On From Grahamstown | 255km

Grahamstown.

From Port Elizabeth, or Durban

GRAHAMSTOWN

...was established in 1812 by Colonel John Graham as the military headquarters for a line of forts built along the Fish River, recognised in 1780 as the eastern boundary of the Cape Colony. The first erven were sold in 1815, and four years later the town consisted of between 25 and 30 'solid' houses. It grew considerably with the arrival of a number of the 1820 Settlers - mainly skilled artisans and craftsmen who were allowed to leave their failing farms.

As a result, Grahamstown rapidly changed from a military settlement into a bustling trading town and a centre for the Settlers. In and around Artificer's Square is a well-preserved complex of quaint Settler cottages, dating back to around 1823. Prominent among the city's churches are the Gothic-style Cathedral of St Michael and St George, which took 128 years to complete, and the Commemoration Church (1850). Other historic buildings include Retreat Number, where the Voortrekker leader Piet Retief lived; Shaw Hall (1832); Woodville, built in the 1860s; and the City Hall (1882).

Grahamstown is an important educational centre and is home to three of South Africa's leading schools and to Rhodes University. The JLB Smith Institute of Rhodes University has a fascinating display telling the story of the famous coelacanth. The Albany Museum complex consists of the Albany Museum, with its fine ethnographic displays; the Observatory (1850); the Provost, built in 1838 as a gaol; Fort Selwyn; and the History Museum, which focuses on the 1820 Settlers. An important event on South Africa's arts calendar is the annual Grahamstown Festival.

1820 SETTLERS MONUMENT

Overlooking the city from Gunfire Hill, the 1820 Settlers Monument was built as a living and functional memorial to the courage and endeavours of the 1820 Settlers and other English-speaking pioneers who came to South Africa. Opened in 1974, the complex consists of a 900-seat theatre and several conference halls, and is also the centre of the 1820 Foundation.

If you are traveling through the area on South African holidays during July, be sure to visit the complex which hosts the country's premier annual cultural event, the National Arts Festival. Also on Gunfire Hill is Fort Selwyn, built in the mid-1830s as a residence for Captain CJ Selwyn, commander of the Royal Engineers in Grahamstown from 1835 to 1851.

BEDFORD

The history of Bedford is closely linked to the Scottish party of the 1820 Settlers, led by Thomas Pringle. They were not located with the English settlers in the Albany district, but were initially allocated land in the Baviaans River valley and later in the valleys of the Mankazana and Koonap rivers. North of Bedford, in the Baviaans River valley, is the Glen Lyden Church, built in 1828 under the leadership of Thomas Pringle to serve both the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed Church congregations of the valley.

Still higher up the Baviaans River valley is the farm Eildon, where Pringle himself settled. A shepherd's tree marks the nearby site of his Emigrant's Cabin, a beehive-shaped hut where he wrote the poems The Emigrant's Cabin and Evening Rambles and his account of life on the frontier, Narrative of a Residence in South Africa.

ADELAIDE

Situated against the backdrop of the Winterberg mountains, the picturesque country town of Adelaide serves the surrounding sheep and cattle farms. It has its origins in a military post established on the banks of the Koonap River in 1834, and was named after Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV. The first town erven were sold in 1849 by the newly formed congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church. The town's Our Heritage Museum is housed in a magnificent double-storey house which served as a Dutch Reformed parsonage between 1860 and 1964.

It depicts the rural lifestyle of the mid-19th century, and has a valuable collection of old silver, glass and porcelain. Adelaide's history is closely linked to the 1820 Settlers, and numerous place names serve as reminders of the Scottish party of Settlers who settled here under Thomas Pringle. Among them was his brother John, who was awarded the farm Glen Thorn in the Mankazana valley, to the north of Adelaide, in 1824. Of historical interest on the farm is the stone Presbyterian church, built in 1840.

FORT BEAUFORT

...developed around a military post established in 1822 in a bend of the Kat River by Colonel M Scott to counter raids by the Xhosa chief, Maqoma. It was named after the Duke of Beaufort, the father of Lord Charles Somerset. At the end of the Sixth Xhosa War (1834-35) the British Governor, Sir Benjamin D'Urban, ordered the construction of strong fortifications in the border region. The circular Martello Tower, built in 1837 of dressed stone, provided a formidable defence against any attack, and at times also served as a safe haven.

A small swivel cannon was mounted on the open observation area at the top of the tower. In the old officers' quarters, which date back to 1839, are maps, documents, photographs and equipment relating to the history of the area. Fort Beaufort was at the centre of the War of the Axe, which started when an axe was stolen from a shop in the town in March 1846. The Victorian Bridge was built in about 1840.

FORT BROWN

...was established in 1817 as a military post along the Fish River as part of Lord Charles Somerset's plan to protect the frontier of the Cape Colony. On the instructions of Sir Benjamin D'Urban, Somerset's successor, the fort was converted in 1835 into one of the largest strongholds along the Fish River. A high stone wall enclosed the living quarters and stables, and in one corner a 3,5-m-high gun tower was built.

A stone stairway in the gun tower led up to a room with loopholes to fire from, while a three-pounder mountain gun, which could be swivelled, was mounted on the roof. The powder magazine was built underneath the floor of the gun tower. The fort was manned until 1861, and was later used as a police post.

QUEEN'S ROAD

This was the first of many roads built by Andrew Geddes Bain after he was appointed to build roads in the eastern border areas in 1837. Linking Grahamstown to Fort Beaufort and Balfour, the road was completed around 1842 and was named after Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837. Bain was the road engineer, while the construction was supervised by Major Charles Selwyn of the Royal Engineers.

ECCA PASS

Experience the Ecca Pass on your self drive South African holidays. These heights, about 15 km north of Grahamstown were the most challenging obstacle faced by Andrew Geddes Bain when he built the Queen's Road. Bain named the heights and the pass after the Ecca River - a tributary of the Fish - whose Khoikhoi name is said to mean 'salty' or 'brackish river'. As well as being a brilliant road engineer, Bain was also a keen geologist.

While building the Queen's Road, he studied the composition of the rock formations along the route and named the 225-270-million-year-old sedimentary blue shales and mudstones at the foot of the pass the Ecca Group. A monument at the summit of the pass honours this great road engineer, whose many achievements include Michell's Pass near Ceres, Bain's Kloof Pass over the Klein Drakenstein Mountains near Wellington and the Katberg Pass.

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