Pieter van Breda was born in Sas-van-Gent in Zeeland, part of Flanders in 1696. He arrived in SA in 1719 on the ship “Spieringh”. In 1731, Pieter acquired the Oranjezicht (“Orange View”) estate in Cape Town, which was to remain in his family for almost 2 centuries. He died aged 63 at Oranjezigt in 1759.
Oranjezicht was probably so called either because it overlooked the Oranje bastion of the Castle, or due to the sight of abundant orange trees growing in Table Valley. Gradually enlarging their possessions was a policy the van Bredas continued to follow until the estate covered the largest part of Table Valley, 213 morgen in the 18th century (182 hectares). Terraces were made for the cultivation of vines, but the main income came from the sale of vegetables and fruit. 300 Slaves were eventually employed on the farm.
The van Bredas were known for their great hospitality and many important visitors to the Colony were entertained on the estate on a lavish scale. Pieter even had his own house orchestra of 30 flute and violin players, in uniform. They performed in one of the many gardens, on a raised bandstand with white-painted stone facing and low stone walls, surrounded by a circle of trees.
The Oranjezicht house, situated on what is now the bowling green, adjacent to Homestead Park, was unique in that it was a double storey, with a wood-floor balcony in front supported on 6 columns. Inside were large cool rooms with large windows, superb furnishings and a graceful staircase. It was an antique collector’s paradise. Seven steps led from the paved pathway to the stoep entrance. An outbuilding, the barn, dating back to about 1790 still remains, it has been used by boy scouts since the middle of the last century.
Behind the house, tier after tier of terraced fields with stonework fronts stretched towards the mountain. Pathways were lined with pine trees. On the east side were several water springs. In front of the house was a large circular fishpond surrounded by a cobbled courtyard. A wide oak-lined avenue of trees formed the main entrance to the homestead.
There were also 2 slave bells, the main one hanging suspended between two pillars. Sounded daily at set hours or in case of emergency, it could be heard from Signal Hill to Woodstock. The bell itself is apparently on exhibition in Koopman de Wet’s House in Strand Street, but the tower is still there. On sale days the bell sounded and a flag was hoisted, the signal for ship’s officers, burghers, and their wives and children to wend their way to the estate to wander through the spacious gardens and fill their carts with fresh fruit and vegetables. Produce was brought to a tree in the cobbled yard where it was weighed on a scale hanging from an oak tree. Look at the oak tree between the bell tower and the house. The hooks are still there! With exotic flowers adding colour and kilometres of shady walks alongside burbling brooks, it was a pleasureable occasion for all.
The demise of Oranjezicht started in 1877 when, in spite of being entailed, the Purchase Act enabled the Municipality to buy more than 12 morgen on which to construct water reservoirs (today’s Molteno Reservoir and de Waal park). Five years later another act released further portions of the estate and the municipality also acquired rights to impound the water from the many springs on the estate. Without water the farm became quite useless, and the owners were forced to pay urban rates and taxes too. These springs called Stadsfontein, once essential to the city’s water supply and also feeding the Hurling Swaai just further down, still give water today! Look east across the field and count the white concrete or brick structures with which these natural springs have been encased.
Members of the family continued to live there well into the 20th century, but gradually more and more land was sold until ultimately there was little left except the double-storey house in Sidmouth Ave. Its interior was a veritable museum, since the van Bredas brought lovely furniture, silverware and art treasures from Europe to their home. The house was eventually also purchased by the City Council in 1947, supposedly to be turned into a civic museum. That never happened and the antiques were auctioned off. At one stage it became the residence of the conductor of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra. In 1955 the homestead was demolished to make way for a sports club and lawns. Now only the name of the suburb remains of the proud van Breda possessions.