The History of Foresters Arms

The history of Foresters Arms began in 1852 – a long time ago!

A gentleman by the name of James Maynard owned a section of land called Papenboom , which was situated in what we currently know as Newlands. Mr Maynard was in dire financial straits and in order to repay his debts, he sectioned off his land into 200 lots and raffled them off at £25.10 sterling per lot. ‘The Cottage’ was one of the grand prizes, and this was the original building that would be recognized as the Foresters Arms of today.

A Mr David Williams bought large portions of these tickets and ‘won’ considerable amounts of land including ‘The Cottage’, which became known as the Foresters Arms. The plots 129, 130 and 167 that make up the area of Foresters Arms today were officially transferred to Mr Williams on the 28th August 1852.

During these early years, David Williams was a well known timber-man and forester, who utilized the Newlands (Papenboom) forest to pursue his business and trade. His business was thriving and he employed a number of men who would willingly exhaust themselves to better his business.

David Williams was a philanthropic man who believed that his men should be rewarded with comfortable conditions and a place to relax after a long and hard day’s work. He would often encourage them to come to ‘The Cottage’ (Foresters Arms) to enjoy a beer from one of the local breweries. ‘The Cottage’, or Foresters Arms as it had become known, was used in the early days, as a local office for him and his foremen and also as a place of recreation and rest for his workers.

By the time David Williams passed away in the 1870’s, his estate was insolvent and was sold off portion by portion.

On 28th September 1881, the plots of land containing Foresters Arms were sold to Simon Londt. He converted the rooms used as offices into rooms and opened Forries as an Inn. It was one of the first Tavern/Inns open to the public. The early patrons of Foresters Arms Inn were travelers making their way from Cape Town to Simonstown in their horse-drawn carts.
The trip often involved a night stop and Newlands was an ideal half-way house. The other loyal patrons who frequented Foresters Arms pub were the foresters who worked in the adjacent Newlands forest and who would still enjoy a beer after a long day’s work, especially on Fridays, where evenings could become quite unruly.

Between the years 1840 and 1884, four breweries were established in the Papenboom (Newlands) area. All of these breweries used the water from the famous, and still flowing, Newlands Spring, which was considered the finest quality water for the finest quality beer in the Cape.

The first brewery, established in 1840, was established by Jacob Letterstedt and was the Mariendahl Brewery, and connected to the Jospehine Mill, which used the Newlands Spring water to make its beer.

The second brewery, established 1866, was the Cloete’s Brewery, also known as the Newlands Brewery, and was registered to Daniel Cloete. Daniel Cloete was the grandson of David Williams, and used a portion of his inheritance from his father, to start his brewery. This brewery was situated directly opposite the Foresters Arms as we know it today.

The third brewery was Cannon Breweries, started by in 1874, by Dr Jonas Michael Hiddingh. He also bought various public houses and canteens to ensure the success of his beer to counter competition from his opposition.

The fourth brewery was the introduction of the Anders Ohlsson brewery business, considered to be the father of modern day brewing in South Africa. Anders Ohlsson bought the Anneberg Mill from David Ireland and converted the Mill into the Anneberg Brewery.

By 1888, Anders Ohlsson has established himself as an icon in the brewery business. Mariendahl Brewery and Josephine’s Mill were leased to Ohlsson (with rights to purchase) and Ohlsson received the rights to access the water from Newlands Spring. Ohlsson also purchased Newlands Brewery from Daniel Cloete who had passed away, and also purchased Foresters Arms, by then a well established Inn, from David Mausen. In 1889, Mr Ohlsson received the leases of all canteens and public houses from Dr Michael Hiddingh, who had decided to shut down Cannon Breweries.

In 1889, Anders Ohlsson formed Ohlssons Cape Breweries Limited, which would be pivotal as a forerunner of our current brewers’ competition for market share.

All of the above is integral to the history and development of Foresters Arms, as it stands today.

Between 1889 and 1891, Ohlssons Cape Breweries demolished the original Foresters Arms cottage and built a larger zinc and brick building. It was converted into an off-sales and canteen and was used to sell their beer. This was a valuable commodity for Ohlssons Cape Breweries as it was their closest off-sales and was necessary because beer made in those days would turn sour after approximately 8 days. (If this happened, the owners of the canteens would add sugar to the mix and sell it to the ‘working folk’, who were generally ‘not white’, called it sugar beer, and sold it for a “tickey”. By adopting these questionable values, (by today’s standards), OCB traded successfully in making Forries the home of the ‘freshest beer in the Cape’. Ohlssons also built storehouses and stables for the transportation of beer thoughout the Cape Colony.

In 1895, Castle Breweries (to eventually become South African Breweries (SAB)) was founded and hit the market with their flagship beer, Castle Lager. This was a formidable challenge to Ohlsson’s, because Castle Lager’s aggressive marketing strategy and bold advertising was a threat to the well-established Ohlssons Lion Lager. To expand their market-share, Castle had also purchased the Martiensen Brewery in Cape Town.

Between 1899 and 1902, there was a lot of fierce competition between Ohlssons and Castle Breweries. By 1912 they began a tumultuous relationship wherein both companies struggled to survive the depression, shortages of labour, shortage of supplies, and attempted a joint venture in hops production.

In 1902, the Boer Wars broke out and Ohlssons hired guards to protect its storage facilities and prominent canteens in the Newlands area, the main one being Forries. The guards would sleep in the stables and would travel the main routes, guarding the beer from ‘Boer guerrilla attacks’.

By 1920, the Meyerowitz family had taken over stewardship of Foresters Arms from Ohlssons Cape Breweries. Charles Meyerowitz took care of running Forries, the storage area and the stables. His son, Julius took over in the early 1940’s and managed Forries until the late 1950’s when the first removals of ‘non-whites’ in Newlands started. He became disillusioned with the current government policies and was arrested numerous times for selling beer to ‘coloured folk’ which at the time became illegal even though they had been Forries’ original clientele from Newlands Village.

In 1948, the National Party won the post war election and 45 years of statutory race segregation – Apartheid – was ushered in. Along with this was the upgrading of the Newlands area and Newlands Village and was the beginning of the forced removals of the ‘non-white’ inhabitants of the area. Roads were tarred, electricity was introduced and water-borne sewage installed. Newlands was now open for urban settlement of a more affluent nature and the Foresters Arms clientele would change.

Between 1949 and 1951, Foresters Arms was demolished and rebuilt further from the road. This was to accommodate the rezoning of the roads and the sewage systems. This is the Forries that we now know, although it has gone through some alterations over the years.

Between 1952 and 1983 substantial changes and alterations were made to Foresters Arms, both inside and out. These included the granting of a Restaurant Keepers Licence, extensions to the bar and toilets, new stores, gas installations and walls.

There are accounts from various locals that this new Forries became an instant success with the students of nearby UCT and was soon seen as a popular gathering area. ‘Old boys’ from the nearby schools would play cricket and rugby matches on the weekends and afterwards come to Forries for a beer, as it was one of the only off-sales allowed to serve alcohol on a Sunday. Families would go to church and afterwards would stop by Forries for a drink with friends.

During this era, women of reputable standing were not allowed inside the off-sales. (This changed in the 1960’s when women had an inside area allocated to them). The fathers would therefore gather inside for a beer while the mothers and children would sit outside in the little garden to the side of the off-sales and drink tea. Mrs Meyerowitz is remembered for putting down blankets for the ladies to picnic on.

SAB retained the ownership of the land and the buildings till 1994 when Mrs Lorraine Epstein was able to buy the whole property. She had owned business rights since 1991 but had not owned the property itself. She is still the current owner of Foresters Arms.

Foresters Arms has become one of the prime establishments of Newlands, and has grown into a cherished venue amongst the people of Cape Town.

If you, as our readers, have anymore facts, figures or anecdotes that you would like to contribute to our ‘History page’, we would be delighted to hear from you.