Dutch first European settlers in the Cape

Jan van Riebeeck was the first Commander of the Cape, sent to the Cape from Holland by the Dutch East India Company to start a refreshment station for Dutch ships travelling between Holland and the East.  He arrived with 82 men and 8 women on three ships, the Drommedaris, Goede Hoope and Reijger, on 6 and 7 April 1652. His wife Maria de la Queillerie and son accompanied him. They became the first European residents in the Cape.

Van Riebeeck’s task was to build a fort, and to plant cereals, fruit and vegetables, and barter with the indigenous Khoi tribe for meat supplies for the Dutch ships passing the Cape. He developed and later expanded the Company’s Garden to include grapes, creating the wine industry in the Cape in 1659, red wine in particular believed to combat scurvy.

The initial Fort de Goede Hoop was a makeshift 4-bastion building to protect the Dutch settlement, and was replaced in 1679 with the 5-bastion Castle of Good Hope, completed two years after the building which houses Labotessa was built.

Jan van Riebeeck was in charge of the Cape for ten years. He and his wife are honoured with statues on Adderley Street, that of Jan van Riebeeck donated by Cecil John Rhodes and unveiled in 1899, while the statue of his wife Maria was inaugurated in 1969. The statues are located on the spot where the sea used to end and where the Van Riebeeck family first set foot on Cape land, before land was reclaimed to the north of the city in the 1940’s, and the harbour was later built.

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