Dutch East Indian Company

History of the VOC






AM van Rensburg

Navigational time to the East and the knowledge of preserving foods were not yet compatible. The ships ran out of fresh fruit and vegetables. The smoking and salting of meats even though it helped with the preservation, yet it was not ideal. The sickness and fatalities on the ships made it imperative for the VOC to establish a supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables halfway to the East. The VOC thus established at the Cape a garden which could supply this need. Thus the two key pivotal motives why the Cape became a base for the VOC was a hospital facility and the establishment of a garden.

The Council of XVII decided on 25 March 1651 to establish a refreshment station at the Cape: "alsoo bij resolutie van de vergaderinged der seventiene representerende de gemelte generale Oost Indische Compagnie, goet gevonden is, dat (ommme voor te komen dat de gaende ende komende Oost Indische scheepen NA ende van Batavia respective sonder ongeluck de voornoemde caep ofte baij aen doen mitsgaders aldaer komende gelegenheijt mogen vinden omme haer van groente, vleijs, water en andere nootwendigheden aldaer te ververschen ende door middel van dien de siecken op de scheepen sijnde tot haer gesontheijt te brengen nodigh sij) de strant van de gemelte caep begrepen werden."

As early as 29 April 1652 Hendrik Boom was instructed to make a garden, by 19 June five or six men was helping him with the sowing of plants. However in July most of the seed was washed away.

The garden was surrounded by a ditch eight feet wide and they planted thorn trees beside the ditch to keep out animals and thieves. Hendrik Boom was the chief gardener. By 20 January 1654 van Riebeeck writes to Batavia that the garden is full with cabbage and other vegetables, watermelons, cucumbers etc. On August 1654 the garden was 5 morgen big, the next month they were already harvesting seed from turnips, carrots, beetroot, cauliflower, radish and broccoli. In May 1655 they requested that apple and orange trees be brought from St. Helena to the Cape. They also requested grape vines to be brought over from Mauritius. In a letter 15 July 1656 van Riebeeck mentioned to the XVII that had cherry, plum, peach, quince and pear trees in the garden. In 1656 they also planted sweet potato from Brazil.

The Company also traded sheep and cattle from the Khoikhoi, so that they could have herds and flocks which would not only provide them with food but also the passing ships.

Cattle and sheep were obtained from the local Khoikhoi in order to supply the ships. Up and until 1700 the company obtained 116,000 cattle and 37,000 sheep from the Khoikhoi according to van Mil p 82.

The garden was a great success, and assisted the VOC with food and nourishment, in order to maintain the trade between Europe and Asia. Today the garden is still in Cape Town but now it is not used for a food supply but as a place where people can have a refreshment in nature.

AJ Böeseken: Jan van Riebeeck en sy Gesin
C Searle: The History of the Development of Nursing in South Africa 1652 - 1960: A Socio-Historical Survey. Struik 1965
P van Mil De VOC in de Kaart gekeken 1602 - 1799


compiled by AM van Rensburg

van Staden tekening 1710 Kerk met toring.

van Staden tekening 1710, kerk met toring is meer regs.

Tekening van die Kerk.

Foto van Kerktoring wat die enigste oorblyfsel vandag van die vroe?kerk is.

At first there was no church building at the Cape and ministers either to or from Batavia performed services in the hall of the fort (1665). In the new castle, services were held in the hall of the Governor. Later a wooden building near the Buuren bastion was used. This hall was full of graves by 1677.

A new site was chosen on the 9 April 1678 and the foundation stones were laid. From this time they started to use the cemetery around the proposed new church site. All those who were buried at the fort were reburied at the new site in a common grave. The church was not built for a long time and by the time building proceeded the foundations were to small and they started from scratch. "The Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk), Adderley Street, begun in 1699, is the oldest and largest D.R. church in South Africa. It was only completed in 1704. The minister Peter Kalden put an inscription above the door facing the hospital:

Aegrotis solamen ego, fessisque levemane
Fandsque salutiferos suppoditans fluvious
Si moio laete hos rivos afflictus adibit
Non tantum incolumis sed satiatus erit

It was demolished in 1836 and then largely rebuilt. Little of the first structure remains. Its fine carved pulpit is the work of Anton Anreith. The tower contains a chiming clock installed in 1727, however this clock never showed the time until 1771. Beneath the floor lie the remains of Simon van der Stel and other notabilities. "

C. Pama, 'Vintage Cape Town (Tafelberg, 1973)
'South African Heritage. From Van Riebeeck to Nineteenth-Century Times' (Human & Rosseau, 1965)
PW Laidler A Tavern of the Ocean