Our story begins on the outskirts of the Cape in the late 1600s, a time when lion and rhinoceros still roamed freely over the land and a Dutch colony was in its infancy. The Cape governor at the time, Simon van der Stel, granted the first title deeds of the farm and named it Tygerberg. A ‘tyger‘ was the name given to a leopard by the early Dutch settlers and the name Tygerberg comes from the ‘spots’ one sees in the vegetation during the hot summer months. The spots are thought to be from termite mounds that give plants in that soil a different colour.
Governor van der Stel was impressed by the fertile and water rich soil of the Tygerberg, and allocated the farm for agriculture. The first owner of the estate was Elsje van Suurwaarde whose husband, like all Dutch East India Company officials was not permitted to own land. Elsje was instrumental in the construction of the cellar in 1702, which is still in use to this day and initiated an unbroken wine making tradition. She was the hard working matriarch of Altydgedacht and her name would be forever entrenched in South African history, with the town Elsies River named after her. After Elsjes’ death, the farm passed through the hands of many owners. However, one thing remained the same, a deep love for the land of De Tygerbergen.
In 1816 the Liesching family housed Napoleon’s secretary, Count de las Cases for 3 months on the estate, while he awaited a ship to return to Europe. The English authorities apparently feared a plot to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena. In his diary he describes “being removed to the very extremity of the civilised world” in “the desert of the Tygerberg”. At the time of his stay his desert in fact contained sprawling fynbos and renosterveld. It took half a day by ox wagon through thick vegetation to travel from Cape Town to the farm. He nevertheless enjoyed the agreeable company of his hosts and noted that the farm rooster and prized bull were named after Napoleon.
The Parker dynasty
The Parker family have been custodians of the estate since 1852, a legacy spanning six generations. George Francis Parker, then aged 19, arrived at the Cape with his family in 1819, with one of the many groups of settlers sent by the English government to the Cape and the Australian colonies.
George remained at the Cape to become a merchant and later to acquire the farm, while the rest of the family settled in Australia. His perseverance laid the foundation for a new era for the farm and a 150 year old ownership. The Parkers have maintained and developed Altydgedacht and George’s great, great grandsons, John and Oliver continue the unbroken family tradition.