Stone masons and granite quarries


The Drakenstein Heemkring’s Gribble Collection includes a fairly large number of 19th-century photographs of granite stone masons and quarry owners. This photograph was taken in front of JA Clift (Pty) Ltd in Concordia Street, Suider Paarl. This family business was started by Jim Clift (centre) in 1908 and is today the oldest family owned granite contracting business in South Africa. His son William “Bill” (right) took over the family business. Continue reading

Carl Friedrich Drège, Paarl’s famous apothecary and explorer

Carl Friedrich Drège (1791-1867) was an itinerant apothecary and lived in Paarl between 1828 and 1867. In 1847 he married Sophia Christina Auguste Koch (*Hamburg 1816) in Paarl. Two of their children are buried in the Strooidak Church cemetery: a baby (died 12.04.1848) and Henri Charles (≈ Paarl 3.6.1849, died 13.04.1850. His son Isaac Louis was also baptised in the Strooidak Church on the 10 April 1853. Further research would be required to establish if the undated “CF Drège” buried in the Strooidak Church’s cemetery is a third child, or Carl Friedrich himself.

Carl Friedrich Drège was born in Altona near Hamburg, arrived at the Cape in 1821 and worked in Cape Town as an assistant apothecary Pallas & Pohlmann. The 35 year old Carl Friedrich registered as an independent apothecary in 1826 with a shop at 4 Long Street, on the corner of Long and Grave Streets. Continue reading

Diamonds and gold, and the closure of the Paarl Bank in 1891

The Drakenstein Heemkring has over the years collected a fair number of personal letters and artefacts. Recently, while sorting out the Marais file, we came across two letters written by Abraham Marais to his children. Marais was a director of the Paarl Bank, and the letters were written during one of the most dramatic periods in South African banking history. Here are two extracts:

18 Des. 1890 … Gy zult wel uit het Advertentieblad vernomen hebben van de ramp die ons getroffen heeft door de sluiting van de Paarlsche Bank, Den panischen schrik onder de menschen met den val van de Union en Cape of Good Hope Banken was zoo vreeselyk groot, dat de vaste deposita houders van Oost en West hun geld by ons en de WP Bank hier kwamen afgeven. Zoo dat van 1 July tot 1 Dec over de £40 000 over de toonbank aan goud moesten uitbetalen … Verleden Zondag 14 Dec hebben volgens besluit van de Synode een biddag in den namiddag waren de hede kerken alhier propvol – 

22 Jan. 1891 …Al de zaken des tyds draaijen om een spil, de goudvelden en goud aandeelen.

Boom and bust

Wild speculation in first diamond shares, and later gold shares, greed and an unregulated banking environment created the financial crisis which led to the collapse of one of the Cape’s oldest bank – the Cape of Good Hope Bank, as well as a number of small private banks. It all started with Kimberley’s diamond rush. Continue reading

Business licences, 1885

FJ van Wagtendonk had a shop in Ou Tuin - Paarl District Advertiser, 11 September 1885

FJ van Wagtendonk had a shop in Ou Tuin – Paarl District Advertiser, 11 September 1885

Old newspapers are a valuable source of genealogical information, especially because they often printed long lists of names of people and businesses that had applied for trading licences. The following is an extract from the list that was printed in the Paarl District Advertiser on Wednesday, 11 February 1885.

Apothecary: F Townsend (2), C Teitge, Dr Fismer, Dr van Breda, Dr Hoffman, Dr Botha

Agric. Distiller: JJ le Roux, EG Retief, AC Siebrits, M Louw, EJ Joubert, GD Marais, AP Retief

Auctioneer: DF Marais, JF Pentz, AB de Villiers, JD Cilliers

Baker: JH Boddenryk, L Dornbrack, A Fortuin, J Krige, J Arnold, FH Skead, Mrs Herbert, JF de Villiers, LB Siebrits, H van Heerden, Mrs E Hauptfleisch, B Greef

The list was signed by Ll. Powys Jones, pro Sub-Distributor of Stamps, CC Office, The Paarl on 31 January 1885.

A complete list of all business licences issued in Paarl during 1885 (24 pages) is available on the Drakenstein Heemkring’s website.

Paarl District Advertiser, 11 February 1885


Royal Baking Powder

Royal Baking Powder factory, Jan van Riebeeck Drive - Drakenstein Heemkring, Gribble Collection

Royal Baking Powder factory, Jan van Riebeeck Drive, Paarl – (Gribble Collection, AG771)

The Royal Baking Powder company was founded in the USA by the brothers Cornelius and Joseph C Hoagland in 1866, who in 1888 registered the Royal Baking Powder trademark in South Africa. At the time Paarl was at the centre of the Cape’s wine industry, and was a natural choice to establish a company that required large quantities of cream of tartar. By the 1930s Royal Baking Powder was one of the four largest industries in Paarl. The building depicted on the photograph was completed in 1932 and was designed by the architects Robers & Small in Cape Town. Note the Cape Town – Paarl – Wellington railway line in the foreground. Continue reading

La Mode

The Drakenstein Heemkring has a fascinating collection of taped interviews, and it was while I was listening to the all but forgotten Tape No.42 in the Heemkring’s archives that I discovered that a really famous couturier lived in Paarl in the early 1900s.

Paarl’s “Christian Dior” was of course Braam (Abraham Lochner) de Villiers of La Mode on the corner of Main and Hout Streets.

The tape records a conversation between WA de Klerk and Marguerite de Villiers and her recollections provide a lively peak into Paarl before World War II.

Braam de Villiers was born in the 1870s and was the eldest of six children and the head of the family after their parent’s early death. Braam showed his flair for fashion and design from an early age, and by the turn of the century he travelled regularly to New York, Rome and Paris to view the latest fashions.

Back home, his sisters Kitty and Gerty – then in their late teens – provided ideal models to show off his gowns. Fashion conscious women thought nothing of driving from Cape Town to Paarl for an appointment with Braam de Villiers. In Paarl women were equally enthralled by his gowns and anyone who had aspirations to be noticed and seen, wore his creations. And as everybody went to church on Sundays, the morning service provided a ideal opportunity to show off the latest La Mode creations.

In the interview, his niece Marguerite de Villiers recalls that on Sunday mornings her uncle would dress up his two sisters – beautiful gowns with matching hats – and then set off to church in his limousine driven by Floris the chauffeur. Then, with perfect timing they would wait until everybody was seated before making an entrance.

In those days people had their own pews in church, and Braam’s pew was in the third row from the front, right under the pulpit. Little wonder then that Braam and his sisters’ progress down the aisle would be followed by urgent whispers of “what are the La Modes wearing, what are the La Modes wearing”. After the service the gowns, style of the hat or the choice of material would be discussed in great detail.

When the two girls finished their schooling at La Rochelle, he took them on a Grand Tour of Europe to finish off their education.

Marguerite de Villiers recalls that while they were on this Grand Tour, Braam met his future wife Clara Hussey, an American heiress from Pittsburgh. The couple were married in Pittsburgh in 1911. On the return journey Kitty met another wealthy American businessman, Henry Schwab, and they were married the following year.

In 1913 Braam and Clara bought the farm Klein Constantia and moved to Cape Town.  They restored the farm and threw lavish parties. For the young Marguerite it was a magical period  of candle lit dinners, silver and fashionable people. For the children Braam and Clara organised “goblin parties’ during which Floris had to dress up as a goblin.

Visits to Paarl became less frequent, but were still marked by more parties and an endless stream of visitors.

Braam de Villiers died in 1930. A memorial service was held at Klein Constantia, followed by another service in Paarl. Hundreds crowded the Toringkerk to pay their last respects to one of Paarl’s great personalities.

[The article was written by Marguerite Lombard and appeared in the Paarl Post, 4 July 2008]

Liquor licences provide valuable genealogical data

Wine barrels (Wikimedia Commons)

Wine barrels (Wikimedia Commons)

Notice is hereby given that in terms of the provisions of Act No 28 of 1883, and 25 of 1891, a meeting of the Licensing Court for the division of Paarl, will be held in the Court Room at the Paarl, on Wednesday the 4th day of March 1896, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, for the purpose of considering the undermentioned applications for wine and spirit Licences.

The lists printed in the De Paarl and the Paarl District Advertiser are interesting in that they provide the names of hotels and their proprietors, and also show that some residents also sold wine from the homes, as did some of the wine farmers close to town.

The list of applicants in De Paarl newspaper of 6 February 1896 included:

Bottle Store Licences, Renewals

  • Abraham Johannes de Villiers (JJ zn) at the premises of Mr J Francke (Ward No 3 Paarl)
  • G A Decker, at his premises, Market Square, Paarl
  • Isaac J Bosman, at the premises of Mrs J D Bosman (Ward No 1 Paarl)
  • John Charles Graham Mackintosh, East Street, Wellington
  • Jan de Ville Minnaar, at the premises of Mr J H L Minnaar (Ward No 1 Paarl)
  • Blignaut & Company, at their premises (Ward No 1 Paarl)
  • Frans P Hoffman, at the premises of the Paarl Berg Wijn Brandewijn en Spiritus Maatschappij, Lady Grey Bridge Station, Paarl

Continue reading

Paarl’s first car dealerships

Repair shop

© Gribble Collection, Drakenstein Heemkring

EJ Lawton Ltd was one of the first motorcar dealerships in Paarl. The company was based in Cape Town and advertised the opening of its Paarl branch on 22 July 1918. From the advertisement it was possible to deduce that they had bought up Mr GK Briers’ Elite Motor Works opposite the Royal Hotel in Main Street. The hotel was situated between Zeederburg Square and Zion Street. According to the advertisement, Nico Decker had been placed in charge of the dealership’s financial department. Lawton also had cars for hire.

In 1918 JN Hogkins, a mechanical engineering and motorcycle building company – “motor cycle repairs and pram wheels retyred while you wait” – ran an advertisement for a 1918 model “Indian”. The “Indian” was a motorcycle with a sidecar, and the new model’s arrival was described as “the event of the year” (PP 30.03.1918). A few months later Hogkins demonstrated the motorcycle’s ability, and proudly announced that it had successfully negotiated the Franschhoek Pass on the 3 February 1919 (PP 15.02.1919). The driver on this occasion was Mr N Decker, with Mr Curtis in the sidecar. Hogkins was situated in Lady Grey Street.

What is particularly interesting about the post WWI advertisements is the observation that a number of Paarl’s old wagon building firms had reinvented themselves as motorcar dealerships or were in related businesses. In 1929 Solomon, Reyneke & Kie in Main Street advertised themselves as wagon builders and undertakers (PP 13.04.1929), also see Carson & Co and Retief De Ville & Co listed below. Continue reading