Our history begins in the year 1692, when a fine piece of land in the Stellenbosch Winelands was granted to a blacksmith from Magdeburg, Germany. Matthias Greeff had been living on the farm for ten years when the title deed with the name “Nooitgedacht” was handed over to him by Nooitgedacht VillageSimon van der Stel – the founder of Stellenbosch. Greeff became a prominent figure in the young Stellenbosch community: he was a well-known sheep farmer, Heemraad of Stellenbosch and served as corporal in the Citizen Force. He also trained himself in the field of herbal medicine, which, after refining his knowledge and skills, he made available to the local community.
In 1718 Nooitgedacht was purchased by Johannes Albertus Loubser, who was married to Sibella Passman. After her husband’s death, Sibella married Jacob Cloete, the grandson of Jacob Cloete, who was one of the first free burghersin 1657. Sibella herself was also a notable figure, having bought Weltevreden and Hartenberg. The Cloete-Passman crest can be found in the Moederkerk in Stellenbosch to this day.
Jacob and Sibella’s son, Hendrik, inherited the farm in the latter half of the 18th century. He proved to be a very capable farmer, and planted many vineyards. In 1769 he also built the slave bell, and in 1774 the H-form Herehuis. This is the date engraved on the facade. He bought numerous farms and became known as one of the wealthiest individuals in the region. In 1778 he bought Groot Constantia – property of Van der Stel at the time. He then moved here, leaving Nooitgedacht to Johan Gerhard Cloete – one of his eleven sons.
After the death of his wife, Hester, Hendrik moved back to Nooitgedacht, where he died in 1799. It is apparent that Hendrik entertained many visitors at Nooitgedacht. Petrus Borchardus Borchers, the son of a local pastor, paid tribute to Hendrik’s hospitality. He writes that “he had his sportsman supplying the table with game and fish, a large poultry-yard and pigeon-house [and] a box with eels…”
The farm remained the property of the Cloete family until Michael Ackerman bought it in 1844. Five years later the farm was sold to Jan Martinus Beyers. A descendant of Jan Beyers, Beyers Truter bought Beyerskloof, which historically formed part of Nooitgedacht. He is widely considered to have put the cultivar Pinotage on the international map.
The phylloxera plague, which threatened the future of the South African winemaking industry, hit in 1892. The Rhodes Trust (later known as Rhodes Fruit Farms Ltd.) subsequently bought multiple farms in the region, in order to prove that fruit farming could flourish here – even as well as winemaking had done. He assigned the task to a young Englishman, H. E. V. Pickstone. Pickstone’s orders were to find farms suitable for fruit farming. Those with beautiful old farmhouses were to enjoy preference. Nooitgedacht was chosen, along with Boschendal, Rhone, Vredenburg, Bien Doné and Lekkerwyn, among others. When it came to choosing a farm as his personal abode, Rhodes chose none other than Nooitgedacht. Many of the structures found at Nooitgedacht today were restored or built at this time.
During the South African War (1899 - 1902), Nooitgedacht was used by the British government as a remount camp. At certain stages of the war, Stellenbosch received as many as 1400 horses every day, many of which would be received at Nooitgedacht, where tents and sheds had been erected for this purpose.
Many soldiers were buried on the farm, but only one grave remains to this day. Buttons from uniforms, buckles,coins and other objects from this era have been found in latter years, and are displayed in the display cabinet in the manor house.
1923 marks the year when the Wirth-family story became intertwined with that of Nooitgedacht farm. How the family made their way to the Southern tip of Africa is an epic tale in itself.
After severe losses on the stock market and personal crises, a cigar-factory owner from Hanover, Germany, Hermann Albert Ludwig Wirth, took his family in search of more favourable fortunes on foreign soil. In 1880 the family left for South African on board a steamship called the “American”. The ship, however, sank having hardly reached the equator. They were stranded on the West coast of Africa for almost 4 Months until a passing merchant ship rescued them and took them back to South Hampton, England. Not letting adversity get them down, and being determined to reach Southern Africa to start their new life, they took the first available ship back to South Africa. The Wirth’s ended up settling in Delagoa Bay (more recently known as Lourenqo Marques and today as Maputo) in modern day Mozambique – where they bought the Century hotel. Their son Fritz joined a commercial import and export firm, which was renamed to Breyner&Wirth after he became a partner.
Fritz Otto Robert Wirth became involved in trade negotiations between Portugal and South Africa and was often sent to Portugal to conduct these. He spoke 10 languages and was Consul General for various countries including China and formed close bonds with luminaries and statesmen such as the Portuguese King, the Chinese Emperor, Paul Kruger, Jan Smuts and Ernst Oppenheimer.
After his retirement, he and his sister, Louise, bought Nooitgedacht farm as their retirement residence in 1923. Fritz Otto Robert Wirth passed away in 1940, leaving Nooitgedacht to Louise. After the death of Louise, the farm was placed in trust for Fritz Wirth, the only son of Hermiene Louise (Milu) Wirth.
Milu grew up to be a capable farmer who did not seem to stand back for anything. Her being the only female member of the Stellenbosch Gentlemen’s Club, established by Distell founder Bill Winshaw, was one indication of her peculiar resilience.
In 1973 Fritz took over the farming responsibilities from his mother and bought back 38 Ha of farmland that used form part of Nooitgedacht. Later, he bought the 50 Ha farm Kriekbult from Kanonkop.
In 1989, Fritz bought the 25 Ha piece of land where Nooitgedacht Village is today from Tongaat-Hullett. Hestarted the process of rezoning and chaired the Koelenhof water association to get water to the area from the Wemmershoek dam. He also installed the sewerage line from Koelenhof to Stellenbosch and the bulk services for the estate.
In 2007 Fritz Wirth passed the reins of developing Nooitgedacht Village to his son Werner Wirth, who, along with a dedicated team of professionals, brought the dream to life. Today the vision of a Village in the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands is coming to fruition, with close to 30% of the development completed and close to 300 families already calling Nooitgedacht Village home.
The Wirth-era at Nooitgedacht Estate is one marked by a clear and compelling vision. It is driven by a custodian’s passion for conserving heritage and the environment. Nooitgedacht Estate is a place where a life-giving balance is struck between people and the environment. The estate also recaptures the old-world treasure of public space – where people can thrive together within a cohesive community. Here, piazzas once again become the outdoor living rooms where togetherness can be enjoyed.