* The Southern most battle point in the Anglo Boer War
* One of the oldest farm houses in the southern Cape
* Bullet holes still in front door of house
A hour long walk through our town gives visitors, interested in history and architecture, an experience to remember. Go to the Info office: you can get a free print-out!
It all started with a church......
Heidelberg was established after churchgoers got permission to build their own Dutch Reformed Church in Heidelberg in 1855. After negotiating with farm owner Louis Fourie, they bought the church farm Doornboom for 5000 pounds and Heidelberg was born. The town got its name from the Heidelberg catechism and after the German town of Heidelberg. On November 21 -22, 1855, the Heidelberg Congregation was formed and the town developed around the church.
The Duivenhoksriver had already been discovered in the time of Governor Simon van der Stel, during an expedition in 1689 sent under Izak Schryver to do business with a specific Inqua tribe.
In the old days, farm land was gained through grazing rights close to water and fountains which later would turn into renting and eventually inheritance rights. Old maps show farm borders of circular shape. Nearby a fountain, a farmer would plant a stake into the ground, representing the centre point of the farm. He would then ride north on horseback for half an hour to mark the northern border.. After returning back to the fountain he would stake out the remaining three directions. According to the position of the original Doornboom homestead Heidelberg was founded on one of these circular shaped farms. In 1904, the New Cape Central Railways company built a railway line, that passed through Heidelberg, providing the town with railway connections.
Heidelberg and its surroundings have a rich heritage of old buildings and many of them have been preserved. The old houses were built with raw clay bricks. The houses have high ceilings, attics for storage and to keep the houses cool. Traditionally, the windows were small for the same reason.
B7: The Route starts in Van Riebeeck Street 35a at the Old Congregational Church. The church was built by a German Family after the congregation in Suurbraak decided that Heidelberg needed its own Congregational Church. The first Independent Church further down Van Riebeeck Street is still in a good condition.
B9: Roxton House (Van Riebeeck Street 35) was built in the original Victorian style and has been beautifully restored. This house is the old rectory of the Congregational Church.
B3: The Heidelberg town hall was inaugurated in 1913. Regular meetings and movies over weekends led people to say: "Heidelberg is getting more like London every day". The Town Hall is still used for public events.
B4: The stone Post Office building dates back to 1936. The building is frequently photographed by tourists because of the similar post office in Heidelberg, Germany.
B5: The Heidelberg Hotel is a well-known landmark in Heidelberg. The date on the building is 1932, the year the hotel was restored in art deco style. Unfortunately, the original date of the building is unknown. According to town residents, the hotel is definitely more than 100 years old. The original building was built in Victorian style with wrought iron verandas. The colour has changed.....
B1: The Historic NG Church. This is the second NG Church built in Heidelberg. In 1862, probationer Daneel received call as first minister and on January 13, 1856, the first members of the consistory were installed and the first four children were baptized in the old School Church. The need for a larger building arose and the foundation stone for the new Church building was laid on March 17, 1872, the silver communion-chalices and the baptismal font being ordered from London. The second church building was consecrated on July 19, 1873.
In 1910 the Rev. and Mrs. Spies arrived to find the church building in a state of dilapidation and persuaded the church council to build a new church.
On February 13, 1913, construction work was started on the church as it still stands today, was started. On March 7, 1914, the building was consecrated without any burden of debt. The church bell is an exceptional piece of work and unfortunately not open to visitors. On the bell a verse from 1 Peter 1:25 was affixed: "But the word o the Lord remains For all eternity". Heidelberg boasts quite a number of exceptional church-buildings.
From here, turn left on Murray street and cross the rail track towards the crest of the hill. On the left hand side is the Heidelberg High School. The original building of 1912 still remains in the courtyard. Continue walking, take the first left and walk down. Enjoy the spectacular view over the golf course, Duivenhoks river and the rural surroundings. Walk down this street and turn into Fourie street, one of the oldest streets in Heidelberg. Here, one can still see prime examples of the original architecture in Heidelberg. It’s a charming neighbourhood filled with character. This is also the street where the original Farmstead of Doornboom (Fourie House) is situated.
On your right you can see Henry Hall's house. This house dates back to the 1800s. In the old German cemetery, there is a grave of a Henry Hall who died at the age of 14. We assume this was a son of the owner of the house. The Lotz house on the opposite side of the road is situated next to the original stables of the Fourie House. The feeding-troughs still remain inside the stables.
A1: On your right you can see Henry Hall's house. This house dates back to the 1800s. In the old German cemetery, there is a grave of a Henry Hall who died at the age of 14. We assume this was a son of the owner of the house.
A3: The Lotz house on the opposite side of the road is situated next to the original stables of the Fourie House. The feeding-troughs still remain inside the stables.
Further down the road on the right hand side, gained its name from the view from inside the house on the railway bridge.
According to tradition, this house was used during the war as a hideaway for woman. A farm worker and his child rode to the house when they were being shot at. The child jumped from the horse and was supposedly shot dead. His father, marked by the rifle man as a spy, rode under the barrage and delivered his parcel. Today bullet-holes are still visible in the front door, as well as a framed bullet inside the house.
A2: Opposite Brugsig, on the corner of the street, you will see the original Doornboom farmstead or 'Fourie House'. This is the oldest house in town and into the Western Cape! It predates all the Swellendam houses. The house has been extensively renovated by the Fourie Trust, as you can see on the pictures. This single story T-shaped house with its sod- and mud-patched walls, its trusses of yellow wood and poplar poles and thatched roof with flaxen yarn, still stands after 270 years. It used to be the house of Louis Fourie, founding father of Heidelberg, who fled to South Africa in 1688 with the French Huguenots. In 1716, he obtained grazing rights from Governor Van der Stel on the Doornboom and "De Duivenhoks aan de Wagendrift" farms, and in 1733 Doornboom was registered in his name. Only one other farm in the district, "onder d'Grootvadersbosch", was allocated earlier on (in 1729, to Roelof Oelofse), but that homestead was built later.
A5: Opposite the Fourie House is the Swarte's House, now known as the Blue House. This house is still in its original state.
A7: This is the house of the Farrier. The building where the horses were shod is behind it.
A8: Walking further down Fourie street you will pass the old Dutch Reformed Church rectory, now unrecognizable because of renovations. Just before the railway line on the left is a little building situated on the original terrain of the first Dutch Reformed Church building. This old building is one of the Sunday school class rooms of the old Church.
A9:After crossing the railway line on your left you will find the old Masonic Church, now converted into a private residence. This former "hotel" used to be a great embarrassment to the church fathers. Therefore, the church bought the building and converted it into a boarding house called the Yellow House. It later burned down. The cellar underneath the house was used by British Soldiers during the Boer War, given that this lot served as their barracks.
A10: The Heidelberg Tourism Bureau used to be situated in this building. It is known in town as the Boer & Brit Building. This building tells the story of the Boer War's southernmost skirmish in the centre of Heidelberg. In 1986, the incident had almost been forgotten when a Welshmen and his Afrikaans wife set up a business in town. To emphasize their difference in backgrounds, they named their store "Boer en Brit". The owner's discovery that his store had been used as an English fort during an attack in 1901 amazed everyone. At that time, Heidelberg was the temporary home of the West Yorkshire Regiment and the store was used as a warehouse. Commander Theron approached the town with a boer commando from an eastern direction and opened fire at the building from the surrounding hills. The British, under the lead of Colonel Burke and Major Mahon, assembled in the warehouse, and fired blindly at Theron and his men. The soldiers fought back and on British side three soldiers fell and another three were wounded. However, they averted the attack and left Theron with quite a few wounded men. He left the wounded behind, who would later died. Fearing a local uprising within the quiet Afrikaner community, the British tried hard to conceal news of the skirmish. They buried the fallen in the cellars of the warehouse's outbuildings. Many years later, during restorations of the building, skeletons under the floor confirmed the events. Just opposite the store, on the property of the Dutch Reformed Church, a memorial stone was erected in honor of those who died during this war.
B2: Across the road on Van Riebeeck Street is the St Barnabas Church. The Anglican congregation's first chapel was consecrated in 1860, and at the same time 16 pupils attended school inside.
B6: (no photo) Next to the church, a rectory was bought, the church itself was upgraded and in 1889 the foundations for the larger building were laid. The Church with its connections to the High Church of England, to which the British royal family belongs, has beautiful rose windows and an intimate, sacred atmosphere. Adjacent to the church is the English Church School of Reverend Blant from 1865, currently used by the Church.
Continue walking down Fourie Street. You are now entering the centre of town. The bridge over the canal is the Voortrekker bridge, built in 1938 to keep the two parts of town connected in times of heavy rains in 1938. The bridge was build by The Rapportryers and they erected a small monument next to it. Here, at the banks of the canal, an old residence was repaired and transformed into a Coffee and Gift Shop - "Aan de Kanaal"The Canal, previously known as the Doornriver, meandered through town, frequently overflowing its banks with heavy rains, which caused a lot of damage. After many floodings it was decided to dig a new course for the river and to widen it. The canal runs for 2 kilometres beneath the Duivenhoks river and is used for irrigation.
Turn left into Eksteen Street. On your left is the AGS Church, which was built 60 years ago. Walk down Eksteen street, until Rainier Street. Turn left and walk up, past the sports facilities. On your left is an open piece of land, this land was used for growing grapes by the Jew Friedman.
B14: Turn left into Van Riebeeck Street. On your right you will find the old prison, close to the Magistrate's building.
B13: The next building on your right used to be Disler's distillery and wine cellar. It is now a store room for a private residence. The "thatched roof" is actually a pitched concrete roof.
B12: The businessman lived in the next house on your left, Friedman's residence. This house is an excellent example of the Victorian Building style which was so popular in the 1920s.
B11: Further down the road on your left is the old Magistrate's building, this is now a private residence. This house has an exceptional staircase and most of its fittings are still intact. The court and offices were on the ground floor, and the residence on the top floor.
B7: On your right, next to the house with the beautiful handcrafted glass and metal door, is the Old Independent Church. Apparently, services were held by Henry Hall under an old doornboom before this church was built. The church congregation grew and a larger space was needed. The church was later renovated into a granny flat, was renovated again, and is now used as an art gallery for local artists.
B6: On your left you will find the old rectory of the Independent Church.
After this you are back in the centre town.
Enjoy the rest of your visit to Heidelberg !
Text: Louise Kluyts, corrections by Marieke Iest.