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The Cloete era

In December 1778 Hendrik Cloete, from the farm Nooitgedacht near Stellenbosch, became the new owner of Groot Constantia and gave it a new appearance.  This process took 14 years.  One of the first buildings to be erected was the Wine Cellar and the sculpture on the pediment of the wine cellar is believed to be the work of the German sculptor Anton Anreith (1754 -1822).

  • Hendrick Cloete was married to Hester Anna Lourens and they had 11 children.  Cloete purchased all the moveable property and the 16 slaves originally belonging to Van der Spuij.  He added another 16 slaves to help clear up the neglected farm.  By 1792 all the new building work had been completed and the farm was given a whole new appearance.
  • Probably the first building to be erected was the wine cellar.  It was set behind the homestead on the edge of the valley and on the central axis of the house.
  • The sculpture on the pediment of the wine cellar is believed to be the work of the German sculptor Anton Anreith (1754 – 1822). It depicts fertility and, although Rococo in design, the sculpture blends well with the neo-classicism of the building. The date 1791 on the sculpture could indicate its year of completion, but another theory is that Hendrik Cloete commissioned it to commemorate the excellent grape harvest he had in that specific year.  Whatever the reason, it is regarded as one of the most important sculptures in the country.
  • The row of outbuildings in front of the farmstead on the western side is known as the Jonkershuis complex.  This is where the "Jonkheer" or oldest son of the farm owner would have lived.  However, these buildings probably served as slave quarters and stables, and were most probably called "Jongenhuijs" meaning slave house.  They also had wolf-nose gables: the present bell gable changes were made in the early 19th century.
  • The gallery of the Jonkershuis complex was widened and the original flat roofs replaced with a pitched thatch roof.  New stone floors were also put in the house, but it is not clear what they looked like.
  • The slender gables of the Manor House were added, as well as the figure of "Abundance" in the niche of the main gable. The ornamental vases on the side gables were also added.  As with the wine cellar, Thibault and Anreith are regarded as the architect and sculptor responsible for the work on the Manor House.
  • The oval-shaped pool northwest of the farmstead, with its sculpted figure of "Triton" half man, half fish, son of Neptune was probably built at a later stage. The Inferior quality of its construction in comparison with the farms other buildings point to this. The original "Triton" was replaced with a fibreglass copy in 1985 in order to preserve the original.
  • New vines were also planted to replace the neglected ones and the VOC requested that Hendrik Cloete increase the farm's production.  By 1780 he had already planted 10 000 new vines. From 1780 Hendrik Cloete made the wine himself.  Apparently his new cellar was one of the best in the Cape.
  • He, too had to sell two-thirds of his wine to the VOC, but by 1794 he came to a better arrangement with them.  After the British occupation of the Cape in 1795, he had to deliver wine to the British command at the Cape.
  • For Hendrik Cloete, only the name of the wine monopolist had changed.
  • In 1794 Hendrik's wife died and she was buried in the family graveyard at Groot Constantia.
  • Hendrik Cloete left the farm to live at Nooitgedacht where he died, and his younger son, also Hendrik Cloete, took charge of Groot Constantia and became the eventual new owner.

Did you know?

From 1780 Hendrik Cloete made the wine himself. Apparently his new cellar was one of the best in the Cape.

 

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