On 1 February 1808 the territory North of the Great Berg river was annexed to the new District of Tulbagh, and declared a separate sub-drostdy with its Magisterial seat at Jan Disselsvlei. In about January 1896 its Northern Districts were separated to form the new division of Vanrhynsdorp. With the exception of the Olifant's River Valley, the division was sparsely populated, and most of its inhabitants were given over to Pastoral activities. A small measure of ostrich husbandry was also practiced. At one time the Cedarberg offered a plentiful supply of hardy indigenous timber, but during the Colonial Era this was greatly reduced by indiscriminate felling.
The following census figures are available for the district:
1865 census: 7,041 residents, of whom 1,708 were literate
1875 census: 8,785 residents, of whom 2,290 were literate
1891 census: 11,568 residents, of whom 3,720 were literate
1904 census: 9,843 residents, of whom 4,286 were litererate
The valley is perhaps best known for its production of some of the country’s finest wines. Estate wines such as Twee Jonge Gezellen, Drostdyhof and Theuniskraal originate in the Valley known as: 'Het Land van Waveren', where wines have been cultivated since 1906.
Proteas and herbs grow wild here and peaches, pears and 70 percent of the country’s plums are farmed in the shadow of the mountains. The valley is perhaps best known for its production of some of the country’s finest wines. Estate wines such as Twee Jonge Gezellen, Drostdyhof and Theuniskraal originate in the valley known as Het Land van Waveren where wines have been cultivated since 1906. (See Wine Routes). The scenery, which includes the towering peaks of no fewer than three mountain ranges, is jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the obvious seclusion of the horse-shoe shaped valley in which it lies simply adds further appeal to the already gorgeous countryside. But scenery in Tulbagh aside, the town’s secrets are well hidden, although it takes but a minor delve beneath the surface to unearth them, as I soon discover …
The requisite speed reduction to pass through the town reveals little other than the conventional run of shops and stores that keep small towns like this one running – a spar, a chemist, the odd café, a butchery, a shoe factory, a bottle store and other odd mini supermarkets.
Extreme day and night temperatures and the mountainous backdrop, which creates a number of different climates, together with extremely variable soils in the valley, create some notable wines. Interesting for the connoisseur is the valley’s unique ‘cold trap’ phenomenon - the horseshoe shape of the mountains creates a bowl in which cold night time air lies undisturbed forming a bubble, which is trapped under warming air during the day.
The people in Tulbagh are renowned for their warmth and easy going hospitality and the valley has fast become an attractive weekend getaway for Capetonians and Cape Winelands wedding and conference venue seekers. An earthquake in September 1969, 6.4 on the Richter scale, badly damaged some of the original buildings on Church Street. Most of these were lovingly restored and today make up the largest concentration of National Monuments - 32 in total - and the highest number on any one street in South Africa. There’s the rather inspiring NG Church that sits austerely on the far edge of Van Der Stel Street (the main road through Tulbagh). The valley was first discovered by European settlers in 1658 and land grants were made to 14 farming families in 1700. The town itself was developed in 1743 when the museum church was built. Many of the Church Street buildings were destroyed. After the disaster in Church Street, extensive projects of restoration began with the National Committee for the Restoration of Historic Buildings in Tulbagh and its Environment. This work in Tulbagh was possibly the largest number of Cape-Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian provincial heritage sites in one street in South Africa, and remains a major tourist attraction of the town to the present day. Post the 1969 earthquake every historic home in Church Street was painstakingly restored to its original glory. These 32 buildings now constitute the largest concentration of National Monuments in a single street in South Africa.
Tulbagh is perfectly placed for day trips to Cape Town, Franschhoek, Paarl, Malmesbury, Stellenbosch, Worcester and Rawsonville as well as the Cape West Coast and, if you plan your trip accordingly, offers some of the best displays of veld flowers between April and October, making local walks and hikes an utter pleasure.