Before Greyton became a town
When Dutch traders arrived at the Cape in 1652 the Overberg region was home to Khoi-khoi tribes. By the early 18th century the Dutch had ventured further inland to the Overberg to barter with the Khoi-khoi for cattle and to cut timber.
Willem Adriaan Van der Stel owned a substantial amount of land in the region. He was the eldest son of Simon Van der Stel who was the first Governor of the Cape Colony. When Adriaan was recalled to the Cape as Governor in 1707 he freed a small number of Dutch from their contracts. To them (free burghers) and to government officials he granted loan farms. Free burghers could establish farms in exchange for supplying the Dutch East India Company with part of their harvest.
On the site of an old farm
This granting of land excluded the Khoi-khoi. With time they became landless and destitute. Many became servants on Dutch farms. One such farm was Weltevreden.
A wealthy Englishman, Herbert Vigne purchased the farm in the mid 19th century. He kept two parts of the property for himself and the rest he bequeathed as commonage. This commonage was established as an agricultural village in 1854. Vigne named it “Greyton” after Sir George Grey, who was the Governor of the Cape at the time.
The devastating impact of the Group Areas Act
Greyton had been the only town in the Western Cape in which land, water and grazing rights were available to all. However, families and an entire community were splintered when the apartheid government passed the Group Areas Act in 1950. Having lived together in harmony for more than a century, non-whites were forced to sell their property and leave their homes and livelihoods. Some never returned. Others are still members of the Greyton community today.
Village layout and surviving features
The village layout for the most part remains the same. Many of the original buildings and town features can still be seen today. If you do the historic village walk you will discover the:
- “Leiwater” or street furrow water system
- Town kraal and dipping tank
- Blacksmith house and forge
- Original school boarding house
- Two old churches, one of which, the small Anglican Church is now the town library
- Old thatched cottage that predates the founding of the village
- Old buildings housing the Abbey Rose Restaurant and Peccadillos Bistro
- Post House pub, which marks the site of the first post office
- Main Road and Uitkyk Street mark the original entrance to Greyton via Genadendal town - Greyton’s nearest neighbour
- Practically everywhere you walk in and around the town centre you will come across buildings and features that remain virtually intact