The Concentration Camp Memorial at Norvalspont

The Anglo Boer War (1899 – 1902) is one of the big turning points in South Africa’s history along with the arrival of Europeans in the country, the Great Trek, the Apartheid years and a new democratic South Africa.  Okay, so our history is about more than just those five turning points but that is what came to my mind just now.  One of the most significant things that happened during the Anglo Boar War was that it was the first time ever that…

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Graaff Reinet Kruithuis on Magazine Hill

The hill behind Graaff-Reinet is known as magazine Hill. But do you know why it has the name? Perhaps there was a battle fought here during the Anglo Boar War. Maybe local Burgers shot at the British from here while the town declared independence. Could a rebel have been shot here at some stage during the history of the town? The answer isn't quite as tragic or exciting, but it could easily have been linked to such an event. Also,…

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Gill College, the Somerset East school that was supposed to be a university

The history of Somerset East dates back to 1815 when Lord Charles Somerset established an experimental farm at the foot of the Boschberg. Somerset Farm was started to supply food to the British troops manning the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony, provide their horses with feed, and partly to cultivate tobacco for export purposes. By 1825 Lord Charles stood on the stoep of the house in 9 Paulet Street and surveyed Somerset Farm, dividing it into erven, thus starting the…

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From a pear tree to a beautiful church – the story of the Pearston Dutch Reformed Church

I get disappointed if I visit a small town and find that there isn't a historic church somewhere to visit and photograph. One of the towns that didn't disappoint was Pearston. Located on a very flat landscape the church is easily spotted in the town's very limited skyline. The village of Pearston is located 48km west of Somerset East in the Eastern Cape's Karoo Heartland. Like so many of the small towns and villages of the Karoo, the village had…

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The old mill building in Somerset East

One of the buildings in Somerset East that I find the most interesting is the little building on the corner of Paulet and Beaufort Streets. It is one that draws a lot of comments and speculation about its origins although the general thought is that it was a mill dating back to the early days of Somerset Farm. Information collected by Sheila van Aardt suggested it was used as a mill with the water wheel on the Beaufort Street side…

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Water over the multi arches of the Churchill Dam

After the big rains in October (2023) both the Kouga and Churchill Dams overflowed. Following a visit to Storms River Village I decided to detour via Kareedouw to the Churchill Dam, somewhere I've never actually been to. I wasn't disappointed that I did. What a sight, especially with the water flowing over the multiple arches. The Churchill Dam is located on the Krom River at the bottom end of the Langkloof between Kareedouw and Humansdorp. The dam has a capacity…

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The Chair Monument in the Karoo

Monuments and memorials come in all shapes and sizes and by different names. By name, the Chair Monument outside Middelburg in the Karoo Heartland may have you confused. Why would they put up a memorial to a chair? Was it a simple wooden stool or is somebody celebrating their beloved lazyboy? In fact, although a chair was involved, the monument is an Anglo Boer War related memorial and commemorates Commandant J. C. Lötter and his right-hand man, Lieutenant Pieter Wolfaardt.…

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Compassberg, looking down on the surrounding Karoo Heartland

If you've ever been to Nieu-Bethesda then you would have spotted Compassberg on the horizon. In fact, it's not difficult to miss. The Compassberg (2502m) is the highest peak in the Sneeuberg range and also the highest peak in South Africa outside the Stormberg-Drakensberg massif. It was named by Colonel Robert Jacob Gordon when he accompanied Governor Joachim van Plettenberg on a journey to the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony in 1778. Compassberg together with its neighbouring mountains provides a critical water catchment area, covering…

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A weird monument of rocks dedicated to Gideon Scheepers outside Graaff-Reinet

If you drive out of Graaff-Reinet on the Murraysburg road toward the Valley of Desolation, you may notice a strange looking memorial on the left-hand side near the Nqweba Dam. Monuments are normally big marble or stone memorials and statues with a bronze plaque but this one is anything but. The Gideon Scheepers Memorial is made up of three rocks from the vicinity supporting a stainless steel needle, symbolising the spirit of hope and faith in God. The largest rock…

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An Arctic explorer buried in the Karoo?

The Cradock cemetery is probably one of the most interesting ones around. You'll find gravestones of settlers, frontiersmen, nuns, soldiers who fell in the Anglo-Boer War and even one Harry Potter. Another grave I learned about and one I just had to go and find belongs to Reginald Koettlitz. You're probably wondering what makes this grave different and the answer can be found in the grave's inscription. “An explorer and traveller, surgeon and geologist to Expeditions North Polar and Abyssinia…

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