It is often quite surprising how few people know why the mountain range east of Paarl is called the Drakenstein Mountains, or why Paarl is situated in the Drakenstein Valley, or why our municipality is called the Drakenstein Municipality. Why Drakenstein? The most common held belief is that the word is derived from the Dutch for dragon. Not so.
The Drakenstein in question refers to a Dutch nobleman with the impressive title of Henrick Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein, Lord of Mijdrecht (1636-1691). Van Rheede’s family estate, Drakensteijn, was near Utrecht in Holland. He was a high ranking official in the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and visited the Cape in 1685 as a High Commissioner to reform the administration of the VOC’s outpost. Two years later when Governor Simon van der Stel granted the first farms in the Berg River valley he called the area Drakenstein to honour the VOC official.
In 1687 Drakenstein was known as an area bounded by Simonsberg in the southeast, Paarl Mountain in the west and the Drakenstein Mountains in the east. The Drakenstein District was first declared in 1691, but it had to share the Stellenbosch District’s landdrost. In 1804 the Drakenstein District was split in two: the Tulbagh District in the north, and the remaining areas closer to Stellenbosch were added to the Stellenbosch District. Then in 1839 Paarl District (essentially the old Drakenstein District) ceded from the Stellenbosch, and included Franschhoek, the whole Berg River Valley as far as Groenberg north of Wellington, as well as Agter Paarl and Paardeberg. Paarl Municipality was established the following year in 1840.
Today however, the Drakenstein Municipal District includes several towns: Simondium, Klapmuts, Paarl, Mbekweni, Wellington, Hermon, Gouda and Saron in the north.
Source: 1) Le Roux, J – Ons Drakenstein se erfgrond, Drakenstein Heemkring 2012, 2) Le Roux, J – Bewaarders van ons erfenis, Drakenstein Heemkring 2012