Long before Damhuis became one of the best restaurants on the West Coast, it was a humble property that saw significant pieces of South African history unfold at its doorstep.
The humble beginnings of Damhuis
In 1781, Christiaan Brand received an empty piece of land, and during 1785, he and his family officially became the first residents on the farm, De Melkbosch. The walls were built with local stone and then plastered with a mixture of cow manure, sand, and hay which are all indicative of buildings from this era. It’s recorded that Christiaan Brand caught whales during the late 1700s, and evidence of this is the presence of whale bones, which were built into the walls of the Damhuis. Although it’s hard to determine the exact age of the Damhuis, evidence suggests that it was made in the 1700s.
The angular architecture of the original buildings, which was typical of that early period before Cape gables, became a popular form of Cape architecture.
More about the Brand family
Christiaan Pieter Brand was born in the Cape in 1734. As a young man, he joined the Cape Citizen Corps and worked his way up from Sergeant to Captain. During this time, he purchased property in central Cape Town between the Castle and the Salt River in Papendorf (this is known as Woodstock today).
According to the marriage register, he married Gesina Maria Verwey, and together they had ten children.
In 1780, the French troops stationed along the Cape coast came to help the Dutch against possible British invasion. During this time of military unrest, Brand kindly allowed the troops to traverse over his property in Papendorf. As compensation for his co-operation, Governor Jacob van de Graaff rewarded Brand with a piece of land covered in Melkbos (a type of shrub that gives off a milky residue). Brand named his new farm after these shrubs, De Melkbosch, which, of course, is known as Melkbosstrand today.
Between 1785 and 1814, Brand built a homestead, a boathouse, a lime oven and a Visschuur (a fish barn that became the current Damhuis). They made a living from their “kotterskuit” (a cutter, which is a small single-masted boat, fore-and-aft rigged), the Nederland-Afrika by harvesting fish from the sea and seashells from the beach. The fish were salted and dried in the present Damhuis, and the shells were processed into lime in the oven, which was situated on the beach. Later Brand also planted mielies and kept cattle.
The Battle of Blaauwberg
It is also historically noted that the Brand family experienced the Battle of Blaauwberg (between the Dutch and the British), right in front of their farm. They had to flee while the soldiers thrashed and stole their property. Afterwards, Brand had to claim for damage done by the soldiers.
Christiaan and his sons were also hailed as heroes due to the brave rescue of soldiers from the British ship, the HMS Tremendous. The soldiers came ashore in a boat to catch crayfish, and they got into trouble right on the rocks in front of the Damhuis.
A piece of South African history
Today, more than 200 years since Christiaan Brand and his family stayed here, the Damhuis has been declared as a National Monument, and still stands proud. Today the Damhuis with its rich history and heritage, houses the famous Damhuis Restaurant along the beautiful seaside of Melkbosstrand.
The Damhuis we know and love today
The Damhuis restaurant officially opened its doors in 2009 and comprises a series of interconnected sections, including the Fishermen’s Tent, die Voorhuijs and die Stampkroeg, over 1000 square meters. Dedicated to offering a dining experience that will make guests want to immediately book for another meal as soon as they leave, the passionate people at the Damhuis know what it takes to earn the coveted “culinary hotspot” title.