A quaint village from the 18th century

A 1947 picture of Durbanville Avenue supplied by the Durbanville Heritage Society.

The story of the quaint village of Durbanville dates back to the 18th century.

At the time, Durbanville was a public outspan known as Pampoenkraal, a meeting and resting place for local farmers and the last outspan for the farmers coming from the inland via Roodezand to Cape Town.

In 1852 a group of Tygerberg farmers requested permission from Lord Charles Somerset to build their own church, with a small village developing between the church and the outspan, which became known as Pampoenkraal.

The name Pampoenkraal was, however, changed to D’Urban in 1836 in honour of Sir Benjamin D’Urban. In 1886 it was renamed Durbanville to avoid confusion with Durban.

One of the first churches in the area was the Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1852. It was a simple thatched, T-shaped building. A few years later in 1856, the All Saints Church was established and completed by 1860.

The Onze Molen mill was erected in 1840 and continued to function as such until after the turn of the 20th century when its mechanism and top portion were removed and the remaining structure was converted to a horse mill. The beautifully restored mill now stands as the proud centre piece of the Onze Molen development.

Durbanville grew rapidly after the turn of the century and a local industry developed.

The King Brothers Wagon Works played a valuable role in the industrial development of the area. It was established in 1858 by Duminy and Whitcomb, at the bottom of Wellington Road. James and Gordon King arrived and worked for them for 20 years before buying them out.

Under the King brothers, it became the biggest wagon works in South Africa, producing 300 wagons a month and employing 250 people.

The area had a number of historic Dutch farms and its economy depended on agriculture and transport. The village, known at the time as D’Urban, straddled the direct wagon route to the north and was an important staging post for livestock and heavy freight.

The first title deeds of Altydgedacht was signed by Simon van der Stel in 1698 and the farm was then named Tygerberg.

The first owner of the estate was Elsje van Suurwaarde, after whose death, the farm passed through the hands of many owners.

In 1816 the Liesching family housed Napoleon’s secretary, Count de las Cases for three months on the estate, while he awaited a ship to return to Europe.

The Altydgedacht Estate has been owned by the Parker family since 1852. George Francis Parker, then aged 19, arrived at the Cape with his parents and two brothers in 1819.

Five generations have maintained and developed Altydgedacht.

Mr Parker’s great-great-grandsons, John and Oliver, now continue the unbroken family tradition.

The Durbanville Heritage Society was established in 2006 as a result of the concern of the residents that many of the area’s cultural and heritage sites had not been preserved.

The society is registered with Heritage Western Cape.

The Durbanville police station in Church Street was built in 1919 and is typical of the Cape Dutch revival architecture of its period – a single-storey, U-shaped building with wings and tall Flemish gables and arched verandahs between the wings.

Durbanville has been described as one of the fastest growing towns in South Africa with shopping centres such as Tyger Valley Shopping Centre and Willowbridge Mall, restaurants such as the Olive Bistro and Die Boer.

The area is also home to some of the most popular wine farms in South Africa, among them Meerendal Wine Estate, Bloemendal, Diemersdal and N’tida.

* Information sourced from SA History Online, Dr Andrew Kok and Bellville Library.