Approximately in 1853, the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in Swellendam decided to establish a new congregation to serve the spiritual needs of its southern region's residents. In order to accomplish this, it acquired the farm "Over Het Roode Zand" from its owner, Johannes van Zyl. It was surveyed by H van Reenen, and on May 4, 1853, the first plots went on sale. The settlement was named after the first DRC minister in Clanwilliam, Dr. William Robertson, and its affairs were administered by the local church council until 1857. According to the 1865 census, Robertson had a population of 715 people. This number increased from 1 104 in 1875 to 2,121 in 1891. In 1904, the population was 3,244, of which 1,875 were literate.
Robertson, which has a history of 150 years, has become one of the most attractive Cape Winelands towns. This charming town is surrounded by Victorian structures, jacaranda-lined streets, rose-fenced vineyards, columns of red and yellow cannas, and vibrant Bougainvilleas. This region may be best known for its wines and is located along Route 62, but it also offers an abundance of attractions, activities, accommodations, and delectable cuisine. Combined with the breathtaking scenery and the warm hospitality of the locals, it makes for an excellent vacation destination. Robertson ensures that all guests, regardless of the season or who they are, have an unforgettable stay.
Mr. P. Joubert was granted a large parcel of land within the expansive boundaries of Swellendam District in 1728. By 1800, many of these farmers had settled permanently on these parcels of government-owned land, which they had now purchased in full. Roodezant, Le Chasseur, Retreat, Noree, Goree, Vink Rivier, Willem Nels River, Klaasvoogds, Goudmyn, Vlolikheid, and De Hoop are examples of districts that still bear the names of their original farms.
In 1852, it was decided to establish a town, and Mr. Van Zijl's farm was acquired for the then-astronomical sum of 4,200 pounds. In 1853, the sale of plots for approximately 40 pounds each and the laying of the cornerstone of the DRC well-located block in the center of town are regarded as the dates of the city's founding. In 1905, the original church was demolished and a larger, more imposing church was constructed on its foundations. The Wesleyan Church was completed in 1859, and construction on St. Mary's Anglican Church, which was designed by Sophie Grey, began in 1862. Traders and general merchandise stores began to open, and several private schools were established.
In 1860, a measles epidemic followed by an enteric fever epidemic of alarming proportions swept through the entire village, killing eighty-nine inhabitants. In 1872, Robertson had a well-stocked public library, and in 1880, the Standard Bank of South Africa opened a branch there. During this time, few farmers were wealthy, but the region was gaining a reputation for its fruit, wine, and brandy, and ostrich farming flourished as ostrich feathers became fashionable abroad. There were many wheelwrights, blacksmiths, carpenters, upholstery workers, and professional transport riders in the city's wagon-building industry.
As a result of a new river irrigation scheme that brought water to farms via canals, farm productivity increased. In 1891, the Standard Bank Manager's report indicated that the region's annual income was between 30,000 and 40,000 pounds, making it a very prosperous area. The newly constructed Cape Central Railway, a privately owned line between Worcester and Mossel Bay with Robertson as its Head Post Office, increased the frequency of mail delivery in the town from every two weeks to every day.
During the Anglo-Boer War of 1898–1902, a British garrison under the command of Lieutenant Cooper was stationed in the town. Even before the war ended, the wagon-making industry had ground to a halt, and the railways had taken over the transportation of all goods. When the First World War began in 1914, a significant number of young men, considering the size of the town, left for the horrors of war in France.
While Robertson had never depended entirely on ostriches as had Oudtshoorn and Ladismith, there is no denying that many were materially affected, and it is likely at this time that wine farming began to develop into the multi-million rand industry that it is today. These, along with the proliferation of racehorse breeding farms over the past thirty years, have certainly contributed to the prosperity of the city and the surrounding area.
Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, Robertson is a clean, tree-lined town that is renowned for its roses and gardens and has all the amenities of a much larger city. According to the most recent estimate, the population of the city is 40,000. This number includes outlying regions.
Article Courtesy of www.sahistory.org.za/place/robertson-route-62