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.
When, in November 1705, Reverend Francois Valentijn visited Vergelegen he uttered the now well-known words: "I saw this Estate with exceptional pleasure, since everything was laid out wonderfully finely."
The younger van der Stel was a man of divergent interests, but his enthusiasm to turn this barren land into an agricultural paradise got the better of him and after only six years in office, Willem Adriaan was found guilty of corrupt practices and was ordered to return to the Netherlands in October 1706. Nevertheless, Willem Adriaan was considered a genius for his knowledge of farming and his visionary mind contributed greatly to the agricultural development of the Cape.
Three years later the Estate was sold and divided into 4 separate farms: Vergelegen, Lourensford, Morgenster and Cloetenburg. From that time, Vergelegen passed through a succession of owners until 1798, when the Theunissen family took ownership of the Estate. Under their care, which lasted for about a century, the vineyards flourished.
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