Groot Constantia History
Groot Constantia’s revered history tells us how a man’s love of wine established the first wine farm in South Africa. By going back 330 years, we come to understand how 891 morgen of land created the origins of the South African wine industry, and how every owner thereafter contributed to what we know as Groot Constantia today.
Commander Simon van der Stel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC)
Arrived at the Cape supply station in 1679. Estranged from his wife he arrived in the company of his children and sister-in-law, Cornelia Six. Back in the Netherlands Van der Stel had gained a solid background in viticulture at his vineyards in Muiderbergh. There he learnt the art of wine and brandy making which he was soon to implement here in the Cape.
Commissioner Rijckloff van Goens
A former governor of Ceylon and Council Member of India, visited the Cape while recuperating from an illness. He recommended to the Chamber of Seventeen, the governing body of the VOC, that land should be granted to Simon van der Stel. After a visit by High Commissioner Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein, Van der Stel received title to 891 morgen (about 763 hectares) on 13th July 1685. The land stretched southwards to the neighbouring free burgher farms of Steenberg and Zwaanswyk and to the north it reached as far as the wooded area named The Hell.
Van der Stel named his farm Constantia
It is thought that Van der Stel named the farm after Van Goens' daughter in recognition of his help and support in obtaining the farm land. Another theory is that the farm was named after the VOC ship "Constantia" which, with the "Alphen" was anchored in Table Bay.
The original Manor House
Appears to have been designed in a late Dutch Renaissance style. The traveller Francois Valentijn (1666-1727) described it as a double-storey dwelling with two or three steps leading to a front room or voorhuis, paved with white marble and red stone. There was a big pentagon in the shape of the Castle of Good Hope tiled into the centre of the floor. On both sides of the voorhuis were grand rooms, also with white marble floors.