Malmesbury is known as ‘the heart of the Swartland’ and is the largest town in one of the country’s most important wheat producing areas. The rich dark soil produces wonderful crops with wheat and vinyard cultivation playing a large role. Sheep and poultry are also major contributors in this area.
Malmesbury is the headquarters of Bokomo, the oldest milling company in South Africa. They built a mill in 1919 to process the wheat produced in the Swartland area. The Cimalat cheese factory produces an excellent range of Italian cheeses which perfectly complement the wines produced in the area. The Suikerbekkie (‘sugar bird’) fruit processing plant produces and packs glazes fruit.
The Swartland Wine Route starts here on the outskirts of Malmesbury. Swartland Wine Cellars are well known for producing excellent Pinotage and Hanepoot wines. The first farms were allocated by the authorities between 1703 and 1707. The town developed around a tepid sulphur chloride spring.
A Dutch Reformed parish and a school were established here. The village was known as Swartland until 1829 when the town was officially proclaimed. The name was changed to Malmesbury in honour of the first Earl of Malmesbury, father-in-law of Sir Lowry Cole, Governor of the Cape at that time.
The second Dutch Reformed church was rebuilt in 1862 after the first building which was built in 1860 collapsed after heavy rains. This church has been proclaimed as a national monument. The Anglican St. Martin’s church completed in 1859 is now an Apostolic Faith Mission. The Jewish synagogue built in 1911 is now serving as a museum.