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The formation of Worcester

The historic town of Worcester was established mainly due to the work of one man – Lord Charles Somerset. The magistrate of Tulbagh, J.H. Fischer and his counterpart from Graaff-Reinet, decided to suggest to Lord Charles Somerset that a new municipality is formed between their two respective towns. The suggestion was accepted and a new municipality was created on the farm Hooivlakte.

Lord Charles Somerset named the new town after his older brother Henry Charles Somerset, the duke of Beaufort. Even with the new municipality, Fischer came to the conclusion that the Tulbagh district was still too big. He wanted to create sub-municipalities under the Tulbagh district and with the consent of Lord Charles Somerset, he got his way. He had two beautiful farms in mind – one belonging to Barend Johannes Burgers and the other belonging to brothers Christoffel A.S. Du Toit and Jacobus Francois Du Toit.

Langerug and Roodewal farms were occupied on loan from the government on agreement that residents would pay for houses and alterations required for duration of their stay. This arrangement ended when the government repossessed the farms on 19 December 1819. Immediate after, Lord Charles Somerset took the journey to inspect the land and travelled over the newly built Franschoek pass. After spending a night with Jacobus Du Toit on his farm Tweefontein, he inspected the land boundaries of the farms and soon surveyors Hertzog and Van Tulleken were instructed to start planning a new town.

How the name Worcester originated

The general assumption is that Lord Charles Somerset named this new town after his older brother, Henry Charles Somerset, the duke of Beaufort. Evidence suggests, however, that Worcester was in fact named after his brother’s oldest son, who at the time was the Marquis of Worcester. The name was first published in the Government Gazette dated 20 November 1819 where a notice was placed detailing plots for sale in Worcester.

On 24 June 1819, Tulbagh magistrate J.H. Fischer visited the farm Roodewaal. At that time, Jacobus Francois Du Toit was still resident on the farm (known as Kleinplasie today) when Fischer ordered former teacher Jan F. Beseler to collect as many young oak trees as possible by 15 July 1819. Beseler did so, and on 2 August 1819, 48 oak trees were planted in Worcester, marking planes and street corners still existing today.

The selling of plots was postponed to due to civil war on the eastern border but on 28 February 1820 Fischer hoisted the Union Jack to signal the opening of sales.

Few people attended which resulted in the four Meiring brothers buying the majority of the plots. Development was slow. By the time traveller Thompson arrived in Worcester in July 1823, there were no more than ten houses erected in the town.

Worcester becomes a district

On the 6 November 1819 Lord Charles Somerset appointed a vice-magistrate, J.F. van de Graaff. Within a year of his appointment, Van de Graaff was dissatisfied that Worcester was subordinate to Tulbagh’s magistrate. Van de Graaf wrote a letter to Fischer expressing his views which included his grievance that residents of Worcester still had to go to Tulbagh concerning all marital and judicial matters. Van de Graaff’s letter to Fischer had little to no impact.

18 – 25 July 1822, saw the Boland region battered by severe rain storms which caused significant damages to Tulbagh town. Charles Trappes suggested a move to Worcester and although his suggestion was generally ill-received, Lord Charles Somerset seized this opportunity and announced on 8 November 1822 that Worcester would be known as a district and that Tulbagh would now be a subdivision thereof.

Article researched and written by Chris Nel

More info on the town of Worcester More info on the Breede Valley area

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