The town was founded by the Dutch east India Company in 1745 in order to exercise control over independent frontiersmen who migrated over the Hottentots Holland Mountains at the beginning of the 18th century. A landdrost was appointed and a Drostdy and other building were erected. The district and town were named after the reigning Governor of the Cape, Hendrik Swellengrebel, and his wife, Helena Ten Damme.
In time, a village was established opposite the Drostdy, across the Koornlands River, where artisans, including numerous wainwrights, and traders settled. To travellers and explorers, the services of these village folk were indispensable, as Swellendam was the last outpost of civilisation on the eastern frontier.
By the middle of the 19th century, the eastern districts had been colonized by the British settlers and Swellendam was a thriving metropolis. The town served as a useful refreshment station on the long, slow journey up the coast.
Swellendam has many old building, some of which date from the 18th century, but many more were built during the town's boom years in the mid-19th century. The Tourism Bureau has a pamphlet, 'Swellendam Treasures', which provides the visitor with interesting snippets of information about the National Monuments buildings in the town and surroundings. There are also several interesting buildings dating from the beginning of the 20th century, the most noteworthy being the Dutch Reformed 'Moederkerk' with its eclectic architectural features, including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and vernacular Cape elements
THE DROSTDY MUSEUM
The open-air complex of the Drostdy Museum consists of several historic buildings including official, town and country dwellings. The Drostdy itself reflects the official history of the district from a Dutch East India Company outpost to a prosperous town under British Colonial Rule. It is renowned for its fine collection of late 18th and early 19th century Cape furniture. There are restaurants, a craft shop and a gallery at this complex. For more information, contact the Director at Tel: 028 514 1138.
Now more than 200 years later, Swellendam is a flourishing, agricultural village and a beautiful little town with all kinds of historic buildings, which serve as a reminder of its exiting past, for example-The Drostdy Museum and the Old Gaol. The peaceful atmosphere of Swellendam, where people of all races live in harmony, is probably the reason people want to stay here. Its inhabitants have changed over the years and are mostly people from the city requiring the quietness of the country and elderly people who are retiring.
At the end of the previous century and certainly after the millenium Swellendam was rediscovered. Not only overseas people from the Nederlands, Belgium, England, Germany and other countries, but also people from other parts of South Africa moving here.
This new wave of immigrants created a facelift of the town. People started restoring, painting and improving their gardens in a fashion of their place of origin.
Suddenly Swellendam became one of the most popular villages to invest in. Property became scarce and hard to find, therefor becoming an excellent investment with good returns.
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All the usual sporting facilities are available and visitors are welcome to join the members at the various clubs. In addition, horse-riding, gliding, canoeing and other water sports can be arranged. Rafts for larger groups are on the Buffeljachts Dam and also the Breede River. There are also mountain bike trails in the area. Scenic routes may be followed along the foothills of the mountains (swimming opportunities along the way) or through the nearby Bontebok National Park.
Other Areas in Swellendam and Areas Nearby Swellendam