The earliest mention of ‘Blommesteijn’ is in 1313 concerning one Zweder (Sweder or Sueder) who was a knight in service to the Lord of Culemborg, and a son of the van Gorinchem family. Zweder resided in a castle (demolished in the 15th century) at a place called Blommesteijn, on the north bank of the river Lek opposite Culemborg, just south the current town of Schalkwijk. Descended from the ancient Counts of Holland, over the next 500 years this became a prestigious family well connected among the nobility of France, Belgium and Netherlands, including connections to the royal Orange-Nassau family of Netherlands. The current head of House of Blommestein is Baron van Blommestein, who currently resides in Europe.My thanks to Julien de Boutray, Genealogy and Nobility Researcher, for much of the above information
The South African stamvader (progenitor) came from the Delft branch of the family who were leading members of that city and influential in shipping, especially the Dutch East India Company (VOC). After his family settled in Stellenbosch he is reputed to have had an armorial board mounted in the church which showed the 31 noble families of Holland connected to his family through marriage. According to a genealogist in Delft, who researched this for my uncle, “there is no more well-connected family in South Africa”. (See my attempt to reconstruct that wapenbord from archive records –
There is unsubstantiated evidence that he intended to join his older brother, Willem, in the Dutch East Indies. Their American ship, which sailed from Amsterdam, was taken at sea by the Royal Navy and impounded in London docks. How Petrus and his family lived in England is unclear, but in 1811 he is recommended to the Secretary of State for Colonies, the Earl of Liverpool, for emigration to the Cape of Good Hope by Messrs Simpson & Co. This may have been partly the result of a friendship struck up on board the ship between Petrus and American politician and socialite Aaron Burr, who would have been well connected in London high society and may have helped Petrus with introductions to the right people,
They arrived at the Cape in late 1811 and by 1813 Petrus was appointed secretary to Landdrost (Magistrate) van Andringa in Stellenbosch. He appears to have been a somewhat flamboyant character (as suggested by his signature), an energetic but difficult man who was often in contention with others, including the Church Council of the Stellenbosch church over a seat for his wife. He lost everything through bankruptcy in 1841, including an extensive wine farm Weltevreden. But this didn’t seem to deter him at all – he simply opened a stables and B&B at 80 Dorp Street, today a home & décor shop (next door to the well known ‘Oom Samie se Winkel’).
Petrus was married three times and fathered 18 surviving children
•Christina le Sueur (1803 - 1820) •Johanna van der Graaf (1820 - 1843) •Aletta Maria Louw (1846 -1853)
Petrus died in Feb 1853 at the age of 69 and is buried in the family tomb. There is a row of about 8 family tombs located along the front wall of the Dutch Reformed Church in Stellenbosch (see the burial register of the church) belonging to the leading families of Stellenbosch. One of these (in the centre of the picture, with the large black plaque), contains the remains of about 14 of these earliest van Blommesteins.
By the time of his death in 1853 the family was spread all over the Western Cape area – Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Caledon, Paarl, Hermanus, But important changes to the family began to happen from 1836 with the events of the Great Trek, when many Cape families were split over allegiance to the British authorities, as well as the discovery of diamonds and gold in the interior. Many younger members of the van Blommestein family moved northwards and soon found themselves on opposite sides of the conflicts about to beset Southern Africa.