The van Breda Family Web Site

Dr. Michael van Breda and Dr. Adrian D. van Breda                                                           

Pieter van Breda (1696) was born in Sas-van-Gent in Zealand, part of Flanders. He arrived in SA in 1719 on the ship “Spieringh” at the age of 23. He was the son of Dirk van Breda and Maria Canarie, and a tailor by profession. In 1721 he married 17 year old Catharina Smuts, daughter of Michiel Smuts the elder, also from Zealand. Pieter acquired the Oranjezicht (“Orange View”) estateat the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town in 1731, which was to remain in the family for almost 2 centuries. Pieter died aged 60 at Oranjezigt in 1756, and Catharina died aged 77 in 1781.

Michiel (1722) was the only son of Pieter and Catharina and married a Wilhelmina de Kock. Michiel inherited the Oranjezicht family estate  after his father’s death. They had eight children of whom the eldest was named Pieter (1750) after his grandfather. Pieter inherited the Oranjezicht family estate when his father died in 1777.  He was Captain of the Citizen Force in Cape Town and played a leading role in the Patriotten Movement against Company Officials. Pieter married Catharina Sophia Myburgh in 1774 and they had 4 children - 2 sons and 2 daughters. After she died, in 1802, Pieter almost immediately married Hilletje Smuts, the widow of Willem Versveld and the owner of nearby Nooitgedacht. She died soon afterwards, leaving him this property. Pieter also owned six other houses in Cape Town and was a partner in the farm Bakkelysplaats near Swellendam.

Pieter and Catharina's eldest son was named Michiel (1775) after his grandfather. He married three times. First in 1799 to Catharina Geesje van Reenen, then after her death to Beatrix Elizabeth Lategan in 1820, and finally in 1837 to Maria Adriana Smalberger, the widow of J.J, van Reenen. He died in 1847. He appears to have been the most distinguished member of the family being the first mayor of Cape Town among other things.

Bredasdorp was named after Michiel. He is also believed to be the father of the merino sheep industry as he was the first to introduce this valuable livestock to the area when he started farming sheep on his farm Zoetendals Vallei. Besides his valuable inputs into the farming industry of Bredasdorp, he was also a member of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the Port Trading Company and later the Chairman of the first Council of Commissionaires of the Cape. (Explorio)

I am descended from Arend Josias (1762) who was the youngest son of Michiel (1722) and Wilhelmina. My son Adrian, on the other hand, traces his ancestry through his mother back to Arend's nephew,  the more famous Michiel (1775), and his second son Dirk Gysbert van Reenen van Breda. He is,  therefore, closer to the main branch of the family than his father!

Oranjezicht

The van Breda estate of Oranjezicht, which is now an affluent residential suburb on the slopes of Table Mountain above the Molteno Reservoir, was probably so called either because it overlooked the Oranje bastion of the Castle, or due to the sight of abundant orange trees growing in Table Valley. It had an exquisite view of the of the sea in front and the majestic Table Mountain behind the homestead, and was very noticeable. The house stood near the orchards, west of Orange Street, and was surrounded by fruit trees and several oval flower gardens. Gradually enlarging their possessions was a policy the van Breda's continued to follow until the estate covered the largest part of Table Valley, 213 morgen in the 18th century.

Some vines were cultivated but the main income was derived from the sale of fruit and vegetables. The gardens were laid out in terraces, separated by avenues lined with double rows of oaks. A very large number of slaves are said to have worked on the farm. Their homes stood in long rows in the present Orange Street. The van Bredas were known for their great hospitality and many important visitors to the Colony were entertained on the estate on a lavish scale. Pieter even had his own house orchestra of 30 flute and violin players, in uniform. They performed in one of the many gardens, on a raised bandstand with white-painted stone facing and low stone walls, surrounded by a circle of trees.

The Oranjezicht house was unique in that it was a double storey, with a wood-floor balcony in front supported on 6 columns. Inside were large cool rooms with large windows, superb furnishings and a graceful staircase. It was an antique collector’s paradise. Seven steps led from the paved pathway to the stoep entrance. Behind the house, tier after tier of terraced fields with stonework fronts stretched towards the mountain. Pathways were lined with pine trees. On the east side were several water springs. In front of the house was a large circular fishpond surrounded by a cobbled courtyard. A wide oak-lined avenue of trees formed the main entrance to the homestead.

On sale days the bell sounded and a flag was hoisted, the signal for ship"s officers, burghers, and their wives and children to wend their way to the estate to wander through the spacious gardens and fill their carts with fresh fruit and vegetables. Produce was brought to a tree in the cobbled yard where it was weighed on a scale hanging from an oak tree. With exotic flowers adding colour and kilometres of shady walks alongside burbling brooks, it was a pleasurable occasion for all.

The demise of Oranjezicht started in 1877 when the estate was entailed, and the Purchase Act enabled the Municipality to buy more than 12 morgen on which to construct water reservoirs. Five years later another act released further portions of the estate and the municipality also acquired rights to impound the water from the many springs on the estate. Without water the farm became quite useless, and the owners were forced to pay urban rates and taxes too.

Members of the family continued to live there well into the 20th century, but gradually more and more land was sold until ultimately there was little left except the double-storey house in Sidmouth Ave. Its interior was a veritable museum, since the van Bredas brought lovely furniture, silverware and art treasures from Europe to their home. The house was eventually also purchased by the City Council in 1947, supposedly to be turned into a civic museum. However in Aug 1947, 287 antiques were auctioned and on I April 1955 the homestead was demolished to make way for a sports club and lawns. Now only the name of the suburb remains of the proud van Breda possessions. A community organisation Oranjezicht Cty Farm operates on a small part of the original van Breda estate.

Oudekraal

In 1836 Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of The Cape, gave Michiel (1775) a piece of land at Oudekraal on which to build his own hunting lodge. In 1929, Jack van Breda designed a handsome house, after the style of Sir Herbert Baker, with two big white frontal gables and a thatched roof. It took two years to build. This is now a hotel called The Twelve Apostles.

Napier & Bredasdorp

Napier was founded in 1838 through a dispute between two neighbours, Michiel van Breda (1775) & Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, over the location of the community church. Michiel wanted the church sited on his farm, Langefontein, while Pieter wanted it built on his property, Klipdrift. Neither man would give way, so churches were built in both places, the town of Bredasdorp, the first town in South Africa, growing around van Breda’s church and the town of Napier founded around Van der Byl’s church, and being named after Sir George Thomas Napier, the British governor of the Cape Province at that time. (Wikipedia)
 
The Van Breda family owned large tracts of land in the southern Overberg. Their historic 300-year-old farm Zoetendals Vallei near Cape Algulhas is still in the family today. In 1848, when the urgent need for a lighthouse at Cape Agulhas arose, the family generously made available a portion of the family estate for this purpose.  Southermost, the first house in the town of L'Agulhas, was built in 1929 as a family beach home by a later Michiel van Breda. Southermost is now a B&B. (Openafrica)