Early Origins

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The Harfield Village Association, a resident's association, today represents an area between the southern suburbs railway line and Rosemead Avenue, and from Lansdowne Road to Kenilworth Road, that is known as Harfield Village. Initial settlement in this area of "lower Claremont" sprung up during the early to mid 19th Century within the larger area that was coming to be known as Claremont. Both areas were part of an expanding urban Cape Town, particularly since the entire naval establishment at the Cape had been transferred by the British to Simon's Town in 1814 and a new hard road, Main Road, had been built to connect Simons Town and Cape Town. The area attracted more and more residents, in particular, settlers from Britain (following the British takeover of the Dutch colony at the Cape in 1814) who saw a "place in the country" as a sign of successful business but also as a result of the "urge of the British countryman to own his own piece of land." At the "seventh milestone" along the new Main Road, a little group of shops and cottages became the village of Claremont, taking its name from the estate which lay along the left of the road. (1) The cottages were mainly those of the labourers on the surrounding Feldhausen, Mariendahl and other estates and they depended on the private wells of the owners of these estates as water was scarce and only a prosperous landowner could afford the necessary expense of sinking wells on his property. (2)

The estate of Claremont was originally part of a larger farm, Stellenberg. It had been separated in c.1730 and became known as "Weltevreden". In 1814 its' boundaries were extended from the present Chaucer Rd down to Kenilworth Road and from Main Road down to the vicinity of Second Avenue i.e. including "lower Claremont" or "Claremont flats." In 1823, the British official, Francis Dashwood, sold most of the estate to his colleague Charles Blair who named it Claremont and extended it down to Loch Road in 1825. John Molteno bought the house and part of the grounds in 1863 while the rest of the grounds, east of the railway line, passed through several owners before being subdivided in 1881 into what is now known as the Harfield & Claremont Villages. (3)

Before the extension of the railway to Claremont and Wynberg in 1864, the lower Claremont area was described as a poorly developed rural area, flat and sandy, with a few farms here and there. (4) Lansdowne Road was described as being "merely a sandy track", but in winter, "there were deep lakes in the road, and farmers' carts were often held firmly in the mud." (5) As late as 1877 the area still apparently only boasted about a dozen houses and a few cottages, all occupied by people who were then referred to as "non-Europeans". (6) The Anglican Church at St. Saviours in upper Claremont desired to set up a daughter church to minister to the growing community of some one hundred and eighty coloured people living "op die vlak" and a four roomed cottage was rented for the purpose of starting a school and Sunday service in Dutch. In the following year, 1888, a site on the present Second Avenue was purchased and St. Mathew's Church school/chapel was built. It was apparently affectionately referred to as the "tin tabernacle" before the building extensions that took place in the early 1900s and had served as the local hospital during an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1898. (7) By the mid 19th century, Muslims represented more than a third of the total population of Cape Town and also increasingly began to move to the adjacent suburbs. Muslims living in both upper and lower Claremont attended the Claremont Main Road Mosque, which had been formally established as an offshoot of the Buitengracht Str Mosque in Cape Town in 1854. In 1909, lower Claremont received its own mosque with the establishment of the mosque in Harvey Road. (8)

Glastonbury House on Rosmead Ave, owned by Mr. Jeffreys. Third Ave was previously known as Glastonbury Ave as it ran past this homestead c. early 20th Century (AG 3388 Cape Archives)

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