A Cultural and Heritage Treasure on the West Coast
A mere 45 minute drive from Cape Town will find you stepping back 300 years in time. I was on my way towards Darling, when I decided to make a visit to Mamre. A sudden change in atmosphere and scenery approached as I drove into the Moravian settlement, nestled alongside a hill, 150 year old oak trees and white-washed cottages, a magnificent early 19th century Moravian church in the missionary settlement. A great sense of tranquility set in, as I wondered through the property.
Friendly faces and a cafe where you can enjoy tea and scones makes it an idyllic pit stop to either stretch your legs, or a chance to immerse yourself in history.
Mamre was originally established in the late 1600’s by Cape Governor, Simon van Der Stel, as a military and cattle post to protect settlers and their cattle from the local KhoiKhoi (San), it later became a Dutch East India Company cattle farm, which it remained until the end of the 1700’s.
Then in 1808 the governor of the Cape, Lord Caledon, welcomed the establishment of a mission by Kohrhammer and Schmitt, two Moravian missionaries from Germany. The missionaries transformed the abandoned military settlement and built a church, a school and a watermill, dated 1844, and laid out the picturesque settlement of white-walled, black-thatched cottages which still stands today. Originally known as Groenekloof (“Green Valley”), the town was named Mamre in 1854. The name means “an altar to the Lord” and is found in Genesis 18:1 ”The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.”
The original church and surrounding buildings retain their original charm and were listed as national monuments in 1967. The watermill has been lovingly restored and the church is still used for services and is packed to capacity on any given Sunday.
Together with Tori Oso (the old shop) and local tour guide Joey Titus, you are able to take a historical tour of the settlement. Booking arrangements can be made via O’Live To Travel in advance.