The History of Bishopscourt Village

The name Bishopscourt Village was coined by residents in 2002 in order to differentiate the area from the suburb of Bishopscourt proper, which is characterised by significantly larger properties. Bishopscourt Village is situated in part of an area previously known as Vineyard Estate. Historically, Vineyard Estate stretched from Bishopscourt to Sans Souci. It was made up of Edinburgh Township; Grayville Township, Newlands; Vineyard Estate, Bishopscourt; and Vineyard Estate Township. Today’s Bishopscourt Village encompasses parts of Vineyard Estate, Bishopscourt (between Bishopscourt, the Liesbeek and Princess Avenue) and Edinburgh Township (between Princess Avenue and the M3). 

On 26th March 1822 the widow of Colonel G Graham was granted the area of land now called Bishopscourt Village. Between 1827 and 1838 this land changed hands several times, finally becoming the property of James Maynard in 1838. During the 1840’s many of the plots were randomly sold to individuals and on the death of James Maynard in 1876, JM Hiddingh acquired the balance of the plots which remained in his name until 1929.

In 1929 two companies (Saxteno & Naruna) owned by Isaac Ochberg bought the land east of Princess Avenue, and Ochberg named this area Edinburgh Township. Isaac Ochberg was a remarkable man – he was a Ukrainian Jew who arrived at the Cape in 1895, penniless. He worked hard and built up a vast business empire. If he was offered a tract of land which appeared to other business investors to be useless, he would proceed to make it habitable, open up the area as a township and sell the plots. He would even assist with finance so that people could erect their own homes. One of his interests was helping underprivileged children and he brought many orphans to this country and saw them happily settled here. Two of his other ‘townships’ were Paradise and Southfield.

Development in Bishopscourt Village started in the 1930s and it is thought that the first houses were built in 1934 in Robinson Avenue.

Ochberg named the streets of Edinburgh Township after members of his family: Angelina, Bertha, Isabel, Noreen and Princess Avenues. Robinson Avenue was named after Julius Robinson who married one of Ochberg’s daughters. After the dual carriageway of Edinburgh Drive bisected Edinburgh Township in 1966, some of these names gained the prefix ‘Upper’. It is presumed that Edinburgh Drive is named after Edinburgh Township.

The source of other street names in the area is varied. Maclear Road is in a straight line with Maclear’s Beacon but the fact that the beacon is not visible from the road suggests that the name was given by a surveyor. Balfour Avenue was named after Arthur Balfour, British Prime Minister (1902-05) and Foreign Secretary (1916-19), who was responsible for the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which promised Zionists a national home in Palestine. Colenso Road was named after Bishop John Colenso. In 1939 and 1943, Mr & Mrs Hilda and Alan Abrahamse bought some land on Bishopscourt Drive and built a house which they named ‘Hildalan’. Two streets were subsequently named Hildalan Road and Hildalan Lane.

Much more history of Bishopscourt Village needs to be documented – the gravel quarry, the Liesbeek in the early days, interesting people who have lived here, etc. If anyone can provide more information, please contact the BVRA Committee.

1. “Claremont, Newlands and Bishopscourt Street Names” by Peter Hart (1999)
2. Cape Town Deeds Office
3. “This was a man” by Bertha Epstein (1974)