George

Oteniqua Transport Museum Image source

Principal town of the magisterial district and division of George, on the Garden Route 439 km from Cape Town, 1252 km from Durban and 1213 km from Johannesburg. It is on the railway line from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, 51 km north-east of Mossel Bay and 72 km south-east of Oudtshoorn. 33° 55' S., 22° 33' E.; altitude 225 metres; rainfall 864 mm. George is also the junction for the 68 km branch line along the coast to Knysna. The aerodrome is a scheduled stop for the South African Airways on the Cape Town -East London route. Population (1970): White n 500; Coloured 14 500; Bantu 965.

Originally named Georgetown after King George III, it was declared a separate district on 23 April 1811, the first to be proclaimed at the Cape after the British occupation in 1806. It then embraced the present districts of Mossel Bay, Calitzdorp, Oudts-lioorn, Uniondale and Knysna, with the district of Swellendam on the west and Uitenhage on the east. The site selected for the administrative centre of the newly proclaimed district was about 11 km from the sea on the southern slopes of the Outeniqua Range below George Peak (1 370 metres) and Cradock Peak {i 583 metres). Of this site John Campbell of the London Missionary Society, who visited George in 1813, wrote 'a more pleasant one I have not seen in Africa; it abounds with wood, water and majestic scenery'. The first landdrost (magistrate), A. G. van Kervel, planned the town and measured out the plots and wide streets, along which he planted rows of oak-trees. One of these has been proclaimed a natural monument. A length of chain is embedded in its trunk, and there is a legend that slaves were fastened to it and sold beneath the tree. Van Kervel's drostdy has, with considerable alterations through the years, also been preserved and is part of the present Victoria Hotel. In 1877 George was visited by the English novelist Anthony Trollope, who thought it was 'the prettiest village on the face of the earth'.

The N.G. congregation was established on 22 May 1812 and the first minister was Tobias Johannes Herold. During his ministry (1812-23) he did pioneer "work, and his name is commemorated in the congregation of Herold and in the seaside resort Herold's Bay. In 1813 an old post-house was converted into the first church. The second, the Cradock Church, "was built in 1817, but by 1821 it had fallen into such disrepair that the 'long building' was erected. This functioned as a temporary church for 22 years and -was ultimately used as stables and servants' quarters for the parsonage. The foundations of the present church were laid in 1830. The design is thought to have been by Hermann SchÁƒÂƒÂ¼tte and the builder was C. F. Visser. The design is classicist except for the Rococo side gables. The neo-classicist tower was built as a series of stepped octagons. The tower fell in 1905 and was rebuilt in 1906 on the original pattern. St. Mark's Cathedral is the seat of an Anglican bishopric established in 1911. H. B. Sidwell was the first South African-born bishop. The Roman Catholic parish was established in 1841 and the church -was built in 1843. The town has a Jewish community with a synagogue and communal hall built in 1923, a Presbyterian church erected in 1933, and also churches of other denominations. George, one of the largest rural educational centres in the Cape Province, had 7 schools for Whites under the control of the School Board, with 2194 pupils and 88 teachers in 1963. It has 3 preparatory schools, 2 primary schools, the Outeniqua High School (853 pupils in 1963), a School of Industries, the House craft High School, the Convent of the Holy Cross, and a special secondary school for mentally retarded pupils, named after A. G. van Kervel. George was one of the first towns in the Cape Province to carry out Durban's ordinance of 15 Aug. 1836 proclaiming the establishment of municipal councils. The first Board of Commissioners was elected in 1837, and from 1884 this body was called the municipality of George and the chairman-designated mayor. The Town House, built in 1847 at a cost of ^478, is still in existence. A new town hall, erected to celebrate the centenary in 1911, was completed in 1912. The foundation stone of the civic centre, comprising a town hall, a banqueting hall, and municipal offices costing R450 000, was laid by the Administrator, J. N. Malan, on 24 Aug. 1962 and completed in Aug. 1964. All the principal streets are tarred. Drainage and modern sewage disposal works were constructed at a cost of R500 000. Water is obtained from the Swart River Dam (720111 litres) and other dams in the Outeniqua Mountains. An installation for purifying water has been introduced. Since 1925 electricity has been supplied by the municipal power-station.

George has a variety of industries, inter alia boot-and-shoe and cool-drink factories, and several concerns engaged in the furniture industry. The depot for railway sleepers, formerly belonging to the South African Railways, was taken over by the Forestry Department in 1937, and gradually the industry was extended to become the present State sawmill and preservation installation, which employs more than 400 people. A factory attached to the State sawmill manufactures prefabricated houses for White and non-White labourers in the plantations. A factory equipped with modern apparatus for freezing and packing vegetables and deciduous fruit was built at a cost of R800 000.

George is on the Garden Route and attracts many tourists. A new tourist camp and caravan park was completed in 1963. The town offers facilities for all kinds of sport; it has a fine golf course. Local newspaper: George and Knysna Herald; bilingual; weekly: founded in 1881.

District. Area 2 523 sq km. The present boundaries are the Great Brak River in the west, Swartvlei in the east, and the Kammanassie Range in the north. The national road from Johannesburg meets the Cape Town-Durban national road at George, and the Divisional Council maintains a network of excellent roads. Although the Montagu Pass across the Outeniqua Range, completed in 1847 at a cost of £3 5 799* is still in use, the picturesque Outeniqua Pass now takes most of the traffic. The pass was completed at a cost of approximately £350 000 and inaugurated on 20 Sept. 1951 by P. O. Sauer, the Minister of Transport. The 60 km national road between George and Knysna was also completed in 1951. A road branching off at the Wilderness passes through the lakes area (Langvlei, Rondevlei and Swartvlei) amid magnificent scenery. Rondevlei and Swartvlei are bird sanctuaries.

There are numerous rivers such as the Great Brak, Maalgaten, Gwayang, Swart, Kaaimans, Touw, Silver, Diep and Kammanassie. The Kammanassie Dam is partly in the Oudtshoorn district. Along the coast are popular resorts and excellent fishing rocks.

The district was well-known for its exceptional wealth of indigenous forest, but owing to large-scale destruction only a meagre heritage remained. In 1936 the Government prohibited the felling of the still existing trees for a period of 200 years to enable the forests to recover and in order to preserve indigenous timber such as stinkwood and yellow-wood. Large plantations of non-indigenous trees, mainly pines, were planted along the slopes of the Outeni-quas. The district has a large forestry training-college, Saasveld, 8 km east of George on the old farm Pampoenkraal. In 1931 it was decided to move the training centre for foresters from Tokai, near Cape Town, to George. On 22 July 1932 Gen. J. C. G. Kemp, Minister of Agriculture, laid the foundation-stone. In 1960 a luxury hostel, offices and lecture rooms were erected at a cost of approximately £7 000; the woodwork inside the buildings is mainly of stinkwood.

Although George has a moderate climate free from frost, hail and excessive droughts, agriculture remained underdeveloped. Following representations by the Outeniqua Agricultural Federation the Department of Agriculture in 1952 established an experimental farm on about 278 hectares near the town. This enabled farmers to grow vegetables, 'wheat and forage with reasonable success. Livestock, mainly dairy herds and sheep, have been considerably improved. The hop plantations at Blanco, Heather-lands and near Herold represent a new agricultural activity, George being the only district in South Africa where hops are grown. Experiments with various kinds of imported hop were successfully undertaken, and today sufficient hops are produced for the local market.

Google map: 

Last updated : 13-Oct-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Dear friends of SAHO

South African History Online (SAHO) needs your support.

SAHO is one of the most visited websites in South Africa with over 6 million unique users a year. Our goal is to fulfill our mandate and continue to build, and make accessible, a new people’s history of South Africa and Africa.

Please help us deliver this by contributing upwards of $1.00 a month for the next 12 months.



Make a donation here and send us a message of support.