Surrounded by orchards, farmlands and vineyards, the scenic suburb of Somerset West lies at the foot of the Helderberg mountains.
When Willem Adriaan succeeded his father, Simon van der Stel, as governor of the Cape in 1700, it didn't take long before he claimed a modest 30,000 hectare piece of land for himself just as his father had done in his time at Constantia. It took three days by ox-wagon to reach Willem Adriaan's farm on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland mountain range overlooking the Atlantic Ocean; hence its name 'Vergelegen', meaning 'situated far away'. Six years after he started planting vines, Willem Adriaan had half a million vine stocks. He laid out fruit orchards and orange groves, planted camphor and oak trees, and established eighteen cattle stations with 1000 cattle and 1800 sheep. Willem Adriaan also built reservoirs and dug irrigation canals. He built himself a beautiful Cape Dutch homestead, added a corn mill and many other subsidiary buildings.
Somerset West was named after the British Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, in 1819. In 1817, four farmers who owned different parts of Vergelegen in Somerset West, asked the governor's permission to build a church around which a village would be established. Permission was granted and the Somerset village was born. It later became Somerset West (1850), to prevent confusion with another town South African town Somerset East.
Somerset West has expanded greatly over the past decade, yet its splendor remains intact. The town is more industrious than ever and has become the commercial and residential capital of the Helderberg Basin. Quaint buildings in side streets are delightful features of our historic town filled with delightful boutiques offering wine, flowers, chocolates, books, fabrics, jewelry, antiques – anything you find essential and everything you require for afternoon’s diversion.