Learning the history and heritage of Groot Constantia

Somerset West Methodist Primary School pupils visited the grounds of Groot Constantia, and were taught the history and heritage of South Africa’s oldest wine farm. Picture: Janice Matthews

Children from Somerset West Methodist Primary School were led on a discovery of what life was like for the first owners of Groot Constantia and the importance of conserving heritage through the Groot Constantia Heritage Education Programme.

The programme formed part of the City of Cape Town’s Heritage Education Programme. The education initiative is aimed at recognising and promoting the City’s wealth of heritage and providing pupils with the opportunity to attend a number of associated programmes and visit various sites.

Over 120 Somerset West Methodist Primary pupils visited the Groot Constantia wine estate on Thursday September 22.

Teachers from the Centre for Conservation Education taught a lesson on its heritage, unpacking the history and story of South Africa’s oldest wine producing farm, beginning with its first owner, Simon Van Der Stel, the Former Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony who was granted the land by the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

The lesson also touched on subsequent owners like Captain Olaf Bergh, whose wife, Anna De Koningh, a former slave, became the first female owner when she inherited the farm after his death.

During a tour of the Manor House, teachers, Souad Abrahams and Mark van Rensburg, illustrated how slaves prepared the house without electricity or any of the comforts of modern living. Coal for instance had many uses. Using coal, a flat metal affixed to a handle worked as an iron and a cylindrical shape holding hot coals would be used to heat beds.

The children were led through the homestead from the kitchen, to the bedroom and the drawing room. At the Cloete Cellar and the wagon house they viewed dated forms of transportation and artefacts. They were shown a portion of flooring still preserved in its original cobbled state, that served as sleeping quarters for slaves in Jonkerhuis.

A fun activity led by Centre for Conservation Education teacher, Souad Abrahams, tested what pupils had learnt during the tour. Picture: Janice Matthews
Centre for Conservation Education teacher, Mark Van Rensburg, stands with pupils to take a look at wine production at the wine cellar. Picture: Janice Matthews