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Stellenbosch ( ) is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa, situated about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Cape Townmarker, along the banks of the Eerste Rivier. Its the second oldest European settlement in the province, after Cape Townmarker. The town became known as the City of Oaks or Eikestad in Afrikaans and Dutch due to the large number of oak trees that were planted by its founder, Simon van der Stel, to grace the streets and homesteads.

The town is home to the University of Stellenboschmarker. The Technopark is a modern corporate and research complex situated on the southern side of the town near the Stellenbosch Golf Course.

A panorama of Stellenbosch, as seen from Papegaaiberg


A typical Cape Dutch style house in Stellenbosch
The town was founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, who named it after himself — Stellenbosch means "(van der) Stel's forest". It is situated on the banks of the Eerste River ("First River"), so named as it was the first new river he reached and followed when Jan van Riebeeck sent him from Cape Townmarker on an expedition over the Cape Flats to explore the territory towards what is now known as Stellenbosch. The town grew so quickly that it became an independent local authority in 1682 and the seat of a magistrate with jurisdiction over 25,000 square kilometers (9,700 sq mi) in 1685.

The Dutch were skilled in hydraulic engineering and they devised a system of furrows to direct water from the Eerste River in the vicinity of Thibault Street through the town along van Riebeeck Street to Mill Street where a mill was erected. Early visitors commented on the oak trees and gardens.

Soon after the first settlers arrived, especially the French Huguenots, grapes were planted in the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch and soon it became the centre of the South African wine industry. The first school had been opened in 1683 but education in the town began in earnest in 1859 with the opening of a seminary for the Dutch Reformed Church. Rhenish Girls' High School, established in 1860, is the oldest school for girls in South Africa. A gymnasium which was known as het Stellenbossche Gymnasium was established in 1866. In 1874 some higher classes became Victoria College and then in 1918 University of Stellenboschmarker. The first men's hostel to be established in Stellenbosch was Wilgenhof, in 1903. In 1909 an old boy of the school, Paul Roos, captain of the first national rugby team to be called the Springboks, was invited to become the sixth rector of the school. He remained rector till 1940. On his retirement the school's name was changed to Paul Roos Gymnasium.

In the early days of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) Stellenbosch was one of the British military bases, and was used as a 'remount' camp; and in consequence of officers who had not distinguished themselves at the front being sent back to it, the expression 'to be Stellenbosched' came into use; so much so, that in similar cases officers were spoken of as 'Stellenbosched' even if they were sent to some other place.


Stellenbosch has a population of around 117,713 as of the year 2001, not counting students. This estimate is based on formally housed residents. As such it is almost certainly understated, as the Stellenbosch region also includes a number of informal settlements. The population of Stellenbosch is primarily Afrikaans speaking, with large English and Xhosa speaking minorities. The black population mostly speaks Xhosa as their home language, with whites speaking Afrikaans or English, the coloured (mixed-race and khoisan decent) is primarily Afrikaans speaking and are in the majority.

In 1833 the population for the Stellenbosch District was 16,137. This comprised 8,555 slaves, 6,066 'Whites', 1,220 'Hottentots', and 296 'Free Blacks'.

Climate and geography

Stellenbosch is located just 55km to the east of Cape Townmarker. Stellenbosch is in a hilly region of the Cape Winelands and is sheltered in a valley at an elevation of approximately 100m, flanked on the west by Papegaaiberg ( ), actually a hill. The south and east are high mountains, with Stellenbosch Mountain to the south, and Simonsberg (Afrikaans:Simon's Mountain), Jonkershoek Mountains and Great Drakenstein Mountainsmarker to the east and south-east. The Tweeling Pieke (1,494m) ( ) is a signature peak of the Stellenbosch region, the highest being Victoria Peak (1,590m).

The soils are dark alluvial to clay soils and combined with the well-drained, hilly terrain and Mediterranean climate prove ideal for viticulture. Summers are dry and warm to hot, with some February and March days rising to over 30°C. Winters are cool, rainy and sometimes quite windy, with daytime temperatures averaging 16°C. Snow is usually seen a couple times in winter on the surrounding mountains. Spring and autumn are shoulder seasons and daytime temperatures hover in the 20°C's.


Rugby is arguably the most popular sport with the local Maties Rugby Club being one of the oldest and biggest clubs in the world. Soccer is also popular and Stellenbosch hopes to act as base for an international team during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Stellenbosch has two world class Astro hockey fields where local teams train and which have hosted international matches. Stellenbosch hosted the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier, which the South African team won. Other popular sports include tennis, swimming, athletics and waterpolo. The Maties sports clubs of Stellenbosch University are among the best in the country and the town also boasts some of the best sports schools in South Africa, like Paul Roos Gymnasium. It is also the warm weather training venue of choice for the prestigious Loughborough Universitymarker distance running squad led by coach George Gandy.

Viticulture and winemaking

Vineyards on the outskirts of Stellenbosch
The Stellenbosch, Paarlmarker and Franschhoekmarker valleys form the Cape Winelands, the larger of the two main wine growing regions in South Africa. The South African wine industry produces about 1,000,000,000 litres of wine annually. Stellenbosch is the primary location for viticulture and viticulture research. Professor Perold was the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. The Stellenbosch wine route, established in 1971 by Frans Malan from Simonsig, Spatz Sperling from Delheim and Neil Joubert from Spier is a world renowned and popular tourist destination.

The region has a mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Stellenbosch lies at the foot of the Cape Fold mountain range, which provides soil favourable to viticulture. Grapes grown in this area are mainly used for wine production, as opposed to table grapes. The region possesses a wide range of soils in the area, from light, sandy soils to decomposed granite. Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is beginning to get a good reputation as a fine wine.

Stellenbosch University

View over the "Red Square" of Stellenbosch University with the peak,"The Twins" beyond

Stellenbosch Universitymarker is one of South Africa's leading universities. This institution has a rich history dating back to 1863 and has 10 faculties, including Engineering, Commerce, Science and Arts.

The University currently has about 25,000 students. Although the official language of the university is Afrikaans, most post-graduate courses are presented in English.

List of suburbs

  • Arbeidslus
  • Brandwag
  • Cloetesville
  • Dalsig
  • De Zalze
  • Dennesig
  • Die Boord, previously Rhodes Fruit Farms
  • Die Rant
  • Idas Valley
  • Jamestown
  • Karindal
  • Krigeville
  • Kayamandimarker
  • Kylemoremarker
  • Welbedaght
  • La Colline
  • Mostertsdrift
  • Onderpapegaaiberg, previously known as Voëltjiesdorp
  • Paradyskloof
  • Plankenberg
  • Rozendal
  • Simonswyk
  • Techno Park
  • Tennantville
  • Town central
  • Uniepark
  • Universiteitsoord
  • Welgevonden

History of selected suburbs


Although parts of Kayamandimarker may currently appear to be an informal settlement it was originally a small suburb reserved for the exclusive use of Xhosas.

Famous people


  1. A Universal Pronouncing Gazetteer. Thomas Baldwin, 1852. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co.
  2. A Grammar of Afrikaans. Bruce C. Donaldson. 1993. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. [ISBN 3110134268]
  3. The Cyclopædia; or, Univeal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature. Abraham Rees, 1819. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown
  4. Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire in the West Indies, South America, North America, Asia, Austral-Asia, Africa and Europe: From the Official Records of the Colonial Office. Robert Montgomery Martin, 1839. London: W.H. Allen and Co. (p. 496)
  5. State of the Cape of Good Hope, in 1822. William Wilberforce Bird. 1823. London: J. Murray.
  6. The Life and Labours of George Washington Walker: of Hobart Town, Tasmania. James Backhouse and Charles Tylor, 1862. Tasmania: Thomas Brady (pp. 498-499)
  7. History of Southern Africa: Comprising the Cape of Good Hope, Seychelles, &c. Robert Montgomery Martin, 1836. London: Whittaker & Co.
  8. The-Wine-Library Short Description of wine in Stellenbosch

External links

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