Port Elizabeth of Yore: Rutger Metelerkamp & Papenkuilsfontein

As daunting as the challenge was, Rutger Metelerkamp rose to meet it by acquiring the farm previously owned by Thomas Ignatius Ferreira known as Papenkuilsfontein. Part of this danger stemmed from restive Khoikhoi and Xhosa tribesmen but also due to the utter isolation from civilisation. Taken all together, Rutger Metelerkamp [1780-1849] must have risen to the challenge. He also foresaw the potential of Klaaskraal, a former Khoikhoi “village” on the property later to be known as Bushy Park owned by the well-known local family of Lovemores.

It was intrepid entrepreneurs such as Rutger who would become the backbone and mainstay of economic development in this land. For that we should salute such men. Yet history now casts many pejoratively as colonisers and worse.

Main picture: Painting of Cradock Place by Thomas Baines


The information for this blog has been derived from numerous sources being mainly Dawie Hoets to Tamzin Hoets in 2010. Finally it was consolidated in 2023 by Penny Hoets for whom I am eternally grateful.

Confusion regarding to which Rutger is being referred

As the name Rutger Metelerkamp was given to various members of the Metelerkamp family over the years, confusion can arise as to the identity of a particular Rutger.

The Story of Rutger Metelerkamp

Because Rugter Metelerkamp, the first Metelerkamp to settle in SA (c.1803), married Maria Hoets, second daughter of Jan Hoets (quite a romantic story), Dawie Metelerkamp became an avid Hoets researcher and provided Dawie Hoets (deceased) with family-related information.

Financed by his father-in-law, Jan Hoets, Rutger Metelerkamp and a partner set up a ranching/trading business in Algoa Bay and built the first major homestead in the area, which was called Papenkuilsfontein. They were later joined by Frederick Korsten (who had married the eldest Hoets daughter, Johanna). Frederick Korsten changed Papenkuilsfontein’s name to Cradock Place in honour of his friend, Sir John Cradock, who was Governor of the Cape.  It was a shrewd move that helped their business interests. Over the years, the venture lost some 13 sailing ships at sea while trading between Algoa, the Cape and Mauritius, where they were providing supplies being to the British garrison.

The first mansion of note in an area that had no hotels (as this was the period from 1812 to 1820), Cradock Place hosted the visits of such notables as Lord Charles Somerset, Sir Benjamin D’Urban and Dr. James Barrie (who, on his death, was discovered to be a woman). Maria Johanna Hoets married Captain John Damant, a leader of one of the 1820 Settler parties and when Damant died she married John Centlivres Chase, another 1820 Settler leader. 

As I say, I could go on and on – correspondence with and about Jan Hoets; his role as a senior DEIC official; his acquisition of Rustenburg Estate, formerly the mansion of the governor of the Dutch East India Company; a newspaper advertisement from De Pakhuis Hoets; details of the organ he donated to Die Groote Kerk; accounts of his relationships with his slaves (according to Metelerkamp’s info, Jan Hoets, who was married for 42 years and had 14 children, spent the last 18 years of his life living with one of his former slaves in his Greenmarket Square Mansion and had two children by her – the supporting details he provides of the woman’s name and the family’s belated effort to have him declared incapacitated gives the information a valid ring).

Metelerkamp/Hoets link

Rutger Metelerkamp was born in 1780 in Zwolle in the Netherlands. He was the son of Johannes Jacobus a Doctor of Law, mayor of Zwolle (appointed by the crown). Rutger’s grandfather, born in 1720, was also a Doctor of Law. His maternal grandmother was the countess of Hoogendorp.

In a speech at Rutger’s funeral, it was said that he had been given a job in Batavia and on his way to take up his appointment the ship had called at Cape Town where he had fallen in love with Maria Christina Hoets the second daughter of Jan Hoets. He promised to return to marry her. There is evidence in the shipping news of an unnamed “Onderkoopman in dienst van Die Asiaatise Raad” arriving in Table Bay in 1802. This could have been Rutger but what we do know is that he arrived in Simon’s Bay from Batavia in 1803. As soon as he had permission to remain in the Cape the young couple were married on the 19th of February 1804. Their second son Frederick John Alexander was born 25th January 1806 at Rustenburg Rondebosch. (The great grandfather of David Peter Metelerkamp born 1928)

Rutger resigned from the Asiaatise Raad and had a shop in Bree Street down on the foreshore. In 1807 he took his family to England and probably to the Netherlands. He returned to Cape Town before setting off to Mossel bay to build a new grain store.

In 1812 Jan Hoets entered into a partnership with CF Pohl, a Prussian saddler & wagon builder who had been farming in the George district since the late 1780’s and Hoets’ son-in-law Rutger Metelerkamp. They had been granted a government contract to supply 3,000 barrels of salt beef. Pohl and Metelerkamp went to the Algoa Bay district, which was good cattle country with large salt pan nearby, and proceeded to buy up several loan farms, including Papenkuilsfontein, which was to be the centre of the enterprise. They obviously had big plans as in February 1813 Hoets was asking the Governor for 20-40 prize Negroes to be apprenticed to him to be trained in the ‘profession for curing Salt Beef’. (CO 3892/40) These were people from captured slave ships who were technically not sold as slaves but had to be ‘apprenticed’ in some way or other. When Governor Cradock visited the farm in November 1813, he was ‘pleased with the public spirit, industry and activity evinced by the proprietors of this establishment which far exceeds and expectation I have formed, and bids fair to become a permanent source of wealth to this Colony’ (CO 3894). Cradock agreed to their request to be released from the Government contract and to sell their salted provisions privately. Hoets stood surety for the repayment of their 50,000-gulder government loan. Metelerkamp and Pohl and their families were living on the farm and a daughter was born to each of them at what was to be known as Cradock Place. Maria Johanna Cornelia Metelerkamp was born on the third of April 1813, and Dorothea Charlotta Pohl on 27 May 1814. By this time Hoets’ other son-in-law Frederik Korsten had joined the company at Algoa Bay.

Goods were shipped from Algoa Bay to Cape Town on board coastal vessels which sailed that route. For example, in October 1815, Hoets & Co. shipped 19 casks soap, salt, butter, 150 hides, 4 casks and 18 sacks of fat, as well as 152 stinkwood planks and 172 pieces of wagon wood, to Cape Town on board the Thomas (CCT 374). In 1816 Marthinus Hoets, Jan’s eldest son, was advertising butter, fat, salt, salt meat and tongue for sale at his Cape Town store. However, in 1816 the partnership was dissolved, and Frederik Korsten took over all the landed property of the firm (CO 4021/143). He continued to build a prosperous business at Papenkuilsfontein, now renamed Cradock Place, with a cooperage, tannery and windmill.

Metelerkamp’s Petition

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Lovemores and Bushy Park

The last quarter of the 18th century saw various groups of white people traverse the Eastern Cape while the Xhosas simultaneously explored further southward past their traditional grazing areas. The whites included a motley collection of foreign explorers and hunters together with intrepid Dutch-speaking farmers known as Trek Boers.

Amongst the Dutch speakers was one, Meneer Rutger Metelerkamp, who on Monday 10th January 1814 submitted a memorial or statement of facts, as the basis of a petition requesting a grant on the land bearing the name Klaas Kraal. As the area was denoted by a person’s name rather than a botanical description implies that somebody must have been resident on this land albeit temporarily. Perhaps it was a band of Khoikhoi who were known to be itinerants in this area.

Original farms in Port Elizabeth

The area that Metelerkamp was requesting was situated “in the Field Cornetcy of Zwartkops River extending S. to the sea shore near Algoa Bay W. to Govt. ground, N. contgs [contiguous]  to the Officers at Algoa Bay and E. to the Quitrent place of Jacs [Jacobus] Botha.

The submission of the report drew an acidic reprimand from an official at the Landdrost’s Office in Uitenhage. Apparently the details of the land requested were too sparse as he stated that “The Landdrost must be informed and I must insist in future upon more attention being paid to the instruction of the Commission.”  As the official pointed out, “As the Opgaaf has not been made, it was the duty of the Commission to have ascertained for my information the means of cultivation and stocks possessed by the Memorialist”.

The absence of these details had unfortunate results for Rutger Metelerkamp, a merchant from Cape Town who had probably foreseen the opportunity for business and trade that would grow around Algoa Bay; the frontier being pushed northwards to beyond the new settlement at Graham’s Town, and he doubtless wished to establish a base in the area.

His memorial of 10th January 1814 stated that “having lately purchased the opstal [homestead] of the Loan Place called Klaaskraal…” he was “desirous to obtain it on Perpetual Quitrent as also the remaining Government land contiguous to the same…. “.

Original farms in Port ElizabethOriginal farms in Port Elizabeth per Redgrave

No immediate action was taken by the Landdrost on this report as his reply listed above was only provided on 2nd December 1816. Even by the delinquent standards of the civil service, this was slow. The reason for this lengthy delay was probably pursuant upon various political factors. Foremost amongst those was probably the security situation on the eastern frontier. With the restive Xhosa tribes periodically making incursions southward, the need for the permanent stationing of British troops in the region became a distinct possibility. Two solutions were ultimately implemented, the first being the cheaper of the two. Secondly it killed the proverbial two birds with one stone.

Leave a Comment.