History of Hawksmoor

According to the original document on display at Hawksmoor House, the land was deeded in 1692 by Simon van der Stel, one of the first governors at the Cape who established a new settlement outside the Cape (Cape Town) calling it Stellenbosch after himself.  However, research into the archives shows a recorded date of 28 June 1701 signed by Willem Adriaan van der Stel. The farm Waarburg, named after Wartburg Castle, Eisenach in Germany, where Martin Luther was brought to be isolated, belonged first to Reverend Hercules van Loon. He was related to the Here XVIII (directors of the VOC) and as such was given his posting and farms as a result of nepotism, although he was not really suited to it at all. He was allegedly so unhappy that he rather spectacularly committed suicide in front of his servants by slitting his throat with a pen knife on horseback, whilst returning to Stellenbosch from his farms Waarburg and Hercules Pilaar across the road, which he also owned. This seems to have happened near the present Kromme Rhee road.

After his death the land was bequeathed to his widow and there followed various owners (25 in total) over a period of 310 years. In 1812 the farm belonged briefly to possibly its most notable owner, Pieter Retief, the well- respected leader of the Voortrekkers, who was later murdered by the Zulu leader Dingaan.

The name Matjeskuil (the Afrikaans version now being Matjieskuil) first appeared in 1826 and ten years later the farm was also called The Hope. Of the various speculative farmers who used it for cattle and cereal crops (as we do today), some were very successful, and some not.  Tobacco farming at its peak was amazingly profitable, creating huge wealth, which is another reason for the bitter feud that rages still.

In more recent times the farm belonged to Philippus Albertus Briers (jr) who upon his death in 1965 created a huge dilemma for his heirs (5 daughters) when he divided the farm into five areas, however not indicating these divisions in any way. Finally in 1971 the transfer of one fifth each of the 477 ha property went to Johanna Beatrix van der Bijl, Beatrix Maria Loftus, Phyllis Anne Danks, Hester Anna Maria Briers and Helene Emilie Raymonde Louw. Cornelius Johannes Louw, spouse of Helene Briers inherited one fifth as one of the daughters, Hester Anna Maria had already died at the time of transfer as well as the one fifth owned by his wife at her death in 1981. After his death in 1992 the two fifths were bequeathed to his son Philippus Albertus Briers Louw (named after his grandfather). PAB Louw gradually also obtained the other divisions of the farm (never previously legally divided or surveyed) and left the farm in testamentary trust to his son Cornelius Johannes (Neil) before he stood to inherit it.

In 2003 the original 477 ha was again divided into two parts of approximately 240 and 237 ha each.

The division indicated as “remainder” containing the manor house and outbuildings (237 ha) was sold to Mark Borrie in 2004. The section still belonging to Neil Louw is the only part of Matjieskuil that contains a small part of the original grant of 1704.

In summary the Briers family had possession of the farm for the longest period, namely 123 years from 1881 – 2004.

The present owners, Mark Borrie and Simon Olding, named the farm Hawksmoor House on Matjieskuil Farm. Simon was intent on keeping the Dutch name whereas Mark Borrie preferred a name that was pronounceable by European visitors. Having lived near Christchurch near Spitalfields (Saint Alfège, the most famous church by 17th century architect Nicholas Hawksmoor is a few miles away), Simon registered the name for his antiques business and when he and Mark could not agree on a name for the guest house they compromised and also used the name Hawksmoor.

Nicholas Hawksmoor had also assisted Sir Christopher Wren with the design of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Hawksmoor on Matjieskuil wines are therefore named after characters and relevant names of his life, eg Edward Goudge, Algernon Stitch and Saint Alfège.

The first building on the farm to be renovated by the present owners was the manor house which now houses 5 bedrooms, offering guests a rare opportunity to stay in a 17 century home. Thereafter followed the renovations to the ‘slawehuisie’ (slave cottages), the sheds and finally the dairy, now providing a total of 16 guest rooms. All buildings were erected on original footprints of the existing farm buildings or outhouses.

Over the centuries the property saw varied types of produce ranging from tobacco to sheep to wine. The still fully operational farm is now producing oats, hay, luzerne, and more recently butternut squash and green beans. It is also home to approximately 90 head of red Angus cattle. There are 28 ha under grape with some vines being 29 years old. The grapes grown at Matjieskuil are used exclusively to make a selection of prize winning wines, mainly Chenin, Pinotage, Mourvèdre, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc under the Hawksmoor at Matjieskuil label.

Note: The above information was provided by Simon Olding and also extracted from a cultural historical report compiled by Dr Matilda Burden in May 2011.

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