One of the countless things to do in Franschhoek, is learn about the village’s history.
Since arriving in this very historical village, my interest in history has increased a thousand fold. It was never my favourite subject at school because I have always struggled with remembering endless dates! But when you concentrate on only one area, and you live in it, the dates start to make sense and stick in the memory far easier.
The Franschhoek High School in Akademie Street is part of our Historical Village Walking Tour. The school was founded in 1850 and is not the oldest school in the country as some people mistakenly believe. This misconception comes from the fact that the French Huguenot’s insisted on bringing their own teacher with them when they ventured down south to this new world and when they arrived in Franschhoek in 1688, it was the first time that children were brought together as a group and were taught by a teacher and given actual lessons. Until then they were “educated” at home on the farms, although I doubt they were very well educated at all. So this was the first form of schooling in the country but the actual Franschhoek High School as we know it today did not come into existence for almost 200 years after that.
The existing school buildings consisting of the old school hall and some rooms, were built in 1907 and today are in a very sad state of repair. Next to these building is the current Franschhoek Traveller’s Lodge (which my parents used to manage at the time that I arrived in Franschhoek 10 years ago, and thus I lived there for a year or so). This building was also built in 1907 and was the boy’s hostel for boarders, originally called La Rochelle and could accommodate 55 children.
There are a number of photos of La Rochelle around that show it with a beautiful wooden balcony and banister all around the top floor of the building which has long since disappeared.
The current La Fontaine Guest House in the next street (Dirkie Uys street) was the girl’s hostel, known as Linquenda.
The school also acquired a Library in 1950 to commemorate the centenary of the school and today this once neglected building has been given a new lease on life and has been completely renovated and transformed into the Franschhoek Theatre were movies are currently shown 5 days a week. Inside this theatre there are some fabulous old school photos and a display case bearing such artefacts as the old school prospectus which is sadly undated as well as a School Annual from 1935. They make for fascinating reading!
My favourite page in the Prospectus was the list of items to bring with from home. It lists all the obligatory school uniform requirements as well as bedding and toiletries etc but my very favourite item was, believe it or not, a Serviette ring! This really tickled me for some reason. It just seemed like such a unlikely item to be included in the packing list for boarding school. I, myself, was a boarder at De Villiers Graff High School in Villiersdorp for a year, in standard 6 (back in 1981), and we also had a long packing list but I’m quite sure a serviette ring was not a required item!
For more information on this and other walking tours, mountain bike wine tours, hiking in Franschhoek or any other activity you may wish to take part in, please do get in touch.