Company’s Garden

Before the end of 1652 the land across the river, (west of modern Adderley Street), was cultivated. The master gardener was aptly named Hendrik Boom (Tree)

Gradually the garden was shifted and extended towards the mountain. By 1660 it lay entirely to the west of the Fresh River, Opposite the top point of the fort, in the rectangle today formed by Adderley, Longmarket, St. George’s and Church Streets was the medicine-garden, occupying about 18 hectares of land. It extended from Tuin Street (now Church Street) towards Table Mountain and must have coincided more or less with the lower part of the present gardens. It was enclosed by a thick hedge of ash trees.

By 1670 the Town gradually began to take shape, expanding in the direction of Table Mountain, which affected the lower end of the Gardens. First a small portion was cut off to provide a site for the new church and graveyard. (Groote Kerk and Church Square) and later more garden land was sacrificed at the top of the Heerengracht (Adderley Street) for the Slave Lodge on the left and for the Hospital on the right, on the site now occupied by the Syfrets Trust building.

Up to 1679 the garden was used exclusively to supply the needs of visiting ships for fruit and vegetables, but the arrival of Simon van der Stel brought about a gradual change. The free 

burghers and the Company’s garden at Newlands now produced so much that the garden in the town was no longer essential as an orchard and vegetable garden. Consequently Simon van der Stel converted it into a botanical and ornamental garden, and Willem Adriaan van der Stel continued this policy and later governors like Ryk Tulbagh and Van de Graaff.

During and immediately after the time of the Van der Stels, the whole garden occupied 16 hectares and measured 1 020 metres by 273 metres. It was divided info rectangular blocks by hedges, which also served as windbreaks.

Three beautiful avenues, equally spaced, divided the garden lengthwise and also transversely. At the top of the garden was a water mill, and from it the water of a mountain stream was led by neat masonry furrows to irrigate the entire garden. A high wall with a fine entrance gateway enclosed the northern side, and Simon van der Stel had a small summerhouse built on the site now occupied Tuynhuis. Here he entertained and accommodated foreign visitors in two fine rooms. The head gardener lived also lived there.

During the eighteenth century the garden was extended in the direction of the mountain. This process had probably started during the governorship of Willem Adriaan van der Stel who established a zoo at the top of the garden. A fine ornamental gateway, designed by the architect Louis Thibault, in 1791, was built during the time of governor C. J. van de Graaff. This provided an imposing entrance from the city. (Heerengracht). The summerhouse had by this time been so improved that it had become a little palace with its own private garden and had for years served as a governor’s residence.

During the second British occupation of the Cape (1806) the garden was neglected. Governor Sir George Yonge decided to close it to the public and to reserve it for his private use. This high-handed action raised such a storm of public indignation that the Governor was obliged to re-open the garden.

The 19th and 20th centuries’ were less kind to the historic old garden. The expansion of the City demanded repeated encroachments; to such an extent that it lost some of its character and charm. First, Lord Charles Somerset considerably enlarged Government House (Tuynhuis) and the land attached to it at the expense of the garden, and in 1827 the Governor granted 0,4 ha of the garden, which later became the site of St. George’s Cathedral to the Anglican Church.

In 1832 Thibault’s lovely entrance to the garden from the city was demolished. During the 1880’s further inroads were made on the garden when, amongst other buildings, Parliament House and the Public Library were built on the lower portion. Later the central and upper portions also suffered when the Museum, Art Gallery, the South African College and a number of monuments, statues and other structures were erected.

Government Avenue

Government Avenue is a continuation of Adderley Street. It can be described as the main road through the Company’s Gardens. The entrance from the City is at the top of Adderley Street, and from Orange Street, at the other end. It is now 1020 metres long.

This avenue was changed little during the eighteenth century. Up to this time, the Avenue ended at the zoo that was situated at the upper end of the Garden and its length was estimated at about 900 metres. During the Batavian regime (1795), it was extended to pass through the zoo.

Here Herman Schutte built waIls, designed by Thibault, on either side. This meant that the old division of the zoo into two, with an aviary and an enclosure for antelopes on the left and predators on the right, was established.

Two lovely gateways decorated by the sculptor Anton Anreith, gave access to these enclosures. These gates still stand today. Two sleeping lionesses protect the western gate, which led to the predator’s camp, and opposite, lions held watch over the aviary and antelope.

At the same time the Avenue was also given an attractive entrance at what is now Orange Street. This has since been demolished.

Proclaimed 1937

Saffron pear tree – Company Gardens

This tree is believed to be the oldest tree in the Garden and was presumably planted by Jan van Riebeeck. After the trunk was destroyed, four of its branches re-rooted. An iron band now holds it together.

A statue of Sir George Grey was erected in the Company Gardens, in front of the South African Library, in 1864.

Cecil John Rhodes Statue – Company Gardens 1910

Also in the Gardens, higher up from the Sir George Grey statue, is a statue by Henry Pegram A.R.A. of Cecil John Rhodes.

The left hand of Rhodes is outstretched to the North and an inscription on the Pedestal of Table Mountain sandstone reads, “Your hinterland is there”.

Company’s Garden monuments declared in 1962


Slave Bell

The bell was manufactured by C & G Mears Founders London 1855. It is probable that the bell tower is a 20th Century copy of the 18th Century tower at Elsenburg wine estate in Stellenbosch.


Gardens Restaurant

Round pond & fountain

It is probably an early 20th Century replacement for an earlier Victorian Botanical Garden embellishment.


Tucker & Tottenham Ltd made the cast iron brackets. It was built in the early 20th Century.

Aids Memorial

This memorial can be found in the centre of the rose garden. It reflects the worldwide AIDS awareness campaign aimed at preventing the further spread of the disease and to encourage compassion and understanding for those infected.


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