Introduction to the History of Camps Bay

Jan van Riebeeck arrived in the Cape in 1652, he was sent by the Dutch East India Company to establish a refreshment station for the ships passing the Cape on their new trade route with the East. As he settled down, he ventured forth to explore the surrounding territory.

The Wernich farmhouse later became the holiday home of British Governors, including Lord Charles Somerset.

By 1700 the land behind the kloof was known as Roodekrantz or Red Bank because of the colour of the soil. The land was granted to John Lodewyk Wernich, Burgermeester of Bismark. He built a farmhouse and called it Ravensteyn. His widow, Anna Koekemoer married her third husband Fredrik Ersnt Von Kamptz.

Von Kamptz was now the proud owner of Ravensteyn at Roodekrantz near the Kloof. He constructed a track along the coast from his house to Cape Town.

The French Fortify Camps Bay : 1777

When the American war of Independence erupted in 1777, France and the Netherlands sided with America against England. As the Cape was a vital supply and trading station, both the French and English dispatched fleets to the Cape.

The French won the race to the Cape arriving in 1781, eleven days before the British. Soon war had broken out between Holland and England. For the following three years the French remained at the Cape to help their Allies the Dutch to protect it and they assisted with both its fortifications and social life.

The French advised that a line of fortifications be built extending from the sea to Devils Peak, as well as the battery on Kloof Nek.

Von Kamptz’s track to Camps Bay was torn up, trenches were dug and a battery and guardhouse built, commanding the beach, manned by Dutch militia to prevent an enemy landing.

The Bay of Von Kamptz

When the war was over and Von Kamptz returned home to find his farm had gone to rack and ruin. He complained of the damage to the government and demanded that they restore his track. The Governor refused to do so and instead agreed to buy the farm for 10 000 Rex Dollars.

Camps Bay Battery

On 31 January 1786, the government compensated Von Kamptz for his loss and took over the farm and within a few months two small batteries were built.

First British Occupation

When the news arrived in 1793 of the renewed war between France and the Netherlands, the batteries were hastily put in order.

In 1807 Lord Charles Somerset, based in the Cape was to use abuilding known as the “Round House” in Camps Bay as his hunting lodge.

Camps Bays secret as a supreme beauty spot began to trickle beyond the confines of the Governors, Chief Justices and their visitors who had bumped and jolted along the dangerous and narrow road to the beach. By 1848 a good road round the Kloof had reached Camps Bay. The road was called Lady Smiths Pass after the current Governors wife, although it was later renamed Kloof Road.