Middedorp Heritage

Survey 2012

General Introduction

The heritage survey for the central core of Stellenbosch, the middedorp, which was steered by Stellenbosch Heritage Foundation, represents the first phase of a planned heritage survey for the greater Stellenbosch, to conform to the guidelines for built environment surveys of Heritage Western Cape region, within the legal framework of the National Heritage Resources Act.

Stellenbosch is in a phase of development between town and city. It has been identified as a high potential growth area by the Western Cape government. The survey identifies heritage resources in the middedorp and describes their significance in advance of potential development, so that the management of any proposed development will be clear, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair. Planning and design are necessary disciplines to negotiate sustainable development with regard for sense of place.

The survey was informed by the history and development of Stellenbosch as an early South African settlement. Generally, the survey is embedded in assumptions that planning, design and heritage have significance in communities.

The heritage survey for the historical core of Stellenbosch reflects work done previously by various persons and organisations, most notably Penny Pistorius who documented a number of buildings in 1998. Her work was extensively used when Stuart Hermansen started the heritage survey in 2005 on the instigation of Bernabé de la Bat and with funding from Historical Homes of South Africa. Further work on and funding of the survey was undertaken under the auspices of the Stellenbosch Heritage Foundation in 2011. At the time Prof Matilda Burden, who did an earlier report in 2009, and Dr Hans Fransen were appointed to complete the survey, with administrative and other assistance by the Stellenbosch Heritage Foundation and The Office in Stellenbosch (Pty) Ltd.

The graders, Prof Matilda Burden and Dr Hans Fransen, are both cultural historians with 45 and 35 years’ experience in heritage work respectively; one member is the leading expert and author on historical architectural styles in South Africa; the other was the previous chairperson of the IGIC where several surveys have been considered over the past four years.


The methodology is mainly that of a cultural historical approach, which, being part of the humanities, connects closely to several related disciplines. This means that the cultural integrity of a building/structure was considered in its entirety: the architectural, stylistic, historical, social and aesthetic integrity have been considered where possible.

In the present heritage survey, the following process was applied in the grading process:

  • All the buildings within the boundaries of the core heritage area of the town were surveyed, by block (A – W), by street, and by street number.
  • Grades were allocated, as prescribed by the National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act 25 of 1999), considering the cultural integrity of a building/structure by taking into consideration the architectural, stylistic, historical, social and aesthetic integrities.
  • In line with the prescribed Heritage Western Cape template, buildings were photographed, categorised, described and graded, taking the following into consideration: erf number and address; date built; building type; style; architectural period; alterations; use; date of survey; zoning; building name; general evaluation; description; social history; and history. Often more factors than those on the template were considered, for instance streetscape, heritage area and townscape. The most important factors in considering the gradings, were the style of an individual building (considered in the context of the manifestation of styles in the town as a whole), the date built (or literally the age of the building) and the history in terms of the role that the building has played in the development of the town and community. Intangible factors are relevant because, for example, many buildings in Stellenbosch played a role in the early history of education in South Africa. The aesthetical significance of a building was usually not the dominant factor in considerations of grading (aesthetical value is a subjective aspect of culture; history was usually considered more significant). All the sites (five in total) recommended as grade I are part of an integrated landscape and fabric of history of the town. Though they are considered as individual sites (because of ownership, placement and boundaries) they are also key aspects of the social, cultural and historical landscape of the oldest town middedorp in South Africa. This combination of buildings and spaces within its natural setting are rare and unique, in its own right, and gains further significance through the history of the town and specifically also through the association with the number of scientists, artists, writers, and intellectuals of a wide spectrum of community that lived and worked in these spaces.
  • Based on previous discussions and agreements on key terms such as significance, the buildings were graded separately by Burden and Fransen. When the individual gradings were completed, they compared their gradings, discussed discrepancies and eventually negotiated an assessment that satisfied both.
  • Upon completion, the survey was presented at a public meeting and a public participation process was followed. The team received more than 200 written recommendations. The buildings were listed in a heritage resources map, which shows the areas surveyed and the building sites and areas designated as heritage resources, complemented with further electronic mapping and pictures and embedded in this website. Click here to view map.

Summary of Gradings

Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa (not referring to settlements, but to the concept of “town”). It is to be expected that Stellenbosch will have many older buildings and structures than other places, and specifically far more Cape Dutch buildings than even Cape Town. It also has many other buildings in historical styles as well as buildings with important social history.

Amongst the rated buildings:

  • 42 are from the Cape Dutch period;
  • 19 represent the Georgian style;
  • 118 the Victorian style
  • 45 are from the Edwardian period.
  • The remainder of the buildings are from the post-war and modern periods.

Under previous legislation, 115 properties in the middedorp were listed as national monuments. In this survey only 66 properties are recommended for listing as Grade I and II. 
With approximately 500 properties in the historic town centre, the recommended gradings include:

  • Grade I (5);
  • Grade II (61);
  • Grade IIIA (81);
  • Grade IIIB (80);
  • Grade IIIC (105);
  • Insignificant (the remainder).