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The village of Wynberg was laid out some 13km south of Cape Town, on the estate of Klein Oude Wynberg, part of the farm Oude Wynberg whose establishment dated back to the early days of Dutch settlement. Its name was derived from the vineyard laid out in 1658 by Governor Van Riebeeck on the farm Bosheuvel, since renamed Bishop's Court, located on the slopes of Wynberg Hill. In 1809 the Colonial government acquired the land from Andrew Tennant for the purpose of erecting a military camp. By 1826 this consisted only of a military hospital, a set of tumbledown huts serving as barracks, and a ruined store.

In 1831 parts of the military camp were laid out into residential plots and sold to the general public, while one stand each was granted to the Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Church respectively. The sales gave impetus to the growth of the village and before long prosperous Capetonians were using it as a location for their country villas. Wynberg also became a popular holiday resort for British officials on leave and by 1840 over 100 visitors from India were living both in Wynberg and in neighbouring Kenilworth. At that time its streets were lined with rustic cottages interspersed with handsome houses.

By the 1850s this influx of Indian visitors had dried up and the village had entered a period of decay.

This down-turn in its fortunes did not last for very long. The village was commonly held to have one of the healthiest climes in the Cape, and its hills were particularly esteemed for their bracing atmosphere as well as the extensive views they offered, even as far as False Bay. Consequently, in 1861 the colonial authorities chose it as the site for a military sanatorium. The Cape Town suburban railway line from Salt River was extended to Wynberg on 19 December 1864, thus giving the suburb added impetus for further residential development. The line was built and operated by the Wynberg Railway Co, and was leased to the Cape Government on 1 January 1873.

On 1 January 1876 the transfer was made permanent. By the 1880s Wynberg could boast of several good schools, a number of churches, and chapels of various denominations.

In 1886 the local economy received a further boost with the development of a military camp on a site adjacent to the village. Wynberg Camp, as it became known, attracted to the neighbourhood a variety of small retailers seeking the custom of the military. They, in their turn, provided an infrastructure, which made Wynberg all the more attractive to prospective residents.

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Last updated : 27-Apr-2018

This article was produced for South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011