From Roger Jaques' thesis for his MSc Landscape Architecture degree

(with thanks to the Cartwrights for much of the historical information)


Glencairn and the Else (also referred to as Els) river valley are located on the coast of False Bay, between Fish Hoek and Simonstown.

Historical overview

In 1743 the Dutch East India Company established an official station and anchorage at Simonstown. An early map, drawn in 1870, shows the course of the river which was originally known as the "Elze Rivier" (Burman 1962) Throughout the early days of the Cape settlement, Else Bay (Glencairn beach) was mainly known as the last hazard on the difficult road to Simon's Town, and other than a few fisherman who trekked from the beach, it was little disturbed -Tredgold 1985

In 1811 the farm Elsje's River was granted to Christoffel Brand, its main product being vegetables. Another farm called Elsje's Baai was operated as a tannery. There is no mention at this time of the earlier farm Hartenbosch which was located in the area now known as Da Gama. Further up the valley was the farm Brooklands, which was where the water treatment facilities are now located. - Tredgold (1985)

Welcome Farm incorporated the Welcome Glen suburb and Naval Sports Fields. At Welcome Farm there was a mill to which farmers brought their corn to be ground. The farms raised cattle and grew vegetables - Tredgold (1985)

First resident, John Brown and his family settled in Elsje's Bay in about 1875 - Tredgold (1985)

In the 1890s Stegman built his beach house on the Glencairn Heights side of the valley - Tredgold (1985)

The Glencairn residents built a tennis court in 1922 - Tredgold (1985)

In the 1920s the tidal pool was built - Tredgold (1985)

Glen Farm bought between the wars by W G Haines - Tredgold (1985)

Glen Cottage, 36 Glen Rd was used as Rest & Recreation by the military during the Boer War

56 plots sold on 23rd November 1901

The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1903, the hotel opened in 1904.

"The Story of Glencairn" D StC Wagner Simonstown Historical Society Bulletin, Volume II No. 1 1965. (Wagner, 1965)

It is not known for certain how the former name of Glencairn, Else Bay, or the name of the Else River originated. Various theories are reviewed by Clifford (2003), favourite being that Rooi Els trees (Cunonia capensis) formerly grew along the river. However, none have been encountered during this study, and attempts by the local community to re-establish these trees in the vlei and lower river areas have largely proven unsuccessful. The second refers to a ship, the Esselstein, which stopped over in Simon's Bay in 1671. Thereafter Simon's Bay was referred to as Esselstein's Bay, and the Else River as Esselstein's River.

Cobern (1984) describes how a probable error in the transcription of maps could have led to the word 'Elsestein', the shortened version of which is 'Else'. He further suggests that the careless translation of 'Else Rivere' from Dutch to French and finally to English, 'Else's River', could have led to the further error, perpetuated to this day, of referring to Elsies River and Elsies Peak. Else Bay was later renamed Glencairn by its early Scottish residents, after the Glencairn area in the North of Scotland - (Clifford 2003).

The quarry was opened in 1898 (possibly earlier) adjacent to Main Road and the railway line. The quarry was operated by the Divisional Council and possibly closed between 1914 and 1918. Thereafter Strong and Moore re-equipped the workings and were still operating the quarry when it was closed in May 1978 due to environmental concerns, and appreciation of the tourist potential of the area.

The Cape Glass Company exploited the light grey sands found along the bottom of Glencairn Valley between 1902 and 1906. The industrial remains of the factory now form part of the Simon's Town Museum's collection.

The Cape Glass Company bought the railway siding built for the Salt River Cement Company and a narrow gauge cocopan that extended up the valley. The limited literature available on the company suggests that they were mining sand, but Clifford (2003) suggests that they were removing limestone. No evidence of its original presence remains.

Glencairn's quicksands no longer exist and were stabilized by a change in the river's discharge conditions caused by the construction of the railway embankment in 1890.

Glen Farm, dating from the 1800s stood where the warden's house now stands. The de Villiers family lived in Welcome Farm and Glencairn Cottage, the de Villiers cemetery lies behind Glencairn Cottage.

Original farms were: Glen Farm, Welcome Glen, Oaklands and Brooklands

"Welcome Cottage Farm" by Lt Cdr (Mrs) D Visser. (undated) Simonstown Museum Files

Old flour mill with fine stonework and bricks dating from Batavian times1803-1806

Welcome Glen farm Deed of Grant completed in 1811, Welcome Cottage built between 1812 and 1815. it came into the possession of the de Villiers Family in 1871, remaining in the family for over a century. Over the years they produced vegetables, flowers, bark for tanning purposes and latterly, dairy produce. The land was sold to the Navy in 1970, except for 6 morgen on which the cottages stand. They were subsequently expropriated in 1974. Welcome Cottage no. 440 has been slightly altered by the addition of an enclosed stoep and a new roof, but otherwise remains un-altered with yellowwood beams, door and flooring, 5 traingular gables surmounted by pedimental caps

Brown's Cottage ca. 1890 possibly 124 Glen Rd.

Stegman's cottages built in the 1892 by a farmer from Durbanville, who built a beach house at what is now 24 Fairburn Road

Bulletin Volume XIX No.2 Snippets from Old Simon's Town July 1996

In 1928 there was a private Native Location near the old Glass Works. It consisted of 25 dwellings and a school (pg 37 Glencairn Mission School?). The Health inspector recommended it be closed and it was cleared in 1931.

The squatter-like shack community in what is now Glencairn Heights was associated with the Strong & Moore Quarry. The community was relocated under the Group Areas Act. A Wesslyan Mission School existed there years before, followed by a mission school and church.

Bulletin Volume III No. 1 "The Story of Glencairn" January 1965 D StC Wagner

21st January 1901, a portion of Glencairn Farm was transferred to the Glencairn Syndicate, on the 7th of June transferred to Glencairn Estates Ltd. and 56 plots sold in November 1901

St Andrews Church, formerly a Presbyterian Church was built in 1903. The land was donated by Glencairn Estates Ltd. to the Presbytery, the idea behind the Manse being that it should be available for ministers of the Presbyterian Church as a seaside residence and that they would in turn conduct services for the community. This arrangement did not work out and the property was re-transferred to Glencairn estates Ltd in 1926. They maintained the property and allowed all denominations free use of the church for the holding of services and public meetings. The church was purchased from Glencairn Estates Limited in 1950, and dedicated on 2nd December 1951.

Before WW1 building sites were taken up on Crown Land on the mountainside along Main road towards Simon's Town and houses were built. Subsequent to WW2, the residential area was further extended toward Simon's Town.

Gordon's and Rotary Camps

Mr W G Haines, founder of the Gordon's Institute purchased Glen Farm in 1929 in order to assist in his work among the under-privileged. He passed away in 1942, and in terms of his will a large section of land was bequeathed to the Rotary Club to be used as a camp for underprivileged boys and girls. General Smuts laid the foundation stone of the first hostel in March 1948. The second unit was provided by the MOTHS in 1952 and is known as Happy Haven Hostel.

Bulletin Volume XX No.3 Glencairn Mission School January 1999 by A P Andrews

Glencairn Mission School's foundation stone laid in 1927. Now in Grey Rd.

Da Gama Park built in 1956 to accommodate Naval Personnel

Bulletin Volume XXII N0. 2 Glencairn Quarry. July 2002. Researched by M Cartwright and written by A E Read

Two, (possibly 4) stone cottages on the seaward side of Clan Stewart Street belonged to the Divisional Council. This was known as Elsies Bay Station. A railway siding was already in existence in 1918 when it was extended. During the Boer War there was a rail siding to the Glass Works – used for test firing Naval Guns….

In the 1957 the Main Road was re-built and the rail line removed – prior to this the road was closed twice a day to allow the train in and out of the quarry siding. Thereafter trucks were loaded with gravel from newly constructed chutes.

Bulletin Volume VIII No. 4 The Old World Village Part 9, Glencairn by L J D Gay, July 1975

In the mid to late 70s, the S A Mutual Property Development Corporation (Pty) Ltd (Old Mutual) acquired land at what is now Glencairn Heights and laid out 198 residential plots of 1000 sq metres each on 36 Ha. The Glencairn Expressway was also constructed during this period.

The Glencairn Hotel was designed by John Parker, it was built in 1904. The Annex was added in 1918, additional construction in the 1950s.

The Else River Valley is situated 25km due south of Cape Town City Centre on the Cape Peninsula.
Whilst the vast majority of the land area of the Cape Peninsula falls within the Cape Peninsula National Park, extensive urban development occurs in the Fish Hoek – Noordhoek – Ocean View – Kommetjie valley, along the False Bay coastline from Muizenberg to Smitswinkel Bay, at Scarborough-Misty Cliffs and within the Glencairn – Da Gama Park – Dido Valley area.

The Naval presence in Simonstown plays an important economic and historic role, and the study area has many tourist attractions.

Topography and Access

Sandstone mountains dominate most of the study area, the tallest of which surround the Klawervlei valley, which is bordered on three sides by high mountains. A lower sandstone plateau is ringed by lower outcrops and divided by valleys and ridges that run NW-SE, and a valley that drains northward into the Else River Valley. To the North, the Noordhoek – Fish Hoek valley cuts through the Peninsula, and being below 20m altitude, the ocean would have been continuous through this gap in previous eras with higher sea levels.

Access is largely determined by topography and there are only three road routes connecting to the South Peninsula to the North, these being Chapman's Peak, Ou Kaapse Weg and Main Road. Red Hill Road connects Main Road near Simonstown to the road in Klaas Jager's Valley over the narrowest part of the plateau, and between the main part of the plateau and the Klawersvlei Valley. The Cape Town – Simonstown railway closely follows the coastline, and in some areas, is located within the dynamic coastal zone.

Bulletin, Volume XXI No. 1, January 2000, P. 25-28. Transport

When Antoni Visser came to Simon's Bay in 1723, he followed the farmer's track over Silvermine, via Noordhoek to Poespaskraal homestead (opposite Masiphumelele). He then followed the track over Black Hill to the west of the present day "expressway", and then branched off to Welcome Farm, Oaklands and then on past Brooklands and Maylands to top of Red Hill. It is likely that these tracks followed earlier tracks of early khoikhoi herdsman who herded their cattle at times seeking additional grazing. The alternative route along the coast via Muizenberg passed through large stretches of sand at Fish Hoek and Glencairn, the hazardous 'trappies' at Clovelly, and quicksands at the Sivermine and Else River mouths.


Bulletin Volume XXII No.2, July 2002, Roads in the Southern Peninsula. Researched by M Cartwright and written up by A E Read, p 60-61

The old wooden bridge that was constructed over the Else River in 1868 was fast decaying by 1924. Initial plans were to build the bridge further up the valley, away from the railway line, and to raise its height to avoid the constant trouble with drift-sand. However, the new bridge ended up being constructed in its present position which then encroached on railway land.

On the 1st December 1890, the first train pulled into the station at Simonstown. The General manager specifically remarked: "… the shifting sand and rivers and the quicksands provided a special tax on the engineer's skill." Masons and wallers were brought in from England to do part of the work. Pg 85

A rail siding or spur line was built to test-fire rail mounted naval guns (taken off Royal Navy ships) prior to transport them for use in the Boer War. The photographs were probably taken mid 1900 as the Boer war began 12 October 1899 and one of the naval guns was captured up country in September 1900.

In December 1901, Glencairn residents petitioned for a platform and waiting room or shed. The first Glencairn station was built was constructed in April 1903 of railway sleepers, adjacent to the line in the centre of the beach. However, wind-blown sand proved to be a maintenance and human comfort problem and the Glencairn station platform was moved to more or less its current location.