Mostert’s Mill

+27 (0)82 771 6480
Rhodes Ave, Mowbray, Cape Town

Brief History

Mostert’s Mill is a typical Cape truncated-cone tower-mill with a thatched cap. Adjoining the mill is a threshing-floor and a thatched house which was probably the miller’s house.
The private mill was built on a farm called “Welgelegen” about 1796, the year after the Battle of Muizenberg when the British took control of the Cape. Until then, under the rule of the Dutch East India Company, building and operation of mills were strictly controlled and private mills were rare.
Early history of the farm Welgelegen records that Stevenz Jan Botma, a Hollander from Wageningen was granted land by Jan van Riebeeck in 1657 alongside the Liesbeek River. Some 19 years later in 1676, Botma’s son – Cornelis was granted land behind Devils Peak. This land was alongside other property owned by Cornelis and known as “Zorgvliet”. By 1692, Cornelis Botma had already planted 16 000 vines, built a house, stable and cellar.
In 1709 (17 years later) the farm, now known as “Welgelegen”, was sold to Johannes Heufke (the son in law who married Cornelis Botma’s daughter “Aletta”) Heufke died in 1752 and Welgelegen was transferred to Henning Joachem Prehm from Hamburg.
In 1756 the farm was purchased by Jacob van Reenen along with other land owned by Prehm. Jacob van Reenen was married twice and produced 14 children. He was a wealthy man and besides the farms around Cape Town, he also owned farms up the West Coast. In 1794, one of his sons, Gysbert van Reenen, inherited the farm, and it is believed that he built the Mill 2 years later in 1796.
Gysbert was born in 1763, built the Mill at the age of 33 and died in 1827 at the age of 64 years The next owner was Gysbert’s son-in-law, Sybrand Jacobus Mostert, who acquired the farm in 1823. The mill became known as Mostert’s Mill and it remained in the hands of the family till 1889 It appears that by 1873, Mostert’s Mill was no longer functioning and Welgelegen was sold to S. J. Wilks in 1889 , but two years later it was bought by Cecil John Rhodes who was buying other farms to consolidate into his Groote Schuur estate. At this time all the vines had been destroyed in the phylloxera epidemic at the Cape, and farming had ceased.
The farm Welgelegen (including the Mill) and other properties of Cecil John Rhodes was bequeathed to the South African nation following his death in 1902. His will became a Private Act of Parliament in 1910.
The mill deteriorated for decades and became derelict. In 1935 the Public Works Department (now known as the Department of Public Works) undertook a restoration of the mill. A Dutch millwrighting firm was appointed to restore the machinery and their Chris Bremer carried out most of the work on site in conjunction with the Public Works Department. The mill was operated infrequently for some time but again fell into disuse and deteriorated during the WWII years.
The Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa started a campaign in 1986 for the restoration of the mill. Out of this campaign a new society – the Friends of Mostert’s Mill was formed in 1993 to continue this campaign. (see Restoration 1995) The second restoration was undertaken by the Department of Public Works in 1995 and the same Dutch millwrighting firm was appointed to restore the machinery anew.