The Wellington Museum was founded in the early seventies by a group of dedicated residents to preserve the history of the town, its people and its surrounding district.
Our museum is situated in the winelands of the Western Cape, 45 minutes from Cape Town, featuring exhibitions of the cultures of various African ethnic groups, our first inhabitants, religion and education - which played a vital role in the early town of Wellington, an extensive egyptian collection and information about the historical places in and around Wellington.
Human occupation dates from the early Stone Age groups, to the Khoekoen and Bushmen, to the settlement of Free Burgers and Huguenot refugees. The first settlers were mainly French Huguenots who arrived in the valley as early as 1688.
Simon van der Stel granted the Huguenots farms to meet the Company’s growing need for agriculture and to provide a buffer against the marauding Khoi and San. These were early pioneering farmers settling on the furthest outposts of the Colony. They gave the valley its most appropriate name: Limiet (Limit) Valley, used up to about 1695.
Wellington was originally known as the Wagenmakersvallei - the valley of the wagon builders. This name pre-dates European settlement in the late 1690s, and was probably a reference to the wood that wagon builders harvested in the area.
The town of Wellington was proclaimed in 1840 on the farm Champagne. Part of the land was used for the church which was consecrated in 1840, with reverend AF du Toit as the first minister. The rest of the land was subdivided into plots which became the nucleus of the town.
EDUCATION IS ONE OF THE MAIN THEMES OF THE MUSEUM
This dates from the early Stucki and Groenberg schools – tiny farm schools; the foundation laid for the Huguenot Seminary and Huguenot University College - with is many offshoots - to the present Cape Peninsula University of Technology; the Wellington Campus, the Huguenot College and the many schools of Wellington.
A substantial part of the Museum is dedicated to ANDREW MURRAY and his vision. His far-sighted and pioneering approach to higher Christian education for girls, based on the Mount Holyoke principle of ‘head and hand and heart’, made him forever immortal.
A further reason for this was his holistic and, at the time, radical approach to education.
His visions for providing tertiary education for girls laid the foundation for many schools throughout the Boland and the Eastern Cape. Through his influence Wellington became a well-known centre for education. His vision for ‘Winning Africa for Christ’ also led him beyond the borders of Wellington.
Missionaries from Wellington penetrated deep into the heart of Africa. Murray was the minister at the Dutch Reformed Church of Wellington from 1871 to 1906, and lived here until his death in 1917.
A temporary resident of Wellington, but one whose name became permanently linked with the town, was Andrew Geddes Bain, the first man to attempt to build a road across the Limiet Mountains, the main barrier between the Cape Settlement and the interior.
Bain achieved this remarkable feat - without any formal engineering training! Bain’s Kloof Pass is a National Monument which blends in perfectly with its natural surroundings.
Viticulture: The French Huguenots came from the wine regions of France and therefore had an enormous influence on the development of viticulture in the Wellington Valley.
Vine cuttings: Wellington is famous for the culƟvaƟon of vine cuttings. This industry, which has contributed greatly to the prosperity of the farming community, provides 90 to 95% of Southern Africa’s total production – about 35 million cuttings per year.
Tannery: Mossop Western Leathers was founded by Mr JH Coaton in 1871 on his farm Olyvenhout on the outskirts of Wellington. The Company was originally named “The Western Tanning and Boot Company”. The tannery is the second oldest in the country and is still situated on the original premises.
There are displays of well-known people with Wellington connections, such as: Ds ML de Villiers the composer, authors like Breyten Breytenbach, Adam Small, PH Nortje, Winnnie Rust and singer/songwriter Valiant Swart, to name but a few.
Wellington was named after the Duke of Wellington 25 years later after he defeated Napoleon at the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
In September 1853, on the same day on which Bain’s Kloof Pass was opened, the first wooden bridge across the Berg River, giving access to Cape Town, the Swartland and Paarl was opened with a big ceremony. In 1891 the bridge was rebuilt and named after the governor’s wife, Lady Loch. In 1910 the wooden bridge was replaced by an iron bridge, the first of its kind in South Africa.
In 1948 this unique collection of Egyptian antiquities came into the possession of the erstwhile Huguenot University College at Wellington through the generous bequest of Miss E. Armstead of England to her friend, Miss S. Stafford, principal of the Huguenot University College from 1933 – 1936. We invite you to have a look through ancient history.