Somerset West Specials

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Somerset West Specials

Somerset West is a large town in the Western Cape region of South Africa, situated east of Cape Town and included as part of the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality. The area forms a key transit point for traffic coming to and from Cape Town, as well as a hub of industry and commerce for the region.

A large proportion of Somerset West is also given over to residential areas (including a number of prominent schools), as well as a few townships. The town is named after Lord Charles Henry Somerset, an English governor of the Cape Colony during the nineteenth century.

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Historically inhabited by indigenous peoples, the first recorded history of European habitation in the region begins with the establishment of a cattle post by Dutch soldiers in 1672. Over the following decades, a small settlement was established in the region by further Dutch colonists. Many of these began to establish farms in the area, some of which are still in existence today. Perhaps the most notable of these is the farm of Vergelegen, established by Willem Adriaan van der Stel (son of the former Cape governor Simon van der Stel).

Over much of the eighteenth century, a town began to develop around this central farm and the adjacent Tweederivier (now known as the Lourens River), and was officially foundedin 1822. With the construction of Sir Lowry’s Pass, a key link running over the Hottentots-Holland mountains, a key link between Somerset West and the outposts further east was established, placing the town firmly on the logistical and strategic map of the region (a position it largely retains today).

Due to its proximity to Cape Town, Somerset West became the ideal location for a number of industries to base their operations, and the region has continued to grow over the years. This is particularly true of the dynamite industry, with the Somerset West-based AECI factory being the second largest dynamite factory in the world during the 1960s. The town has seen even more rapid expansion in recent years in terms of both population and commercial expansion.




Somerset West is situated in the Helderberg region, about fifty kilometers east of central Cape Town, and just ten kilometers from the neighbouring Strand area. The Helderberg Mountain (part of the extended Hottentots-Holland range) dominates the area.




Somerset West’s main landmark is arguably the Helderberg Nature Reserve, a 363 hectare wildlife preserve that has been a natural feature of the area since 1964. The Vergelegen wine estate (open to the public) produces some of the country’s best wines, and is also home to fine old Cape Dutch architecture. The Helderberg mountain overlooking the entire area is undoubtedly the most prominent landmark for miles.


Interesting Statistics


  • Somerset West is home to approximately 55,166 people, at a density of around 900 per square kilometer.
  • The majority of the local population is white, with Afrikaans being the most widely spoken language.
  • Somerset West covers a total area of around 61 square kilometers.

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