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Josephine Mill - Now Museum
Newlands, Cape Town, Western Cape

Date:1840 : 1975-1987 restoration
Status:Adaptive re-use


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33°58"16.93" S 18°27'59.18" E Alt: 29m

"The Josephine Mill in Newlands was built in 1840 by Jacob Letterstedt, a Swede who arrived in South Africa in 1820 as a 25-year-old penniless immigrant. Letterstedt fled Sweden because he had incurred huge debts in his distilling business. In the Cape, he became manager of the farm, Louwvliet for the widowed Maria Dreyer and in 1822, despite the fact that she was 18 years his senior, they married. Letterstedt was an industrious fellow and the 30 000 vines and watermill of their Mariendahl estate on the Liesbeek River soon prospered.

"Letterstedt became wealthy and paid off his debts in Sweden, where he was granted an audience with Crown Princess Josephine. In gratitude for this mark of royal favour, he named his new four-storey brick watermill after her.

"The mill was innovative in several ways. It had iron-framed industrial windows and a huge iron breastshot millwheel, all imported from Europe. The mill was so successful that it wasn't long before Letterstedt added a brewery to his growing industrial empire. To provide power to the mill and the brewery, Letterstedt built a network of waterways from the Newlands spring. In due course, Letterstedt was appointed Consul for Sweden and Norway and from 1840, he was a councillor for the Cape Town municipality and later, a member of the Cape Parliament. He was a founder member of the Cape of Good Hope Gas Light Company and of Equitable Life."

(Staples 2006:46)

The English wording on the National Monuments Council plaque reads as follows:

This watermill, situated on the site of an earlier mill built by Johan Frederick Dreyer in 1818, was erected in 1840 by Jacob Letterstedt, a Swedish immigrant and 1820 Settler. It was named after Crown Princess Josephine, later Queen of Sweden. The taller extension was erected sometime between 1863 and 1881 to house the steam mill. Anders Ohlsson & Co. leased the property from 1888 to 1896, when Ohlsson's Cape Breweries purchased it. Mrs Kate van der Byl, owner of the adjoining mill house, bought the mill in 1931. Her niece and heiress, Miss Myra East, donated it in 1975 to the Historical Society of Cape Town who restored it between 1975 and 1987.

Proclaimed 1980. Now a Provincial Heritage Site

The building has housed various restaurants and pubs over the years.

See also:
SA Venues
Cape Town Green Map

Links submitted by Adri Alborough via Annelise Lange.

Writings about this entry

Staples, Chester O. 2006. Mills of Southern Africa : water, wind and horse. Pretoria: Umdaus. pg 19 ill, 46-47, 47 ill, 192, 201
Walton, James. 1974. Water-mills windmills and horse-mills of South Africa. Cape Town and Johannesburg: C Struik Publishers. pg 70, 83, 88, figs 53, 74b, 90f
Walton, James . 1978. The Josephine mill and its owners : the story of milling and brewing at the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town; Johannesburg: Historical Society of Cape Town; Witwatersrand University Press. pg All