FIG Peer Review Journal


Locating the Positions of the Original Cape Farms of the 1660’s – a Demonstration of Cadastral Reconstruction Using Regular Techniques and GIS Cadastral Fabrics (4026)

Jennifer Whittal (South Africa) and Susan Jones (New Zealand)
Dr. Jennifer Whittal
Senior Lecturer
University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
Private Bag
South Africa
Corresponding author Dr. Jennifer Whittal (email: jennifer.whittal[at], tel.: + 27 21 6503575)

[ abstract ] [ paper ] [ handouts ]

Published on the web 2010-01-14
Received 2009-11-19 / Accepted 2010-01-14
This paper is one of selection of papers published for the FIG Congress 2010 in Sydney, Australia and has undergone the FIG Peer Review Process.

FIG Congress 2010
ISBN 978-87-90907-87-7 ISSN 2308-3441


Over the years many researchers have delved into the history of the early settlers at the Cape in South Africa. Most of these enquiries have concentrated on anthropological, heritage-type investigations and uncovering family histories. Little has been done since the mid 1980’s in relocating the positions of the original farms. The traditional tools of the cadastral surveyor, those of tracing back properties from old diagrams and maps to relocate boundaries, can now be complemented by recent technological advances in GIS, both in the analysis and in the presentation of results. The subject of this research is the relocation of the positions of the Liesbeeck River valley properties in the area now known as Rondebosch in the southern suburbs of the City of Cape Town. These were granted in freehold by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) about 350 years ago to a group of 17 farmers. They were surveyed by Pieter Potter, probably using the basic surveying tools of the trade in those times. As a first step in this investigation, the rough location of the original farms was determined. This was followed by an analysis to determine which of the original farm boundaries have survived through to the current cadastre, and are hence physically defined by corner beacons today. Six such boundaries were identified. However, creep in their positions cannot be discounted as the chain of property surveys and subdivisions over the years could account for significant cumulative uncertainty in the actual positions of the original boundaries. A completely different process was then undertaken also using independent evidence which corroborates these identified common boundaries. Thereafter, an attempt was made to identify the positions of corner points of the original farms. Since it is highly unlikely that any permanent markers remain at these corners (if indeed any were placed), the accuracy of the results cannot be checked against original boundary evidence, and estimates of accuracy are derived from the deductive process and a triangulation of methods. This research project was initially investigated by students at the University of Cape Town in two successive years of their final year thesis projects for their degrees in Geomatics. The authors have revised this work and extended it using conventional cadastral reconstruction techniques and also using GIS and, in particular, cadastral fabrics.
Keywords: Geoinformation/GI; Digital cadastre; Cadastre; Land management; History; historical boundary relocation; surveying; GIS; cadastral fabrics