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A brief history of Bishopscourt Village

Historically, VINEYARD ESTATE was made up of Vineyard Estate, Bishopscourt; Edinburgh Township; Grayville Township, Vineyard Estate, Newlands; and Vineyard Estate Township and stretched from the Bishopscourt boundary to Sans Souci.

The BISHOPSCOURT VILLAGE of today encompasses both Vineyard Estate, Bishopscourt (between Bishopscourt, the Liesbeek and Princess Avenue) and the portion of Edinburgh Township between Princess Avenue and the M3. 

On 26th March 1822 the widow of Colonel G Graham was granted the area we now call BISHOPSOURT VILLAGE. During the period 1827-1838 this land changed hands several times, finally becoming the property of James Maynard in 1838. During 1840-1850 many of the plots were randomly sold to individuals and in 1876, on the death of James Maynard, JM Hiddingh acquired the balance of the plots which remained in his name until 1929.

In 1929 two companies (Saxteno & Naruna) owned by Isaac Ochberg bought the land east of Princess Avenue, and Ochberg named this area Edinburgh Township. Isaac Ochberg was a remarkable man – he was a Ukrainian Jew who arrived at the Cape in 1895, penniless. He worked hard and built up a vast business empire. If he was offered a tract of land which appeared to other business investors to be useless, he would proceed to make it habitable, open up the area as a township and sell the plots. He would even assist with finance so that people could erect their own homes. One of his interests was helping underprivileged children and he brought many orphans to this country and saw them happily settled here. Two of his other ‘townships’ were Paradise and Southfield.

Development in BISHOPSCOURT VILLAGE started in the 1930s and it is thought that the first houses were built in 1934 in Robinson Avenue.

Ochberg named the streets after members of his family: Angelina, Bertha, Noreen and Princess Avenues.  These were all prefixed with ‘Upper’ in the late 1960s after the dual carriageway of Edinburgh Drive opened in 1966 and bisected Edinburgh Township. Edinburgh Drive is presumably named after Edinburgh Township. Robinson Avenue was named after Julius Robinson who married one of Ochberg’s daughters. Maclear’s Beacon is in a straight line with Maclear Road but the beacon is not visible from the road which suggests that the name was given by a surveyor. Balfour Avenue was named after Arthur Balfour, British Prime Minister (1902-05) and Foreign Secretary (1916-19), who was responsible for the Balfour Declaration (1917) which promised Zionists a national home in Palestine. Ochberg built an office block in St George’s Street and named it Balfour House.  Colenso Road was named after Bishop John Colenso. In 1939 and 1943, Mr & Mrs CA Abrahamse – Hilda and Alan – bought some land ob Bishopscourt Drive and built a house which they named ‘Hildalan’ and the street was subsequently named Hildalan Road after the house, as was Hildalan Lane.

There must be a lot more interesting history of BISHOPSCOURT VILLAGE which needs to be documented - the gravel quarry, the Liesbeek in the early days, interesting people who have lived here, etc. If anyone can provide more information, please contact Joan Parker or the BVRA Committee.

REFERENCES:
1. “Claremont, Newlands and Bishopscourt Street Names” by Peter Hart (1999)
2. Cape Town Deeds Office
3. “This was a man” by Bertha Epstein (1974)

Last updated: Sunday, 30 October, 2011