Focus on Wellington, Western Cape, South Africa

The charming little town of Wellington is situated 65km north-west of Cape Town along the main line to Kimberley and Johannesburg. It is one of the most culture-rich towns in the Western Province with many historical sites.

Wellington, at the end of the 17th century, was known as "Wagenmakersvallei" or "Val du Charon" - valley of the wagonmakers. It was the last white civilised outpost before the unknown interior. Here wagons were given a final "check" before pioneers ventured into inhospitable land.

Today, 90% of Wellington farming is concentrated on vines. The area also produced 80% of the country's vine cuttings (stokkies) for new planting and replanting.

Wellington has 3 co-operative wine cellars - Bovlei, the oldest, is still operating since 1908. When the grapes were destroyed by phylloxera (a plant louse) in 1883 - 1885, farmers started planting fruit trees. The South African Dried Fruit Board (co-operative) was started in 1908 by a group of prune farmers for the selling of their dried fruits.

At the impressive headquarters in Wellington, the packing, distributing, marketing and developing of new products takes place.

A very important figure in the history of Wellington is Dr. Andrew Murray, Dutch Reformed Minister in the 1870's. He realised that education for girls in the Cape was nonexistent. He, together with a Miss Furguson and Bliss established the Huguenot Seminary for girls in 1874.

Wellingtonners generally have a lively interest in the arts. Amateur theatre, music productions and art exhibitions are held regularly.
Until recently, Wellington had the only piano factory in the Southern Hemisphere. Quite astonishing, as the founder, Mr Dietman, a German immigrant, was a mere piano tuner.
Another successful enterprise established by a foreigner in the last century is the Western Tanning Company. Mr J.H.Coaten, a Yorkshireman, began the leather Tannery in 1871 and still today it employs 700 people.

The culture-rich history of Wellington survives in the townsfolk. Mr Francois Malan, first curator of the museums's roots go back eight generations to his Huguenot forebear, Jacques Malan. Miss Ella Malan, interviewed in 1988, at the age of 96, witnessed the birth of the Afrikaans Language. She recalls her uncle, the first Dutch Reformed Minister, Rev S.J.du Toit translating the Bible from Dutch to Afrikaans. The Malans, Hofmeyrs, Jouberts and Retiefs have stayed in Wellington in an unbroken line.

If you would like to drink in a little history or a glass of Wellington wine, take the N1 from Cape Town and follow the signs. Head straight for the Information Bureau when you get there.

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