The first Title Deed of the property is dated March, 1692. The Cellar was built in 1804 and the Homestead in 1812 by Deborah Retief, sister of the Voortrekker leader, Piet Retief. The property was declared a National Monument in 1975.
The Town of Stellenbosch was founded by Governor Simon van der Stel. On 12 October 1679, two days before his 40th birthday, Commander Simon van der Stel arrived in the Cape to take over the command on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. No attempt had been made to settle colonists further afield than the Cape Peninsula. The annual food production was too small to feed the existing community. Simon planned to render the Colony self-sufficient. On 3 November 1679 he set out with a small team to scout out the surrounding areas. The records say:
“Besides the herewith mentioned region of Hottentots Holland, his Excellency also went to view a certain region which is situated about 3 – 4 hours from it. It consists of a level valley with several thousand morgen of beautiful pasturage, also very suitable for agriculture. Through the valley flows a very impressive fresh-water river with banks fringed by beautiful tall trees and these trees are very suitable both for timber and fuel, In the river a small island was discovered around which the water streams and which is densely overgrown with beautiful high trees. There the honourable Commander took his night’s rest and as no-one in authority has ever been there before, he called it Stellenbosch”
Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa and the founding of Stellenbosch was a sign that the Cape would no longer remain only a half-way station between East and West, but that here a new community would arise which would make this country its own. It was of course only a small step, but having once been taken, there was no turning back.
Simon van der Stel was far sighted in that he decreed that all Title Deeds included a clause which called upon the owners to preserve the timber on their farms and that the owner would be forbidden “to cut timber along the river except on his own land, with the express command to plant young oaks and other trees in place of the timber that had been cut”.
The first Title Deed was registered to Hans Henske in 1692. All title deeds had to be registered in Amsterdam. And it took years for registration to be effected. Weltevreden is the third farm outside of the Town and is likely to have been settled at the time of the founding of the small settlement of Stellenbosch.
In 1713, the property was transferred to Caspar Hendrik Batenhorst. He had five sons and it seems likely that the whole approximate 25 000 of the Badenhorst family can trace their Founding Father to this man! Many years ago a family reunion of the Badenhorst Clan was held on Weltevreden and family members came from the USA and other parts of South Africa.
Deborah Retief and her husband, Christoffel Esterhuysen purchased the property in 1812 from Sybrand Vermeulen. Their initials are moulded into the back gable plasterwork. Deborah was the sister of the famous Voortrekker Leader, Piet Retief. The Cellar gable is dated 1804 and rumour has it that this building was built by Piet Retief, although it was more likely to have been built by Vermeulen. The Waenhuis (or wagon house) is much earlier and presumed to date from 1750 and could well have been an earlier house. Legend has it that the Groot Trek was already contemplated by 1812 and that the wagon wheels reflected on the gables was a public demonstration that the Vootrekkers (the local name for the settlers who later moved) were contemplating a move into the main land undiscovered at the time.
Piet Retief’s father, Jocubus Retief, had a slave who was a first rate builder and he was hired out to neighbours or relatives. It is highly likely that this slave built Weltevreden. Slavery was abolished in 1834.
In 1817 the original house was demolished and a new Cape house was built adjacent to the old one. The Cellar gable of Weltevreden was copied to become the end gables of the new house. The “H” shaped Cape Dutch house, with six elaborate gables is dated 1812. The unusual end gables are in the Cape Flemish style with a crown motif at the top.
The basic fabric of the house was intact, but by the end of the 1980’s the house had become quite dilapidated and the restoration project took 9 years to complete.
The period 1812 – 1815 was the height of the Neo-Classical era and the Cape enjoyed renewed prosperity. Six important Cape Dutch houses were built during this time in the greater Stellenbosch area, namely, Boschendal, Weltevreden, Zevenwacht, Neethlingshof, Old Nectar and Navarre. Of these two remain private homes.
In 1908 the property was acquired by Lourens Johannes Smith whose family owned the farm until 1989. Mrs Laurie Joubert was born on Weltevreden in 1910 – one of 16 children. The property was later purchased by the Peel family and in 2012 the Bezuidenhout family acquired the property.
In 1975 the buildings were proclaimed a National Monument and in 1998 the whole property was proclaimed a National Monument.