The Cypress Tree Tea Gardens

Over the years Hermanus received increasing numbers of visitors -we would call them ‘tourists’, who did not stay at one of thirteen hotels that were in business. They rather patronised small establishments that traded as tearooms or cafes. At one time, more than twenty such places for refreshments and meetings existed, from a tea garden in Westcliff Road to the Green House owned by painter William Green on the far eastern side of Voelklip
One of the most popular was known for decades as the Cypress Tree Tea Gardens. From the 1920s to the 1950s this establishment was owned and run by Miss Edith Rubery. This popular meeting place was located where the Burgundy Restaurant now is. In 1902 John Louis (nicknamed Swede) Wessels ran a small boat building and boat repair business on the site of his cottage, but this closed when he died. However, he planted a cypress tree in the small garden around his home and business.
By 1928, the tree had flourished, and the property was bought by Miss Edith Rubery and converted to a tea garden. It was a popular venue and continued under that name until after WWII. Janet Divecky, daughter of Gertrude and Alexander Grant, remembers Miss Rubery well. In an email to me from Canada where she now lives, she writes:
My godmother was Miss Edith Rubery of the Cypress Tree Tearoom. As a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse in WWI, serving in Egypt, she had met TE Lawrence. [Lawrence of Arabia] During WWII she worked tirelessly for St Dunstan’s. One of her most famous quotes was when Hermanus was moving to install septic tanks: “Well, what with the war and everything, darling, I don’t feel quite ready to plunge into a septic tank”.
At one point, the building was nearly lost. S J du Toit describes events that started in 1968:
In 1968, the building was almost lost to the greed of developers. When villagers heard that plans were afoot to demolish the old building…concerned citizens made every attempt to save the building. By the generosity of Jack and Pamela Swart, who provisionally bought it, a breath-space space was created, delaying demolition.
In 1979 the building was acquired by Tim Hamilton-Russell who used it as a tasting venue for his wines. He gave it the name of The Burgundy. Now it is one of the most popular restaurants in the town.