Category / History

Excerpt from Cape Odyssey 103: Woodstock

Posted on 16 July 2014 by Stefan Blank

The following article is an excerpt from The Cape Odyssey 103: featuring Woodstock, Cape Town’s Earliest  Suburb. Permissions has gratefully been given by Gabriel Athiros from Historical Media.


The Treaty Tree


Place of Cape Surrender


In the heart of the industrial area, at the corner of Treaty and Spring Streets off Albert Road in Woodstock, is a small patch of ground with an old gnarled milkwood tree.  This is no ordinary milkwood – it is a historical monument.


A thatched cottage, built in the seventeenth century, stood nearby the site where the tree still remains. The cottage, according to local legend, belonged to a Hollander, Pieter van Papendorp, who owned the land between the Castle and Salt River.  Woodstock, as we all know, was once known as Papendorp, named after Pieter van Papendorp.

On 10 January 1806 a treaty was signed by: Lt.Col. Baron von Prophalow, commander of local fortifications, transferring the property of the Batavian Government to the commanders of the British Forces, Major General Sir David Baird and Commodore Sir Home Popham. The thatched cottage, where the treaty was signed, became known as Treaty House. This followed the Battle of Blaauwberg on 8 January 1806 and was the start of the second British occupation of the Cape.

The old Treaty House with rafted ceiling, stone-flagged floor and vine trained over the stoep was the place where the thirsty British troops formed up after the Battle of Blaauwberg.

Treaty House Ravenscroft550

The nearby milkwood tree, miraculously preserved, goes back to the early days at the Cape when it was known as the ‘Old Slave Tree’. In 1510 forty-five of d’Almeida’s Portuguese sailors were massacred by the Khoi near the tree.

At the end of the 19th century there still lived in Woodstock a lady, Rachel Bester, who had seen the slave dealers proclaiming the qualities of their human goods under that tree. It is alleged that slaves were hanged from the huge branches during Rachel’s childhood.

The tree has now been securely fenced in to save it from the fate of another aged tree, which was chopped up for firewood in recent years.  Fortunately milkwoods are not good firewood. Sadly in 1935 Treaty House was demolished to make space for a factory.

During 2006, MAD World Advertising purchased the adjacent property and started the process of beautifying the precinct. Fortuitously, in 2013, MAD World obtained custodianship of the park itself and have carefully landscaped and fenced the area.



The Cape Odyssey 103 featuring Woodstock, Cape Town’s earliest suburb can be bought from Blank Books in Woodstock and select other stores. For more information on local historical publications, visit the Historical Media website.

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