Inventory of the Archives of the Magistrate of Stellenbosch, 1683 -

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History
A few weeks after assuming duty as Commander at the Cape, on 12 October 1679, [1]Simon van der Stel undertook a tour of inspection into the interior where he discovered the fertile valley which he called Stellenbosch ("Stel en Bosch"). [2]
The particularly advantageous conditions for land ownership encouraged settlement in the valley and by May 1680 eight families were already settled there. [3]
To settle disputes between the burghers of the new district over matters like farm boundaries and roads, a Court of Heemraden consisting of four inhabitants of the new district, was established on 31 August 1682. [4] The court, which had to report to Government, was an unofficial body without clearly defined powers.
On 19 April 1685 Commissioner HA van Reede arrived at the Cape as the head of a Commission of Enquiry into Company matters. [5]He made numerous changes in the local administration at the Cape. A landdrost was appointed at Stellenbosch who, as chairman of the Heemraden, acted as a court to settle disputes over boundaries, roads, etc. and try cases not exceeding the sum of 50 rixdollars. Appeals could be made against decisions of the College of Heemraden except in minor cases and disputes not exceeding 25 guilders. The landdrost's duties also included social matters. [6]
In 1688 and the subsequent years the white population at the Cape increased as a result of the arrival of the Huguenots who established themselves mainly in the Stelleosch and Drakenstein district, [7]as the district of Stellenbosch was then known. Since1697 the Drakenstein area formed an almost separate administrative unit with its own heemraad. [8]
The district of Stellenbosch initially comprised all of the interior of the settlement at the Cape. As the boundaries of the district expanded, a need was felt to establish a new magistracy in the far interior to attend to the needs of the burghers. This resulted in the establishment of the district of Swellendam in August 1745 and the revision of the limits of Stellenbosch and the area of jurisdiction of the Landdrost and Heemraden of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein. [9]
The settlement at the Cape continued to expand and the boundaries of the districts had to be altered continually. In 1803 the settlement consisted of four districts, i.e. Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Swellendam and Graaff - Reinet. The wide - spread nature of each district caused inconvenience to the outlying farmers and Commissioner De Mist recommended the subdivision of the existing districts. [10]The district of Stellenbosch was divided in July 1804 whereby a new district named after Governor Tulbagh was created. [11]By September 1804 the arrangements for the division wre completed and the boundary between the two districts established. [12]
In 1805 the duties and powers of the Landdrost and Heemraden were clearly defined and matters relating to land, vendue and finance placed within their jurisdiction. [13]
In February 1808 the boundaries of the districts of Tulbagh and Stellenbosch were redefined. [14]
The development and functions of magistrates' offices is discussed in the General Introduction of Magistrate's Offices published in the Guide to Arranged Archives.