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Mostert's Mill
Cape Town, Western Cape

Style:Cape Dutch


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33°57'07.62" S 18°27'58.29" E Alt: 56m

In 1657 Jan van Riebeeck granted land at "'t ronde doorn bosje", now Rondebosch, on the mountain side of the old wagon road to the forest, to more free burghers under the leadership of Steven Janz Bothma. Right at the top of one of these farms, Welgelegen, adjoining the modern De Waal Drive, stands Mostert's Mill, one of our best-known historical landmarks. In the early days of the settlement Jan van Riebeeck and his officials had to provide all necessary services - including the grinding of wheat. For this reason a so called horse-mill was built. When the free burghers were established, one of them, Wouter Cornelisz of Utrecht became "free miller and brickmaker" and was permitted to operate the Company's horse-mill under certain conditions. As there were no horses, the mill was worked by oxen, but in 1659 the Khoe-khoen tribes there stole all the oxen and the miller was assisted by the government to build a windmill.

During the following century there is mention of several mills. Amongst others, the Company erected a windmill for grinding wheat in 1717 and in 1780-1782 the Burgher Council of Cape Town erected its own mill. There were also private mills, Mostert's Mill being the best-known of them.

The farm Welgelegen on which Mostert's Mill is situated, originally belonged to Steven Botma. After that it changed hands frequently and during the regime of Willem Adriaan van der Stel it was for a time owned by one of the Governor's strongest opponents, Jacobus van der Heyden. In 1756 it became the property of Jacob van Reenen whose energetic son Dirk Gysbert inherited the farm towards the end of the century. Because of the date 1796 that appears on one of the beams, it is generally assumed that Dirk Gysbert van Reenen built this mill. His daughter married a Mostert, a great grandson of the Cape's first miller who eventually became the owner of the mill, and this is how it came to be called Mostert's Mill.

The mill is of a type known in the Netherlands as a "boven-kruier" (over-shot) wheat mill. It was restored in 1936 by the South African Government with the collaboration of the government of the Netherlands who donated the sails. The mill and the adjoining threshing-floor have been proclaimed as a monument.

It was proclaimed a National Monument in 1940, now a Provincial Heritage Site (See SAHRIS)

(Oberholster, 1972: 42-3)

The mill was further restored in 1995.

On 18 April 2021 the mill was gutted by a runaway fire which started on Table Mountain. The fire also destroyed the adjacent Cape Dutch homestead De Meule and two buildings on nearby UCT campus.

Over the past three years the mill was restored and made fully functional again by the Friends of Mostert’s Mill and a group of Dutch mills experts. The restoration cost R3 million and was privately funded (South Africa and the Netherlands). The mill reopened to the public on Saturday, 13 April 2024. See Mostert’s Mill and news24.

Writings about this entry

Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 214
Hatfield, Denis. 1967. Some South African monuments. Cape Town: Purnell. pg 37-39
Oberholster, JJ. 1972. The historical monuments of South Africa. Cape Town: Rembrandt Van Rijn Foundation for Culture at the request of the National Monuments Council. pg 42-43