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Origin of the name for Elsie’s Peak

History 9 July 2010 Origin of the name for Elsie’s Peak

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The origins of the name Elsie’s Peak

Elsie’s Peak will be revered by many people for different reasons. Well-known for its traditional and sports climbing with spectacular views, it has hosted many a traditional rock climbing Mountain Club meet, where tongues wagged over the proverbial billy of tea in the well sheltered tea caves, both before and after scaling the various routes. For the not so adventurous the peak provides a selection of suitable walks for hikers, well suited for family outings.

At any time of the year the fynbos enthusiasts will always find some interesting plants or flowers to scrutinise or photograph, although spring and early summer are still the best periods for such activities. There is a clear view of Fish Hoek Bay from the summit and this provides a wonderful opportunity for shark spotting (best months are from October to January).

The river that runs down Glencairn valley was called Elsje’s River after the rooiels trees that lined its banks with candle-like flowers. Because the wood was so desirable the trees were soon eradicated. Pioneer farmers first settled the valley, and it was not until 1875 that the first family took up residence.

After the opening of the railway line to Simonstown in 1890, there were regular visitors to Glencairn, the name the valley had adopted. The first organised settlement of the valley started when 56 plots went on sale by Glencairn Estates Ltd.

The other important event in the development of the valley was the building of a factory for making glass. Mr Anders Ohlsson, the Norwegian brewer of Newlands, needed hundreds of bottles for his thriving business, and decided it might be more profitable to make them on the spot, instead of importing them. There was plenty of sand in the Peninsula and specimens were sent to the experts in England. The sand at Glencairn was pronounced to be eminently suitable for the manufacture of glass. Water was also plentiful, and it would be possible to link the factory with the railway line.

The site chosen lay on the floor of the valley, not far from the railway line. The land belonged to the Salt River Cement works and in 1902 it became the property of Cape Glass. There were few men at the Cape skilled in making glass, so a number of glass workers were imported from England and offered twice the wages they had been getting. Within a year the glass works, under the management of Mr Briarley, was in full swing.

The workmen brought out from England, from crowded industrial areas, refused to settle down, it was said, in what they considered ‘a wild, barely inhabited part of the world, bereft of the company and distractions to which they were accustomed’ and the expense of bringing the coal from England was much too high. By the end of 1905 a special meeting was held in London and it was agreed that the company would be wound up voluntarily.

Gradually Elsje became Elsie. Thus, the name for Elsie’s Peak was derived from an indigenous tree.


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