Bathurst

St. John churchSt. John church

Bathurst, Eastern Cape, is one of the smallest but most interesting municipalities in South Africa.

Founded in 1820, this peaceful little village on the left bank of the Kowie River has had a turbulent history. It was established on the Kaffraria frontier, an area of fierce conflict between White settlers moving northwards and African pastoralists and refugees from the Mfecane moving southwards. The White settlement was named after Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Henry Bathurst. Initially intended to be the administrative capital of the Albany settler country ( now called the Albany district) but Sir Charles Somerset moved the administrative offices to Grahamstown because of the latters superior military position.

Bathurst is renowned for its quaint and very old architecture. The oldest building in Bathurst is the powder magazine, built by the military before the arrival of the settlers. The oldest unaltered Anglican church building in South Africa is St. John's in Bathurst.

The settler blacksmith Thomas Hartley built the original Bathurst forge in 1821. In 1831 it was converted into a pub, the oldest licensed inn of South Africa. Famous settler Jeremiah Goldswain bought it for his son-in-law in 1853. He added rooms where the forge had been and turned it into an inn called the Bathurst Arms. The inn survived fire and looting during the frontier wars, and during World War II was renamed 'The Pig & Whistle' by servicemen from the nearby air school. Weaver Samuel Bradshaw built the wool mill in 1822. He also built the Wesleyan chapel (1832) and the Anglican Church (1837). The settlers withstood the attacks of the Xhosa by fleeing to the Wesleyan chapel during the Sixth Frontier War of 1834-35. During the War of the Axe (1846), both churches became fortresses where the inhabitants again took refuge until military relief arrived. The Wesleyan chapel contains the family Bible of Jeremiah Goldswain. A circular toposcope is located on a lookout point near village. It was constructed around the original stone beacon from which many 1820 settlers were shown their allotments of land. Inlaid in the toposcope are 57 bronze plaques recording details of each settler party.

This pineapple cultivation and cattle farming district sports the world's biggest pineapple, a garish, giant fibreglass replica that stands 16,7 metres. The Bathurst Agricultural Museum has a settler display of over 2,000 farming implements. The Great Fish, Bushmans, Kariega, Kowie, Riet and Kleinmond Rivers flow through the district.

Population (1985): Bathurst 411; Kenton-on-Sea 2 258; Nkwenkezi 5 781; Nolukhanyo 1 394; Port Alfred 3 738; Bathurst non-urban, 13 988; Total district: 27 685.

References

  • Howcroft, P. (undated). "South Africa Encyclopaedia: Prehistory to the year 2000", unpublished papers with SA History Online.
  • Potgieter, D. J. (ed)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa Vol. 2, Cape Town: Nasionale Opvoedkundige Uitgewery, p. 206.