Fish Hoek Valley Museum
A walk down memory lane
This private museum has displays on Peers Cave, local Fish Hoek history and the local environment. Fish Hoek is home to an early Stone Age site where the remains of Fish Hoek man’ were found & the interpretive displays are of historical significance. There is also information on whales and dolphins & the whaling industry
Fish Hoek is home to an early Stone Age site where the remains of Fish Hoek man’ were found. His skull had the largest brain area of any skull of its age found up until that time, and has been dated at 12 000 years old.
The site, today known as Peers’ Cave, was discovered and excavated by amateur archaeologist Victor Peers in 1927. Peers and his son, Bertie, residents of Fish Hoek, excavated Peers’ Cave over a number of years, discovering and documenting Khoisan rock art, stone tools, and an ancient burial site. In January 1941 Peers Cave was declared a National Monument.
The idea of having a museum in, Fish Hoek had been talked about for many years before it became reality. The Fish Hoek Town Council gave the Historical Association the use of a municipal house in 1993 and the museum opened in February 1994 with a display of historical photographs. Items that were of historical interest had been stored at the Fish Hoek Library in anticipation of a museum so it took some time to sort through the boxes and establish the museum as it stands today with 3 rooms. The Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association plays the role of Friends of the museum.
There is also a collection of local archives and the museum endeaovours to answer many local research queries from all over the world. There are over a thousand photographs of the area from Lakeside to Kommetjie and an almost complete collection of Fish Hoek Echoes, which tell the social history of Fish Hoek.
1200 years old
Thursday night talks. 7pm @
Street address: 59 Central Circle, Fish Hoek
Phone: 021 782-1752
Opening hours: Sunday & Monday closed
Tuesday to Saturday ~ 9.30 am to 12.30 pm ~ other times by appointment.
Admission: Donation required
Mr and Mrs de Villers – Last owners of Fish Hoek Farm. Mrs de Villiers was born 21.01.1832 and died 06.10.1914 at 82 years & 9 months.
At the age of 51 she bought the farm from Mr Wilson for 3200 pounds on 05.10.1883.
Hester Sophia de Kock married Jacob Isaac de Villiers on 08 June 1901 at 69years old. He was 64. Born 19.08.1937. Died 17.02.1916, aged 78 years and 6 months
There are three rooms containing displays.
The Peers Cave room has photographs from the Peers excavation in the 1920s and stone tools found in the Fish Hoek Valley. The museum houses interpretative displays of the excavations that led to the discovery of the ‘Fish Hoek man’, as well as a display of prehistoric items from the area. As well as documenting this important era in the Cape’s history, the museum arranges guided walks of the Fish Hoek area, specifically to Peers’ Cave. Its historical interest aside, Peers’ Cave, offers visitors panoramic views across the valley and the peninsula.
The second room documents the history of the Fish Hoek Farm, the founding of the village and its growth with many display of old photographs of the area, local history and local culture. It also has stone age implements and documents from the San People to the present day.
The third room houses a display on whales and dolphins including the history of whaling in Fish Hoek Bay.
The Fish Hoek Valley Museum’s Educational Wing and its team of professional partners offer the below-mentioned CAPS compliant talks and walks to school and adult groups. To book or enquire, please contact the museum curator well in advance firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peers Cave- Middle and Stone Age Man; Fish Hoek Man: dress; food sources; implements and weapons. Kindly note that walks to Peers Cave are cancelled for the time being.
- The geology of the Fish Hoek Valley (a talk that includes a field visit to selected sites)
- Elsies Peak (a talk that may include a walk up the mountain to the old quarry)
Historical Fish Hoek. Talks include:
- Fish Hoek in the late 1600s/early 1700s.
- A Walk of Historical Fish Hoek Valley.
- Places of Worship Trail (a visit to selected places of worship).
- Fish Hoek’s global legends viz Bobby Locke and Mrs HS Ball (includes a visit to selected sites).
- A Visit to the Trek Fishermen.
- View Whaling Era Artefacts on Jager Walk.
- Architecture – Fish Hoek’s Oldest Buildings.
IN COMMAND: Captain Raphael Semmes, Alabama’s commanding officer, standing aft of the mainsail by his ship’s 8-inch smooth bore gun during her visit to Cape Town in August 1863.
Drinking & Driving Law
Linder said that the prohibition on alcohol was dubbed the first drinking and driving law: “After drinking, wagoners, due to their hangovers would damage their wagons and cause accidents on the trek – we didn’t have roads then.”
Since then, the town had maintained its non-liquor selling law.
“Only restaurants have liquor licences here. If a person wants to go to a pub or buy alcohol, they have to go to Kalk Bay, Noordhoek or any of the neighbouring areas,” said Linder.
He added that Fish Hoek, apart from the architectural change, was still a very conservative area.
It has one of the oldest corrugated buildings, known as the Victorian Times, and the De Villiers barn has been revamped. The catwalk, where people still walk and look out to sea, also remains a feature.
Cape Town – A former schoolteacher who wished that her farm would become a township after her death played a part in helping to found the town that is now known as Fish Hoek.
Hester de Villiers was aged 51 when she bought Fish Hoek farm, where she cultivated fields of wheat and vegetables. She bought water rights, which allowed water from the Kleintuin spring to irrigate the fields and supply the farmhouse. She died in 1914 and in 1918, two years after the death of her husband, Izaak, the farm land was sold in portions and the proceeds were divided equally between her stepchildren.
This year, Fish Hoek holds its centenary celebration as a result of the land being sold at 11am on April 24, 1918.
“The land was sold in two auctions. The biggest one was on April 24, where a large number of plots were sold. But in this day and age, this date resembles a huge moment for Fish Hoek,” said Fish Hoek Valley Historical Association chairman Alan Linder.
Before it was a residential community, Fish Hoek was commonly known for whaling, fishing and farming. One of the most idiosyncratic facts about Fish Hoek is the grant of land policy that prohibits anyone from opening a liquor store or pub. It also has no nightclub.
Fish Hoek Valley Museum curator Sally Britten said the original deed of 1818, signed by Lord Charles Somerset – then governor of the Cape – had conditions: “The first policy was that there be no wine house because wagoners who brought produce to the Cape would drink and forget about the job they had to do. The second policy was that trek fishermen should always have access to fish on the beach.”
This is the place where stories will be told of the Valley in which we live. As with any story it starts with “Once upon a time…” and come from snippets/sources in the Fish Hoek Valley Museum and the putting together of information by Dr John Clifford in the Fish Hoek Fossikings.
The natural history of the Fish Hoek Valley is obviously as old as the planet itself. At various times in its long history, it has been under the sea, elevated higher than its present elevation, or subjected to different climates with their appropriate associated vegetations. A review of this natural history was made by artist John English (a Trustee of our Museum Trust) and occupies a proud place amongst the museum’s permanent displays. The first article included in this chapter was published some fifty years ago in the Fish Hoek Echo. It provides a comprehensive overview of the geology of the valley throughout the ages. It also explains why Fish Hoek beach is one of the safest beaches especially for children which made Fish Hoek so popular as a holiday destination.
From time to time strange sea creatures are washed ashore at both ends of the Fish Hoek Valley. Amongst these have been tropical sea snakes. This chapter includes a newspaper article that identifies the species and the normal habitat of the sea snakes that sometimes are found on our shores.
The natural history of the Fish Hoek Valley provided rich deposits of Kaolin, also known as ‘China Clay’, a valuable mineral in many industrial processes such as pottery and ceramics (particularly porcelain), paper manufacturing, paint, and even glue. The Fish Hoek Valley kaolin is surprisingly about three times as rich as the English and Malaysian kaolin!
The natural history of the Fish Hoek Valley must include the fish in its adjacent oceans. Trek fishing, a method involving the pulling-out of a long net from one point along the coast behind a rowed fishing boat around an arc, returning to the shore some distant further along the beach, after which the net is pulled into the shore from both ends. Fish trapped by the net are thus drawn to the shore where the Trek Fishermen select the fish for their use, the rest being thrown back into the sea. This chapter includes some articles found in the Fish Hoek Valley Museum archives on this important industry, now however with the serious reduction of fish especially in False Bay, more continued as a tourist attraction rather than a commercial viability.
Some of the famous people who came from the community include the original manufacturer of Mrs HS Ball’s Chutney. As part of the centenary celebration on March 23, Fish Hoek will be celebrating Mrs Amelia Ball’s birthday.
South African professional golfer Bobby Locke also lived in Fish Hoek. Locke won four Open Championships, nine South African Opens, seven South African Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championships and 15 PGA Tour events.
Linders said that the town, once a holiday destination, is now more of a retirement village, with “more people over the age of 55 than those (who are) younger, but it’s slowly changing in the aspect of integration. There are a lot of clubs and associations and we have great water sports.
“The only thing we are missing is a central business hub,” he said.
Britten said crime is very low in the area.
“We have a very good neighbourhood watch, but we do have those isolated break-in incidents. But living in Fish Hoek is calming – the calm sea and gentle waves are relaxing,” she said.
TREK FISHING IN SIMON’S TOWN AREA:
By E R Biggs, Simon’s Town Historical Society, Volume XVII, January 1993, pages 117-120.
Gaining a subsistence living from the sea by netting fish from shore-based boats is an age-old manner of earning a living. Records have been found showing that the early inhabitants of the South Peninsula, the Hunter Gatherers, relied to some extent on the products of the sea to supplement their fynbos plant foods.
The methods of trek fishing or seine-netting from the beach have not changed over the centuries and it is still regarded as a way to gather food. A shoal of fish is spotted from an observation post on the hill or a promontory above the bay by the ‘uitkyker’ [lookout] or ‘wagter’ [the one who waits]. Blue water or sometimes light yellow, indicated harders; elf gave a bluish tinge; a dark colour showed a compact shoal and an experienced fisherman could estimate the number of fish. When the spread of colour moved within range of the trekkers, a signal would be given by whistle or flag and the boat with the net piled in readiness in the stern sheets, sets out from the shore with one end of the net secured to the shore by a rope manned by all available volunteers, sometimes even including members of the passing public. The net is paid out over the stern and the boat manoeuvres in a circle in accordance with instructions signalled from the look-out post. The other end of the net also has a hauling rope which is brought ashore. The net is pulled in and the enclosed fish are thus hauled to the shore. There are no motors aboard to frighten the fish.
At the turn of the [nineteenth/twentieth] century, fishing from shore bases was a thriving industry. Trekking is a family business going on from generation to generation with the father teaching his son the tricks of the trade. It is a hard and dangerous life offering only a precarious existence. It involves much heavy labour, fighting out through the breakers, followed by the tedious hand-hauling of the net to the beach with the men trudging backwards in a tug-of-war exercise until the cod-end of the line comes out of the water and the catch can be assessed. Work does not end there as the boat has to be dragged above the high water mark and secured.
Trek-netting operations are confined to sandy beach areas, free of rock which could foul and damage the nets. [The study includes details of Buffel’s Bay, Steenbras Bay, Jaffar’s Bay, and Long Beach, but I have only included the details of Klein Vishoek/Breda’s Beach, which are in Fish Hoek.]
Klein Vishoek/Breda’s Beach
The rights were first owned by the Bruins’ family who salted harders and mackerel, which were dried and hung on ‘stelassies’, put into old ‘trap-balies’ and salted. They were sold to the farmers of Paarl, Wellington, and Worcester areas. At first they were taken by wagon to these areas to be sold for about £2 to £3 per 1,000 or were bartered for vegetables. Later, the fish were put into sacks and sent by goods train. The rights were bought by Gysbert van Reenan van Breda in 1888. The business was continued by K P van Breda (Uncle Kenny) until he sold the business in 1959, the same year that Marine Oil Refiners bought Klein Vishoek from him.
Makriel Bay in the vicinity of Klein Vishoek; the rights were transferred there from Jaffer’s Beach when the extensions to East Dockyard [Simon’s Town] were carried out. Achmat Achmat took over rights on the death of Jaffer. He has a permanent team of 25 men and three boats. The number of men can swell to 50 in the summer when the south-easter brings steenbras and yellowtail. The look out is probably near Hopkirk Way, Glencairn, where a cave is used for shelter, this was used for the fishing off Glencairn beach as well as there was a boat there until about 5 years ago; there is also a look-out above the beach of Klein Vishoek.
The problem of supplying fresh fish to the vendors was overcome in the early years by the erection of an ice factory near the railway line at Simon’s Town. The ice produced was brown as the water came from the mountain springs. The fresh fish was packed into the ice and railed to the suburbs. Gradually, with the advent of cool boxes and refrigerators, the factory declined and finally the building was demolished.
Order the following books from the Fish Hoek Valley Museum
These books are available at the museum for you to buy. If you wish to read them online, click on the photo of the book – give it time to load.
Before We Forget
The story of Fish Hoek. Covering the beginnings of Fish Hoek to the 60’s in a very personal account
Memorable South Peninsula shipwrecks. Every shipwreck has it’s own story and many of these which are long forgotten are included in this book
Forgotten Shipwrecks of the Western Cape
Recalling the drama, the tragedy, the bravery, the sorrow, the seamanship and the discipline during the many shipwrecks along the Cape Coast
Kalk Bay – A Place of Character
Steeped in history. Kalk Bay’s fortunes have waxed and waned and is now enjoying it’s forth revival which Michael Walker portrays in this fascinating history
The Families and Farms of the South Peninsula and Cape Point
This book recalls the families of the better known farms from 1738 until recently and how Cape Point and the divisional council of the Cape became the first to recognise nature conservation as one of its public services
+27 (021) 782-1752
0930 to 1230
Other times by appointment
Come & Visit
- Groups led by tourist guides: R10 pp; complimentary entrance for the guide
- School groups accompanied by educators and parents: a single donation paid in advance
- Adults: R15 pp
- Unaccompanied learners: R5 pp
- The venue and start point is Fish Hoek Valley Museum on Central Circle, Fish Hoek
- that as the museum is very small, groups of 8 pax at a time can be handled comfortably
- sessions are compact ie generally 2 to 3 hours in duration
- although the train is an option for some, groups are advised to use their own motor transport when a field trip/walk is included/requested