• history of stellenbosch

Historic Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, founded in 1679 and nestling at the foot of majestic mountains in the heart of the famous Cape Winelands, is alive with history and culture.

The town

The town that is today Stellenbosch was named after Simon van der Stel, the Governor of the Cape Colony in the late 17th century. After setting out on an expedition to find more arable land in 1679 and camping alongside the Eerste Rivier (the ‘First River’) van der Stel named the area after himself, and in time it became known as Stellenbosch.

The first farmers settled the area around Stellenbosch in 1683, and the town itself was formally founded in 1685. Here, in the fertile ground, food and wine were produced for the Cape colony and the ships stopping at the Cape of Good Hope while on the sea route to India.

The first houses were built on the ‘Wagenweg naar de Caab’, the wagon road to Cape Town. That original wagon road is now known as Dorp Street. When you stay at 107 Dorpstraat, take a moment to walk down Dorp Street and imagine what it must have looked like with nothing but dust, wagons and a thriving community of frontier settlers. 

Today, Stellenbosch is still famous for its natural beauty, university, culture, and the world-class wines the area continues to produce.

Architecture

The wonderful architecture of Dorp Street and Stellenbosch town is of immense historical value. Originally a small agricultural hamlet of white, lime-washed walls and thatched roofs, Stellenbosch suffered a devastating fire in 1710 that destroyed most of the town.

Rising from the shes, however, the architecture you see today is representative of over 300 years of changing local styles and building techniques. Walk through the town today and you’ll see Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture.

For anyone interested in the early architecture of the town, the Stellenbosch Village Museum is a must-visit.

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is one of the best and most famous universities in South Africa today, and is a sought-after place to study for students across the country and abroad. It too has a rich and varied history.

While a local school had existed since the town’s early days, higher education in Stellenbosch began with the creation of the Theological Seminary of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1859. This was followed by Stellenbosch Gymnasium in 1866, and in 1874 the Arts Department as founded, beginning with just two professors – one of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and the other of Classical and English Literature – and 120 scholars.

Educational space continued to grow with the establishment of Victoria College in 1886 before finally the University Act of 1916 and a very large donation by a local landowner facilitated the establishment of Stellenbosch University. The university today accommodates over 30,000 students every year, including over 3,000 foreign students.

Want to discover more about Stellenbosch?

Just ask one of out knowledgeable staff when you stay with us. We’d love to show you.