History of Muizenberg, Cape Town

early history

As early as the 1600's (but probably also before) Khoi people used the region as a pastoral home.  In 1670 The Dutch East India Company established the area as a cattle farm (because of its rich fertile soil).  From 1743, the area became one of the first military outposts under the command of Sergeant Wynand Muys and was originally named Muysenburg (Muys's stronghold).  

battle of Muizenberg

The sea voyage from Britain to India (a vital colony at the time) was a very long one, with vessels needing to stop on the way for effecting repairs, dropping off sick seament, picking up supplies & water.  In order for her vessels to more comfortably reach India, the British needed access to the Cape.  As the Dutch had the same requirements as the British (in order to reach their colonies in the Far East), they had established a refreshment station in Cape Town, in 1652.  

When revolution spread to Holland (& in 1795 the ruler of Holland, Prince William of Orange, fled to Britain), the citizens supported France, which was an enemy of Britain at the time.  Lord Baring, the Chairman of the British East India realised that they needed to take action to ensure that the Cape was not closed off to them (which would cut them off from India); and persuaded the British Government to send a military force to the Cape.

In 1793 the burghers were ordered to send in all Hottentots and Bastards in their service who were familiar with the use of fire-arms. By August 1793 the new regiment consisted of approximately 135 Pandour soldiers (mostly former farmhands or inhabitants of the Mooravian Missionary Institution at Baviaanskloof - Genadendal).  The term Pandour comes from the name of a savage host, gathered under command of Baron Trenck in Croatia in 1741 - notorious for their ferocity. In the Netherlands the term was sometimes used as a nickname for infantry and in 1793 was officially used at the Cape for the second Hottentot regiment (the Pandour Corps).

In June 1795 a British fleet of nine warships, under command of Admiral G.K. Ehphinstone, arrived in Simon's Bay; and were unsuccesful in setting up an agreement with the Dutch to protect the Cape from their enemies.  

The Commissioner, A.J. Sluysken, ordered inhabitants and troops to withdraw from Simon's Bay and entrenched about 300 soldiers at the Muizenberg and Steenberg Posts.  The Pandours and some burgher volunteers were used as picquets (temporary positions) on the mountains between Simon's Bay and Muizenberg.

In July 1795 the British landed forces at Simon's Bayl, meeting no resistance.  There was a minor skirmish between British soldiers and twelve Pandours near Simon's Bay during the night of 11th July. Five Pandours were taken prisoner of war by the British, with a sixth Pandour being sent back to the Dutch forces 'on secret service'.

On the 7th August 1795,  the British began marching towards Cape Town, moving through Fish Hoek & Kalk Bay.  Four warships of the Royal Navy sailed alongside the column of men.  HMS America fired one cannon into the vicinity, at Kalk Bay, where the Dutch had set up a cannon, resulting in the Dutch retreating to their Fort in Muysenburg (where they had 800 soldiers waiting for the British).  The Dutch had a few cannons pointing down the road, but were lightly armed.  

The four warships anchored alongside the Dutch at Muysenburg and began firing broadsides.  The Dutch had no effective reply this and within an hour they had retreated around the corner to Zandvlei.  Fighting went on for several weeks, with the english slowly driving the Dutch to Wynberg Hill, where a stalemate was reached.  

In September 1795 a much larger British force arrived (about 6000).  On the 15th September 1795 a truce was signed with the Dutch surrendered the Cape.  Muysenburg became an English stronghold and the name was anglicized to become Muizenberg.

Het Posthuys

There is some debate as to whether Het Posthuys or the Castle is the earliest European building in the Cape; however it is generally thought that Het Posthuys was built in 1673 (a year before the Castle was completed).  Its uses have ranged from being a pub to being a lookout post.  During the Battle of Muizenberg (in 1795) it came under fire from British forces. These days Het Posthuys houses a restaurant, Il Postino.

Het Posthuys

Het Posthuys was auctioned (by Claremart) at the Mount Nelson Hotel on the 28th June 2006.

Rhodes Cottage

Cecil John Rhodes made Muizenberg his home.  When Rhodes died on the 26th March 1902, his coffin was placed on a train from Muizenberg Station (it left from there to its final resting place in Zimbabe/Rhodesia in the Matopas mountains).  The personal memorabilia of Cecil John Rhodes (who was at the forefront of the British Empire's scramble for Africa) is housed in Rhodes Cottage.

holiday resort

For the following 150 years, wealthy gold and diamond magnates used Muizenberg as a  holiday resort, with the town boasting stunning seaside home & 7 big hotels.  Unfortunately the hotels are now gone, but there are numerous buildings of great architectural value reflecting both Edwardian and Victorian styles (the grand mansions along the beach promenade bear witness to the former wealth of the area).


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