In 1898, the board of directors of De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, under the chairmanship of Cecil John Rhodes, decided at a meeting in November to build a factory for the manufacture of explosives in the then Cape Colony. Until 1896, when Modderfontein, Transvaal, commenced production, all explosives used in the diamond and gold mines in the Cape and Transvaal were imported at great cost.
By the erection of a local explosive’s factory as an enterprise on its own, De Beers Consolidated Mines would save a considerable sum of money as well as have the necessary explosives readily available. Colonel William Russel Quinan of Pinole Works, California (USA) was appointed by the chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, F Gardner Williams, to realise this ambition.
To the citizens of Somerset West, the 11 600-ha estate sandwiched between the N2, the R44 and the Indian Ocean – owned by African Explosives and Chemical Industries Limited (AECI) – will probably always be known as De Beers or the Dynamite Factory.
Yet De Beers lost its identity in 1924 when it merged with the interests of the Nobel Group (named after the Swedish patentee of dynamite, Alfred Nobel); only De Beers Avenue still serves as a reminder of those times.
The amalgamated company was named African Explosives & Industries. The word “chemical” was added only in 1944, when the amalgamated company name finally became the name to trade under, which was abbreviated to AECI.
As for the term “dynamite factory”, dynamite was last produced at AECI Somerset West in 1986. Afterwards, the plant was decommissioned and dynamite production was concentrated at Modderfontein, 16 km from Johannesburg.
The “Old Dynamite” Factory is now home to Flagstone wines, and was transformed into a working winery in 2002. The original old Pump House still exists and is part of a long-term plan to be transformed into a New Tasting Room.
Our Handcrafted Wines
Every bottle of Flagstone wine is a journey with many twists and turns. It can never be hurried and there are no short cuts.
Step by step our fanatical dedication guides us to our journey’s end: the rewarding taste of delicious, distinctive wines. It’s a painstaking approach that has won us more than a few awards. And, more importantly, a legion of wine lovers who savour the unhurried quality of Flagstone.
But beyond the soft tannins and delicious flavours, there is an x-factor to Flagstone, it is how we treat the land and the people we work with. But most importantly, perhaps, is the energy that is ploughed into the creative process of winemaking.
The wines are inevitably exuberant expressions of fun and joy. Nothing has changed – it is still the mantra here.