Van Riebeeck’s Hedge, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town.

Van Riebeek's Hedge Image source

These trees are a remnant of the hedge planted in 1660 by Jan van Riebeeck as a Boundary to the newly established Settlement at the Cape. Jan van Riebeeck, an employee of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), Arrived at the Cape in 1652, to set up a Refreshment Station for passing ships.

By 1659 growing problems with their Khoikhoi neighbours forced the Dutch administration at the Cape to undertake a number of defensive measures. Under Governor van Riebeeck, it determined to define a boundary to the Settlement by ploughing up a strip of land 3.6m wide and "to plant and sow bitter almonds and all kinds of quick-growing thorn bushes in the form of a land barrier so thickly that no cattle or sheep will be able to be driven through it", thus inventing the concept of a "gated community". Part of this hedge survives in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, while another portions remain on the Bishopscourt Estate.  The Settlement lay in the path of traditional Khoikhoi grazing Routes and open Conflict between them broke out during 1659-60.

Jan van Riebeeck decided to create a defensive barrier along the Eastern Boundary of the Settlement that would also prevent the Khoikhoi from raiding their livestock. In 1659 they started Building a wooden fence, with watch towers, from the mouth of the Salt River, through Rondebosch to Kirstenbosch, using the deeper parts of the Liesbeeck River as part of the Barrier. To finish the Barrier quickly, a hedge of Indigenous Wild Almond Trees (Brabejum stellatifolium) and thorny shrubs was planted along the section between the River and Kirstenbosch. Van Riebeeck left the Cape in 1662 when he was promoted to the Council of Justice in Batavia. The former was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 17 April 1936, while the remains of the latter, in Klaassen Road, Bishopscourt, were proclaimed on 11 April 1945.
Google map: 

Last updated : 25-Jan-2019

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

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.



Donate.