Huguenot Settlement in Franschhoek

Lying in a relatively remote area, bordered on three sides by mountains, the Franschhoek valley was originally known as “Oliphantshoek”. Elephant cows found its isolation ideal for raising their calves, and were often encountered there by the early settlers.

In 1692 Heinrich Muller, a European colonist from Basel, was allotted the first farm in the area and named it Keerweder (meaning, “turn back”).

The Huguenots who settled at the Cape from April 1688 onward were allotted farms in Drakenstein, on the Cape Town side of the Berg River. They became dissatisfied with the quality of the soil however, and applied to Governor Simon van der Stel for permission to obtain better farms. He agreed to this and on 18th October, 1694 the following nine farms were allocated to them in the Oliphantshoek area:

La Dauphine to Estienne Niel; main5
Bourgogne to Pierre de Villiers;
La Bri to Jacob de Villiers;
Champagne to Abraham de Villiers;
La Motte (at present Bo La Motte) to Jean Jourdan;
Cabriere to Pierre Jourdan;
La Cotte to Jean Gardiol;
La Terra de Luc to Matthieu Amiel;
La Provence to Pierre Joubert and
La Motte to Hans Heimich Hattingh.

Most of the original farms were 60 morgen in extent, and were situated along the Franschhoek River, a tributary of the Berg River. Many were named after the places from which the Huguenots originated and were later sub-divided, thereby creating more farms.

In 1713 this area was first referred to as de france hoek (the French comer) because it was inhabited mainly by French speakers.  On a map (drawn by L S de la Rochette in 1795) the name is given as FRANS HOECK or la Petite Rochelle. In 1805 the Commissioner-General of the Batavian Republic at the Cape, J AU de Mist, named the new field-cometcy FRANSCHHOEK. The name also applied to the congregation established in 1845 as well as to the Municipality which came into being in 1881

Development of Franschhoek

Franschhoek is situated on parts of the Huguenot farms La Cotte and Cabriere. The first erven in the town were surveyed by RF Aling, and were part of the farm La Cotte which belonged to Jan Gysbert Hugo. The church grounds together with the chapel (built 1833) and the manse (built 1837) formed the nucleus of the village and the southern boundary. The wagon trail (later Victoria Street and currently known as Huguenot Road) formed the western boundary with the present De Wet Street to the north and the present Dirkie Uys Street to the east. Pait of the eastern boundary was formed by the erf on which the house La Rive stands.

A number of residents petitioned the Governor in 1859 to change the name of the village to Roubaixdorp after Mr P E de Roubaix, MP for Paarl. They argued that the name Franschhoek referred to the field-cornetcy and that the village had never been officially named. Their wish was granted and the village christened Roubaixdorp on Saturday 25th August, 1860 but it caused a division in the community and soon reverted to being called Franschhoek again.

The Huguenot Monument, which was erected in 1938 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Huguenots at the Cape, was ceremonially inaugurated on 17th April, 1948.

THE MOUNTAIN PASS 

The earliest track used by travelers when crossing the mountain was made by elephants who came to the valley to raise their calves. It was, however, very rough and practically impassable for wagons.

Governor Simon van der Stel was of the opinion that a gang of slaves could make a road, negotiable by wagons within a period of three months. It was actually 125 years later (ca 1819) that S J Cats made the attempt and completed a reasonably passable road. The land surveyor was W F Herzog and the road became known as “Cats se Pad”. The way was narrow and heavily-laden wagons found it difficult to negotiate.

Cats se Pad was in use until 1825 when Lord Charles Somerset used 150 soldiers of the Royal Africa Corps in transit to Sierra Leone, to build a new road. The biggest change occurred at Jan Joubertsgat (so called because Jan Joubert died there) where a stone bridge was built over the ford. Today this is the oldest bridge in the country still in use.

The road built by the soldiers was in use until 1933 when the present Pass was completed. This was further modified in 1960 and also tarred.

Religion

To the Huguenots their religion and religious practices were of great importance. It was because they could not freely practice their religion that thousands of them fled their country.

Chapel. For a period of 150 years there was only one congregation and church building in the Drakenstein valley. The first church was situated near the present Simondium and was used until 1717. Then a larger church was erected in Paarl and remained in use from 2nd June, 1720 until 25th/28th April, 1805 when the Strooidakkerk (Thatched Roof Church) was completed. Wellington seceded on the 19th June, 1840 followed by Franschhoek on 21st February, 1845 being the 28th congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony.

The total community of Franschhoek found it very difficult to attend church services in Paarl. There was a dire need for both a church and a school and in 1833 a chapel was built to fulfil both needs. It was a primitive building without benches or a ceiling and it is not clear to us how the original seating was organised. Men and women sat on opposite sides of the aisle with whites at the front and coloureds at the back.

After the church was built and taken into use in 1847 the chapel became a school and was used as such until August 1899 when a new school building was inaugurated. Afterwards it was used as the first library in the village until 1962 when it was demolished.

Church. The church council made application to the government on 7th June, 1845 for the acquisition of 2 acres of the outspan to be used for the building of a church. Their request for the ground was granted but not that of financial aid.

The building was to be 84 feet in length, 36 feet in width, and 17 feet in height. Collection lists were sent all over the country to assist with the fund-raising, and in 1846 the Neo-Gothic type building was erected by Joseph James Turpin. The foundation was of stone while the walls were built of kiln-bricks, and the gable is copied from the Episcopal Church in Harrington Street, Cape Town. The turrets, peak-arched windows and doors, and lobate-ornamentation was, at the time, a very popular style for church buildings. Initially it was a rectangular building without wings. It was dedicated on Sunday 18th April, 1847 by the Rev G W A van der Lingen of Paarl.

The church building soon proved too small, and on 13th September, 1875, plans to enlarge it were discussed by the council. Two wings, one on the north and one on the south side were built on in 1882 and the thatched roof was replaced with corrugated iron. The work was completed on 3rd August, 1883 and gave the church its present-day shape of a Greek cross. When it was restored in 1968, thatch once more replaced the corrugated iron roof.

On 24th November, 1972 the building, bell-tower, ring-wall and all the ground contained therein was declared a National Monument.

Education

Due to the absence of organized education, children were taught at a number of private farm schools. A German by the name of Jungl ran a shop on the farm Cabriere (re-named Sieberust, re-named K.lein-Cabriere) wherein he also gave lessons.

On the adjoining farm, also Cabriere, Mr Toerien taught the children and was later followed by Petrus de Beer, a very strict teacher who laid great emphasis on the art of singing. It was said of him that many a Psalm and Hymn was beaten into the children.

On the farm La Dauphine, James Skead who arrived from England in 1842, taught for 4 years as well as for a few years on Cabriere.

The children were taught only reading, writing and arithmetic.

In 1847 F C M Voigt was appointed as reader by the church council. As was the custom, this post combined with that of teacher as well as lead singer and the lessons were conducted inside the chapel building. As from August 1850, Voigt’s school became the district school and he a government teacher with 64 pupils.

A second school was established in 1857 at La Motte with the first teacher being F Joubert who taught the children in Dutch. While this school flourished, the other declined.

The government school closed down temporarily as from 1st October, 1871 and in 1872 a new second-class public school was established in the village. Franschhoek now possessed three schools i.e. the second-class public school, the third-class school at La Motte and the Mission School.

To Date Franschhoek has 7 Schools: