Swellendam in the Nineteenth Century

At the beginning of the nineteenth century Swellendam was a small village, and besides the Drostdy and its various subsidiaries, there were only a few houses in the main street.

As a new British Colony, one of its primary functions was to supply the mother country with raw materials. The financial prosperity that the town achieved was a direct result of the state of mid-century agriculture and the successful adaptation of wool-bearing sheep to this district.

The farmers in the area flourished and with them, the traders, shopkeepers and artisans of the town. The opening of Sir Lowry’s Pass in 1830 also made Swellendam much more accessible.

The Dutch Reformed Church had a huge influence on the social life at that time and Dr William Robertson, the minister, concerned himself not only with the religious revival, but also with educational and cultural upliftment of his congregation.

Until the middle of the century there was no Anglican Church in Swellendam so the Dutch and English speaking people all worshipped together. The result was that these two groups socialised with ease. Queen Victoria epitomised the colonist’s middle-class ideals of morality and propriety and was held in great esteem by her Dutch speaking Dutch-speaking colonists as well.

old_swellendam old_swellendam2