Malmesbury, Western Cape

Founded: 1896

Named after the Earl of Malmesbury by Sir Lowry Cole


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MALMESBURY, C.P. Town. Principal town of the magisterial district and division of Malmesbury, 79 km by rail and 66 km by national road north of Cape Town. ... rainfall 450 mm. Population (1970) : White [sic] 3 477; Coloured [sic] 5 663 ; Asiatic [sic] 58; Bantu [sic] 268.

The first mention of the name Het Zwartland (The Black Country) appeared in a report for the year 1702. The origin of this name is not obvious. It has been suggested that it is a reference to the peculiar colour of the soil in this region but, as the soil is reddish brown, not black, this is unlikely. A more plausible explanation is that the profusion of renoster­bush , which covered most of the veld in the early days and can still be seen in patches today, turns blackish at times. At the instigation of Baron G. W. van Imhoff , who touched at the Cape in 1743, Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel and the Council of Policy decided to establish a N.G. Kerk congregation in the Swartland. The church was built on the farm of the widow of Pieter van der Westhuizen, and for this the Council of Policy gave her 2 500 Cape guilders (approx. R350) and, in exchange, the farm Kerze-Vonteijne in the neighbourhood of Perdeberg. The first church council of the new congregation was elected on 20 April 1745 and the congregation was officially established on 27 June 1745. Until 1829 the church farm or town was known as Swartlandskerk . In 1828 it was announced that the Government intended establishing a town in the Swartland and that the first erven would be offered for sale in November of that year in the neighbourhood of the existing church building. The first erven were sold by auction on 20 Nov. 1829 and the town was officially proclaimed on 21 May 1829. The Governor, Sir Lowry Cole (1829-34), named the new town Malmesbury in honour of Sir James Harris , first Earl of Malmesbury, whose daughter Frances he had married in 1815. A board of commissioners for the town was formed in 1860, and this was followed by municipality in 1896. Water is obtained from a reservoir with a capacity of 236 111 litres and electricity is supplied by Escom.

The Bokomo flour mill at Malmesbury is one of the largest in South Africa and the Westelike Graan­Boere-Kooperasie, which has an annual turnover of about R7m, is the largest distributor of wheat in the country. The curative hot springs, used in 1805 by Dr. Hassner for the treatment of rheumatism and other ailments, used to provide the town's swimming-bath with water. Local newspaper: Die Swartlander; weekly; bilingual.

District. Area 4 468 km2. The Swartland produces about a sixth of the country's wheat. According to the agricultural census of 1962/3, 82 000 short tons of wheat were produced. In addition, there is mixed farming and the district is renowned for its vineyards, dairy farming, sheep, mules, pigs, poultry and water­melons. While Malmesbury is essentially a wheat­growing area, it is also one of the more important livestock-farming areas in South Africa. In 1962/3 there were 447 733 sheep and 41 516 cattle, and the production of 14 869 bales of wool in the 1966/7 season was exceeded by only six other districts. The pioneer work of C. C. P. Wagener in connection with the use of lupins brought about an agricultural revolution in the Swartland and paved the way for the effective rotation of crops. A small monument has been erected to his memory at the head-office of Westelike Graan in the centre of Malmesbury. The bust on its pedestal stands about 12 metres high. The Swartland is likely to benefit from the proposed Berg River project. (SESA, 1972:156-157) .

Malmesbury Accent. Pronunciation of Afrikaans ascribed to inhabitants of the Malmesbury district, of which the main feature is the guttural 'r' (gebreide [Afr.] 'r '). It is found in other parts of South Africa today, and is used not only by Whites [sic.] but by many Coloured [sic] people. General J. C. Smuts, who came from the area, always spoke with a Malmesbury accent. (Rosenthal, 1961:314).

List of references:

Fransen, Hans. 2004. The old buildings of the Cape. A survey of extant architecture from before c1910 in the area of Cape Town - Calvinia - Colesberg - Uitenhage. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers. pp 321-324
Fransen, Hans. 2006. Old towns and villages of the Cape. A survey of the origin and development of towns, villages and hamlets at the Cape of Good Hope. With particular reference to their physical planning and historical landscape. Johannesburg & Cape Town: Jonathan Ball. pp 97-101
Maeder, GA & Zinn, C. 1917. Ons kerk album van Hollandsche kerken en leeraren. Capetown: Cape Times. pp 38
Putzel, Ralph F . 1987. Encyclopaedia of South African post offices and postal agencies, The : (including their forerunners in the Cape, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal, Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland, etc.). Volume 2 (F-M). Cape Town: Putzel. pp 317
Richardson, Deirdré. 2001. Historic Sites of South Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers. pp 117-118

List of structures:

African Mutual Trust Buildings Head Office: 1900.
Board of Executors and Trust Co Building: n.d..
Boeren Koop Molen Maatschappy Beperkt, mill: 1928.
Camphill Village West Coast Chapel: c1964. Klein Dassenberg,
Camphill Village West Coast Hall: c1964. Klein Dassenberg,
Christelike Jeug Zaal - CJZ - Christian Youth Hall: 1908.
Farmhouse - Klein Amoskuil: early 1960s.
Hoërskool Swartland High School : 1912.
House AJ Stigling: 1924.
House Baron von Elgg: 1875.
Laerskool Swartland Primary School: 1940s.
Loedolff House: c1830.
Masonic Hall - St Jan Lodge: 1866 : 1907.
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk: 1860 : 1899.
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk: n.d.. Malmesbury Noord,
Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk Tower: 1877.
NGK Saal: n.d..
Old Mutual: n.d..
Post Office: 1930.
Railway Station: n.d..
Rust Station Primary School: 1933.
Standard Bank: 1925.
Standard Bank: 1905.
Synagogue: 1911.
Town Hall: 1885.
Town Hall: 1951.
Voortrekker Memorial: 1938.
Westelike Provinsie Kooperatief Bpk: n.d..