The Braak in Stellenbosch

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The Braak (fallow land) is a large open space in the centre of the town which originally served as a Parade GroundStellenbosch suffered an earthquake in 1811 and people ran on to the space, vowing to God to keep it empty if they were saved – the vow has been upheld, although there is one building, the Church of St Mary on The Braak.

HERZOG MAP, 1817, showing The Braak

The Braak, Stellenbosch, looking towards the Rhenish Mission Church
The Braak, Stellenbosch, looking towards the Rhenish Mission Church

The Rhenish Missionary Society was one of the largest in Germany, founded in the 1700s, and eventually focussed its efforts on Southern Africa. The Rhenish Mission Church was built in 1823 as a school for slaves, coloured and black people, and extended in 1840 but the single Bell Tower is new, c.1920. (The curved wall in the photograph below is the channel of the mill stream.) Inside, the pulpit and lectern were made by Simon Pieter Christoffel Londt in 1853.

Plan of the Rhenish Mission Buildings (
Plan of the Rhenish Mission Buildings (

The Rhenish Mission Church, Stellenbosch

The originals buildings on this site date from c.1790 and the Rhenish Mission bought them in 1862 to establish a school and hostel for the daughters of missionaries,  greatly extending the buildings to form The Rhenish Institute, now the  P J Olivier Art Centre.

The Rhenish Institute, Stellenbosch
The Rhenish Institute, Stellenbosch

The Parsonage (1815) of The Rhenish Church, behind the Institute, is set in large, open gardens with the Mill Stream running through and the mountains as a backdrop – amazing!

Panorama by Schumacher, 1785

The Rhenish Parsonage

The Mill Stream in the grounds of The Rhenish Parsonage

Slave cottages in Herte Street, opposite The Rhenish Parsonage

St Mary’s on the Braak (1852) is an Anglican Church and the only building on the Braak. Sadly the Church was firmly locked and I couldn’t see inside.

St Mary's on the Braak, Stellenbosch

St Mary's on The Braak, Stellenbosch

The VOC Kruithuis, the Gunpowder Magazine, was built in 1777 and served its purpose for about a century. It is the only remaining magazine in South Africa built by the VOC (Dutch East India Company). From its beginning the burghers in Stellenbosch were organised into commandos and asked the VOC’s permission for guns, ammunition, and gunpowder and received an annual allowance from Cape Town. However, Stellenbosch proved to be a peaceful town and the ammunition was apparently never used!

The Gunpowder Magazine, Stellenbosch

And next to the Powder Magazine is the Burgher House which was completed by Anthonie Fick in 1797 with an attached Wagon House and the Van Der Riet House (the latter both demolished). Eventually Burgher House was owned by the Rhenish Mission Society, and in 1959 was taken over by the Municipality and restored.

Burgher House, Stellenbosch

Burgher House, Stellenbosch

Across the road from the Burgher House is Coachman’s Cottage of c.1791, originally built by a German tailor.

Coachman's Cottage

I wanted to linger, and return, as you can imagine.

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