Knysna history – European settlement

The first Europeans arrived in the area in 1760, and the farm Melkhoutkraal (literally translating from Afrikaans as ‘milk wood kraal’) was established on the eastern shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Stephanus Terblans, the first European farmer to settle in the area, was given a loan permit to farm here in 1770.

Upon moving to Knysna George Rex, a British-born entrepreneur credited as being the founder of Knysna, acquired the loan rights to Melkhoutkraal in 1804 and later, in 1816, to the farm Welbedacht, which he renamed Eastford. He gave 80 acres (32 ha) of Eastford to the Colonial Government, on which the Royal Navy established the township of Melville. Rex’s properties were sold when he died in 1839.

In April 1817, the transport brig Emu, belonging to the Cape Town Dockyard, was the first European vessel to enter the Knysna heads. She struck a rock, now known as Emu Rock, and was holed. Her crew ran Emu ashore to prevent her sinking. In late April HMS Podargus arrived to render assistance. After surveying the area, Podargus sailed safely into the Knysna and retrieved Emu’s cargo.

The next major settler in Knysna was Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, who married Caroline, George Rex’s daughter, and bought a portion of the Uitzigt farm from his father-in-law which Rex had named Belvidere. The construction of a small Norman-style church was commissioned by Duthie on his property, and was consecrated in 1855. The settlement’s population grew slowly, and Englishmen such as Henry Barrington and Lt. Col. John Sutherland, who established the settlement of Newhaven on a portion of purchased land, settled in the area. At the time, Knysna was a field cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay within the Magisterial Division of George. In 1858, Knysna became a separate Magisterial Division, new stores and accommodation facilities were opened, and Knysna became the new commercial centre of the region.

On their way to New Zealand, the Thesen family who were travelling from Norway fancied the little hamlet of Knysna so much that they decided to stay, bringing with them their knowledge of commerce and sailing. Soon, timber was being exported to the Cape from the vast areas of forest surrounding Knysna, and a steam sawmill and small shipyard were established. Later, these were relocated to Paarden Island, later known as Thesen’s Island.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Belvedere and Brenton

An attractive drive along the western bank of Knysna’s lagoon, winding down the hillside, brings you to the charming little Holy Trinity Church at Belvedere, a perfect example in miniature of the Norman churches built in England during the 11th and 12th centuries. The church was erected here in the mid-19th century by Thomas Henry Duthie.

Duthie, a captain in the 72nd Highland Regiment, was stationed at the Cape and went on a hunting trip to the Knysna area, where he met his future wife Caroline, the daughter of George Rex. After living for a while in England they returned to Knysna and Duthie bought from his father-in-law the estate of Belvedere (beautiful to be hold) – a splendid tract of land here on the western banks of the lagoon. With the help of his neighbours he then set about building this little church. The work took five years, and a great many difficulties and obstacles had to be overcome. The bell that now hangs above the main door was cast in England and was lost overboard in the lagoon, being recovered only several months later.

Continuing coastward, the road climbs steadily, offering grand vistas over the lagoon, and after cresting the hills and passing a side road to the lagoon again at Brenton, drops to the resort of Brenton-on-Sea, an assortment of smart holiday houses sprinkled over the coastal hillsides. The road ends at a small hotel, where a short path will take you down to a wide stretch of golden beach reaching away to Walker Point in the distance. About a kilometre east of here is another beach, more gently sloping and preferred as a bathing beach by locals and regular visitors, but getting to and from it involves a considerable hike.

How George Rex became the uncrowned King of Knysna

The romantic, enigmatic and forceful personality of George Rex is part of the folk-lore of Southern Africa. He arrived in the Cape in 1797, at the time of the first British occupation. A man of distinguished bearing, he was well-educated and obviously well-connected.

In Cape Town he was appointed marshal of the vice-admiralty court, notary public to the governor, and advocate for the Crown. He met Johanna, the beautiful young widow of a well-to-do merchant, and settled down with her and her four children.

When the British occupation ended he remained in the Cape and in 1804, at the age of 39, he purchased the farm Melkhoutkraal, on the shores of the Knysna Lagoon.

To reach this farm, Rex made a coach journey on a grand scale. His wife and her children rode with him in a coach bearing a coat of arms and drawn by six horses. Riding alongside the coach was a retinue of friends.

To the awed locals thee journey resembled a royal procession – and the name of the man, George Res, conjured up images of royalty travelling incognito.

Stories spread that Rex was the son of George III of England and Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker.  Modern research does not confirm this belief, and there is no record of Rex ever having made any such claim. But his life-style and grand manner convinced the residents of the Cape, and especially of Knysna, that the man in their midst was indeed of royal descent.

Rex rebuilt the homestead of Melkhoutkraal, which had been destroyed in a Xhosa raid, and created a beautiful, rambling home for his family – now there were eight children. The farm was expanded. There was a watermill, blacksmith’s shop and spinnery producing silkworms fed on thee leaves of groves of mulberries. The lagoon occupied the full attention of Rex. He started a fishery, built boats from the timber of the forest and persuaded the British admiralty to develop Knysna as a port.

On 11 February 1817, the first vessel to enter the lagoon, the naval brig Emu, came to grief on a sunken rock and had to be run ashore to save it from sinking. For Rex and the people of Knysna watching from the shore, this was a sad spectacle, but it was not the end of the venture. The navy sent up a second vessel to salvage the first and this, the Podargus, had no difficulty in entering and leaving the lagoon in May 1817.

From then on Knysna was established as a port for medium-sized vessels.

Rex built his own 127-ton vessel, the Knysna, on the shores of the lagoon, and used the ship for trading along the coast.

Rex never returned to Britain. He died on 3 April 1839 after a full and rewarding life.

One of the best-known of his descendants is the celebrated clown Stompie.

Youth month 2018

Every year on the 16th of June South Africa commemorates the 1976 youth who stood up against the apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education.

Sophie – having children of her own – values the youth of South Africa and beliefs that in order to help our children, more should be done to provide for the youth of our country.

As we know, President Ramaphosa has initiated a campaign to help the youth with jobs and careers.

Let’s all engage in youth day on 16 June 2018 and let us empower our youth. They are our future leaders.

#YouthMonth18 #BeTheLegacy

Africa Month 2018

The month of May is recognized as Africa month – a time when the continent of Africa commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Celebrated on the 25th May since its establishment in 1963 – Africa Day as it is now known, marks the beginning of a quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of its people as well as co-operation among them.

As part of the celebrations, Brand South Africa in collaboration with its stakeholders will host dialogues on Africa Day, Constitutional Awareness and the role of the creative arts in fostering democratic values throughout the country.

Follow the conversations on social media #SANationBrand for more information on the dialogues.

Some interesting facts about Africa Day:

Read more…

The History of May Day in South Africa

The struggle for a shorter workday, a demand of major political significance for the working class dates back to the 1800s. On 7 October 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, in the United States of America and Canada resolved that eight hours should constitute a legal day’s labour as of 01 May 1886. The Federation also recommended to workers organizations under their jurisdiction that they abide by this resolution by the said date. Since then May Day has been celebrated on 01 May annually. Read more…

HAPPY WORKER’S DAY 2018!!

Freedom day 2018

Freedom Day is a public holiday here in South Africa celebrated on 27 April each year. It is part of the twelve public holidays in one year.

This year it forms part of a long weekend – 27 April 2018 to 1 May 2018.

It’s an important day in the country’s history and to this day offers a time for reflection. The day is in honour of the country’s first democratic elections.

It was the country’s first non-racial national elections where everyone of voting age of over 18 from any race group, including foreign citizens permanently resident in South Africa, was allowed to vote.

Previously, under the apartheid regime, non-whites had only limited rights to vote.

South Africa uses Freedom Day to mark the liberation of our country and its people from a long period of colonialism and Apartheid.

These days, Freedom Day is celebrated in a variety of different ways with a number of events organised across the country.

Many people also choose to celebrate the day in their own way, usually by visiting some of the country’s historic places as a reminder of the privilege of living in a free country.

Robben Island, Soweto and the Hector Pieterson Memorial, the District Six Museum and the Apartheid Museum are some of the places where you can go to learn more about South Africa’s history.

Others simply choose to enjoy the day by visiting places like public gardens or the beach.

Robinson Pass

The Montagu Pass, built in 1848 made crossing the Outeniqua Mountains a relatively easy task.

However, the Montagu Pass was on the other side of George and the people of Mossel Bay became fidgety in their demands for a pass over the mountains of their own.

After some failed attempts to build a pass along the lines of the Ruytersbosch Pad, the people of Mossel Bay threw in the towel.

Along came Thomas Bain, sent by the colonial government after he had completed the Prince Alfred’s Pass near Knysna. He extended the route taken by the locals and joined up with the Attaquas Kloof road.

Opened in 1869, it was reconstructed and surfaced between 1958 and 1963. The wide road and gentle curves take some beauty away from the pass, which means that it is not as scenic as some of the others in the extended area, but it is nevertheless still a wonderful pass well worth the time to drive. It has some enchanting scenery, with the pine forests lining the hills and mountainsides.

Robinson Pass forms a part of a number of routes one may undertake to experience the true beauty of the Cape Mountain Passes.

From Mossel Bay, travel over the Robinson Pass into Oudsthoorn, then through Schoemanspoort and over the magnificent Swartberg Pass. You can have lunch at the quaint Prince Albert village, and return over the Kredouw Pass. Take your time through what has to be one of the Cape’s most beautiful natural sights, Meiringspoort and continue over the Outeniqua Pass.

This wonderfully modern pass offers the traveller ample opportunity to stop and get lost in the awesome splendour of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Head over the Potjiesberg Pass. The road towards the rustic town old town, Uniondale, is straight and bordered by a stretch of mountains delivering panorama that is hard to surpass. Stop for a bite in Uniondale and then spend some quality time in the Uniondale Poort, thereafter swerve off towards the 7 Passes Road between George and Knysna.

The choices are wide and varied, but beautiful and awe inspiring whichever the route one chooses.

Timber industry

By 1880 over 1000 people had settled in Knysna. In 1882, the settlements of Newhaven, Melville and the wedge of land between the two villages were amalgamated to form the municipality of ‘The Knysna’, named after the Knysna River.

Knysna’s timber industry peaked when George Parkes arrived from Britain and saw the opportunity to use the hardwoods of the Knysna Forest for export to elsewhere in the country, and even overseas. He established the Knysna Forest Company, later renamed Geo. Parkes and Sons Ltd, which is still trading to this day.

Millwood House Museum

In 1878, an important discovery was made in the area. A gold nugget was found in the Karatara River, near Ruigtevlei. Soon fortune hunters from all over the world arrived at the Millwood Forest in search of gold, and Millwood grew into a bustling town. Millwood was declared a gold field, the very first in South Africa. However, soon not enough gold was being recovered to sustain a growing town, and the mining industry in the area collapsed. Some miners relocated to Knysna, bringing their little homes with them. One of the houses, known as ‘Millwood House’, now functions as a museum.