Lodges include the Wheatlands Lodge, a beautifully restored home, set in a peaceful and private garden. It provides an ideal base from which to explore the town and surrounding areas. 40 Long Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 3385

Bredasdorp Country Manor, a charming guest house situated in quiet surrounds in the rural town of Bredasdorp, offering luxurious rooms with French country flair. 9 Kloof Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 2724

Firlane House is situated in a quiet, shady lane off Bredasdorp’s Town Square. This charmingly restored 1926 residence was refurbished in 2004. The house has a colonial ambience and stylish bedrooms with stucco murals reflecting the influence of the eight tribes of Southern Africa. Firlane House is a four star guest retreat for the business traveller and perfect for a rejuvenating break or a romantic getaway. Firlane, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 2808

Birkenhead Cottage is in a heritage building, previously a horse stable and barn, loving restored and converted by the owner. The cottage offers a self-catering two bedroomed rustic home. 35 Smith Street, Bredasdorp Tel 021 856 0075

Be sure to visit the various art and craft studios in town, including Kapula Candles, manufacturers of high quality hand crafted and hand painted candles and ceramics originated in 1993 as a home based industry by Ilse Appelgryn. The patterns, colours and rich textures reflecting our African heritage has given Kapula, warm art of Africa, its niche position in the design, decor and craft sector in both South Africa and countries worldwide. 13 Cereal Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 1969

Julian’s Ceramic Studio is the home of an extensive range of unique hand- painted ceramics and textiles. Visually appealing and highly functional, these products are continuously sought after by international and local tourists, retail traders and private customers. 22 All Saints Road, Bredasdorp Tel 028 425 1201

Be sure to visit Suidpunt Potpourri, a decor and gift shop in 64 Church Street, Bredasdorp Tel 082 862 5577 and Inthiba Crafts in Patterson Street, Bredasdorp Tel 028 424 2898.

At the Lifestyle Centre you can find Cinnamon Cafe & Ginger Gifts and Treats, Minco’s Kids Boutique, Bel Don Goosedown Products, Rosa Beauty Salon, Ansa’s Nursery and Flowers, Life and Health Fitness Studio and The Siding 3177 Conference, Venue & Bar Facilities and family fun putt-putt all under one roof! Email or Cell 082 300 3452

Bredasdorp 1
Restaurants

Restaurants in town include The Pink Piano, which offers a full menu of all-time favourite grills to choose from plus a variety of pasta dishes. Sit in the restaurant area or the cozy pub; any occasion dining is what Flames Grill Pub and Grill is all about, catering for all palates with generous portions, a kiddies menu and relaxed pub atmosphere; Bredasdorp Square where you can enjoy a hearty breakfast of cafe style lunch on the sunny veranda with a view of the town square and rose garden, in the dining lounge with its historic black and white images, rustic raw brick walls and French inspired crystal chandeliers, snuggling in front of the fireplace or in the secluded courtyard with the sound of gently gurgling water from the beautiful lily pond with gold fish; Julian’s Restaurant, built in two wings around a peaceful courtyard with trees and a khoi pond, with traditional and innovative cuisine will delight even the most discerning connoisseurs; then coffee shops such as Intshiba Cafe, De Groene Kat and Mozart’s and the family restaurant and favourite Wyoming Spur and the famous Wimpy.

Pink Trees Bredasdorp have come together to join hands in the fight against cancer. Pink Trees were established in 2012 when Carol-Ann van Jaarsveld, Adri van Nieuwenhuizen (a breast cancer survivor) and Dr. Pam Kerr founded Pink Trees for Pauline. We all know a “Pauline”. Pink Trees is a non-profit company striving to promote quality of life during and after cancer. Towns were challenged countrywide, and Bredasdorp took on this challenge with both hands by wrapping the town in pink during October 2013. Fabric is sold to the public and businesses and the raised funds are used to change cancer affected lives for the better. It is celebrated annually on the Friday closest to the 19th of October. Wrapped in colour, united in hope, be sure to join the 4km Pienk toontjie fun walk on 17 October 2014 and proudly wear pink!

Bredasdorp is also proud to have its own radio station, Radio Overberg. The idea of a community radio station within the borders of Cape Agulhas Municipality took form in 2010 with Piet Mare, the first manager at Radio Overberg. They began broadcasting in 2011 and today, together with their talented announcers, Radio Overberg broadcasts 24 hours per day from their Bredasdorp studio and a satellite studio in Caledon. 98.4 FM | Tel 028 424 2877 Website

Bredasdorp is just quite simply one of those very special places. After a visit or three, you are bound to keep coming back!

Look out for our next favorite town: Swellendam. If you live in Swellendam we would love to hear from you. Email

More info on the town of Bredasdorp More info on the Cape Agulhas area



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