Wedding Welgemeend Huis

Published on September 19th, 2013 | by George Wyngaardt


Welgemeend – So Excited About Our Wedding Venue

Welgemeend started in 1693, It has a long, fruitful and interesting past. To have your event in such a prestigious surrounding will definitely add to the success of your wedding. I think this venue will really bring out the best out of our wedding , I love the vintage feel to it.


Cape Town today is a vast city, stretching about thirty kilometers either way. But for two
centuries it fitted snugly into “Table Valley”, the amphitheatre formed by Table Mountain, Lion’s
Head and Devil’s Peak. In fact, there was enough land left, “above” the small city, at the foot of
the mountain, for the establishment of a number of small farms. “Gardens”, they were called,
but they were well watered and fertile and were highly desirable properties. They have since
become engulfed by the Table Valley suburbs: Gardens, Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof. But
several of their old homesteads still survive. Perhaps the best known of them is Leeuwenhof,
still doing good service as the official residence of the Premier of the Western Cape.
Welgemeend is another of these surviving Table Valley farmsteads. It is also the only
one that is generally open for inspection by the public. For it is now in the grounds of the Jan
van Riebeeck Hoërskool and houses the Boerneef Collection of South African art, which is
discussed elsewhere in this brochure. As a property, it has been there for over three hundred
years, from the time it was granted to Andries de Man in 1693, over four “morgen” (about four
hectares) in extent. The name that it was given means “well-intentioned”. This could mean that it
turned out less of an asset than it was meant to be. But this is unlikely, for the “garden”, though
not large, had a natural spring on it (which is still there today) and was to prove an exceedingly
successful farmlet.
On his death in 1696 De Man left Welgemeend to his widow, Elsje van Suurwaarden
(after whom Elsies River was named, when she later settled at De Tygerbergen, now
Altijdgedacht near Durbanville). By that time it already had “a dwelling and a barn” on it, and
there is no reason to think that the original house does not form part of the present homestead,
though it was probably much smaller and may have had a thatch roof then. For the following
half-a-century the property passed through many different hands. When in 1719 one of these,
Engela Breda, bought it, it included, beside the homestead with its one large and two smaller
rooms, its kitchen and a cellar, and the property also included a winery, a winery, a slave house,
a wagon house and a (cattle?) kraal – which, altogether, points to a fairly substantial complex.
The longest period of ownership by one family began when in 1772 the widow of owner
Bartholomeus Bosch married Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr. For a full 172 years Welgemeend remained
the home of the Hofmeyr family, several of whom carried the names Jan Hendrik and which
included statesman “Onze Jan” (1845-1909) and cabinet minister J.H. Hofmeyr (1894-1948). It
must have been during the Hofmeyr period that the homestead of Welgemeend gradually
assumed its present appearance – but also that it was gradually reduced from a mini-farm to a
generous suburban residence. In 1944 it was acquired by the Cape Education Department to
become the Jan van Riebeeck Hoërskool, the main red-brick building of which now forms a
somewhat unfortunate backdrop to the old homestead.
Precisely which parts of the homestead date from when will be hard to establish short of
stripping the plaster off all its walls. That its fabric represents different periods is certain. What
strikes us first is its “flat” roof, while so many traditional Cape buildings have steep thatched
roofs, often with gables. It did not always look like this, and several pictorial representations –
taken from a distance and not always very accurate – seem to show that is once did have a
pitched roof, though without a gable. It also only occupied a section of the present, fairly
extensive, groundplan – precisely where has not yet been established. Immediately on entering
the house we see that it consists of two rows of rooms, the one behind the other. This is rare in
Cape homesteads, where a thatch roof could not span more than one row of rooms. But a good
look at the ceiling in the large “salon” at the back, with its magnificent, slightly sloping teak
beams, suggests that this was built as a “lean-to” to the front, which would then have been the
part that was thatched.
Let us, lastly, look at what the main façade and the main entrance to this lovely building

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George Wyngaardt

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