TOPIC: Vergelegen Revisited
SPEAKER: John Rennie
DATE: Tuesday, 19 June 2012
TIME: 19h45 for 20h00
VENUE: The Athenaeum, Boundary Terraces, Newlands – at the intersection of Mariendahl & Campground Rds.

John will take us on a tour through time of Vergelegen wine estate, using slides from his archive built up over the years of involvement with the complex.
John’s practice Rennie Scurr Adendorff, has acted as principal agent on major civic and state projects, such as the Cape Archives, SAHRA’s head office, the East London City Hall, and Vergelegen homestead in Somerset West.

Vergelegen today is a wine estate, housing a range of buildings that display different styles of gables and architecture, ranging from the C18th vernacular to the early C20th restoration architects.

As Phillida Brooke Simons says in Cape Dutch Houses, historically Vergelegen is among the most important houses at the Cape; it is also one of the most beautiful and, arguably, the best preserved.

Granted to Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700, he arbitrarily expanded this land to about ten times the size of the average burgher’s farm, shanghai’d slave labour from The Company to toil his fields, flooded the market with his produce, while neglecting his official duties and allocating choice contracts to chosen friends.
All of which caused consternation among the locals who blew the whistle on his misdeeds, which prompted the VOC to strip Willem of his rank and ‘’order Vergelegen’s broad acres to divided up, disposed of and the house demolished.’’

The estate was sold and divided into 4 separate farms: Vergelegen, Lourensford, Morgenster and Cloetenburg.
From 1706 it passed through a succession of owners until 1798, when the Theunissen family took ownership for about a century, while in 1917 Sir Lionel & Lady Florence Phillips transformed the dilapidated estate into a floral and cultural treasure trove. After their deaths it was sold to the Barlow Family in 1941 and purchased by Anglo American in 1987.


Her original training in natural sciences led to many years of biomedical research and academic editing. During her time in London in the sixties she developed an abiding interest in historical architecture which she followed up once back in Cape Town, by organising many excursions for the Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa, of which she was chairperson from 1989 until 1994.

Recruited by the NMC, she was responsible for heritage resources management in the Great and Little Karoo, Southern Cape and Overberg. She served on committees for large projects such as the Gamkaskloof Advisory Committee and the Cango Caves Scientific Advisory Committee.

When NMC was superseded by SAHRA, the emphasis shifted from preserving individual buildings to defining, retaining and enhancing the special qualities of places and cultural landscape. Throughout her career she maintained contact with conservation bodies and municipal officials in Cape Town and in country towns.

Her special interest in historical technology, engineering and industrial structures led to her involvement with Mostert’s Mill, where she chaired the Friends of Mostert’s Mill (FoMM), a daughter of VASSA, established in 1993.

She was a member of the Mills Section of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) (UK) and The International Molinological Society (TIMS) for decades.