In some ways, time has stood still on Sunnydale Farm. The homestead stands steadily on the lands – despite the years – and two lightning strikes. A natural spring still burbles from underground, as pure as it was in 1743.
The house, which is a sterling example of Cape Dutch architecture, was declared a national monument in 1987.
As one of the oldest farms in the area, it is of great interest to the community, and none more so than the Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association.
Present owner Trish Wood graciously opened her home to a visit from the society, and the False Bay Echo joined the tour. Among the members was a member of the Louw family, one time owners of a sub-divided area of the original farm, who added the colour of his own childhood antics, gamboling through the wilder woods of those times.
Originally named Poespaskraal – which means hotchpotch place – this was one of four land grants made simultaneously in 1743 by Governor General of the Netherlands East Indies, Governor Van Imhoff.
Historians and generations old families in the valley know the story – but some do not.
The farm Poespaskraal was granted to Carel Georg Wieser, at the time also the owner of Groot Constantia, while De Noordhoek, Slangenkop (Imhoff’s Gift) and De Goede Gift were granted to Christina Diemer, the widow of Frederik Russouw of Zwaanswyk (Steenberg). She also owned Swaaneweide, now named Constantia Uitsig.
Between them they were then the largest land owners, south of Constantia.
The land granted to Carel Georg Wieser was 30 morgen, but later, under the ownership of Pierre Rocher, Poespaskraal expanded until it was a massive tract of land which extended over the Roodeberg mountain and down to the salt pan (now The Lakes).
Ms Wood described to attentive members of the society how according to the Wildschut Boeke (which was where grants for hunting were recorded) that Wieser was granted permission to build a hunting lodge on Poespaskraal.
The homestead was simple T-shaped, thatched dwelling, built with clay and local sandstone rocks and painted with lime wash.
“In Wieser’s days, the area would have been very different with abundant wildlife, pristine fynbos and forest in all the south facing kloofs of the Roodeberg,” Ms Wood said.
“One would imagine that Strandlopers crossed the area on their way to Peers Cave and the coast. Hunting parties were held at the Old Homestead and Vaal Rhebuck were hunted in abundance. Hunters made the journey on horseback or in wagons on a dust track from Constantia over the mountain to our valley – The original Ou Kaapse Weg,” she said.
She pointed out a hook where game was hung beside the fireplace in the old kitchen, and said that it was her grandfather who changed the cobble flooring in the kitchen to wood, as it was difficult for her grandmother to walk over.
Mr Wieser died in 1759 and the farm changed hands repeatedly.
It was first bought and developed by Johannes Bruins on June 8, 1759. Subsequent owners were Johannes Bruyens (1759), Petrus Joubert (1786), Mr. Heinkes (1810), IN Jone (1817) and Pierre Roscher (1833). It was in 1864 that the property came into the hands of Trish’s family when it was bought by George Francis de Stadler.
The De Stadler family were farmers and supplied the surrounding areas with dairy, poultry and vegetable products.
The De Stadler family have owned the farm through six generations and in the 1920s, re-named it Sunnydale Farm. The surrounding area is still called Sunnydale.
In more recent times, 1926, the farm was divided into five portions. Many of these were subdivided further, which resulted in small holdings and plots.
One lot-holder was Buller Louw who had a dairy herd, an abattoir and a road-side shop. Nicknamed Louw’s Corner, this famous shopping landmark was located at a point just short of the turn off to Noordhoek and Chapman’s Peak on the M64. Mr Louw sold to developers and the complex was demolished to make way for Sun Valley Mall in the 1980s – and later Longbeach Mall.
“The Old Homestead played an important role in the valley. It had Christmas parties for all the local children, and it doubled as a church – one Sunday for Anglican worshippers the next for the Dutch Reformed congregation. It also had an open door policy where all locals could come for advice, a remedy or simply a cup of sugar,” Ms Wood said.
She said it hosted many a lonely sailor during the war and was the social hub as dances, plays and musical evenings were held there regularly.
“It remained this way, until from the late 1960s onwards when various portions of ground were sold to developers. From this original land then, the areas of Milkwood Park, De Oude Weg, Masiphumelele, Longbeach and Sun Valley commercial areas, Lochiel Small Holdings, Faerie Knowe, Capri, Lekkerwater Road industrial area, Sunnydale residential area and Solole Game Reserve sprung up.
Mentioning these was a reminder of the bustle of life beyond the tranquil quiet of the homestead.
The original hotchpotch place still has a bustling mix of people and places all around it, but its pure, historic core has been perfectly preserved.