Principal town the magisterial district and division of ClanWilliam, situated at the foot of the Cedarberg Range where Jan Dissels River flows into the broad Olifants River, 144 miles (232 km) by the national road from Cape Town and 22 miles (35 km) from the nearest railway station, Graafwater. 32° 10' S., 18° 55' E.; altitude 245 ft (75 metres); rainfall 9 inches (228.6mm). population (1960): White 819; Coloured 1, 373; Bantu 24.

Clanwilliam formerly Jan disselvlei (after Jan Dissel, a botanist who lived 'at the Rhenosterbosch along the Piquetberg Mountains'), celebrated its 150th anniversary in Sept. 1964. The district originally formed part of the district of Stellenbosch. On 1 Feb. 1808 the Earl of Caledon, Governor of the Cape Colony (1807-11), after a thorough investigation by Col. R. Collins, annexed that part of the district lying north of the Berg River to the new district of Tulbagh, at the same time declaring it a sub-drostdy, with Daniel Johannes van Ryneveld as assistant magistrate. Jan Disselsvlei, a loan farm of S. van Reenen, was bought for 6,000 rix-dollars to serve as the headquarters of the assistant magistrate. On 21 Jan. 1814 Caledon's successor, Sir John Cradock (1811-14), renamed the sub-magistracy after his father-in-law, the Earl of Clanwilliam. In 1820 efforts were made to settle four groups of Irish settlers under William Parker along the Jan Dissels River, but with little success. In 1822 the magistracy of Tulbagh was moved to Worcester, but on 1 Jan. 1837 Clanwilliam was separated from Worcester and proclaimed a district. In 1901 the village of Clanwilliam became a municipality, the first mayor being Charles Fryer, an Irish descendant of the 1820 Settlers. A coat of arms, symbolising the citrus industry and the Olifants River, was adopted in 1964, the device Toujours pret (Always ready) being borrowed from the arms of the earls of Clanwilliam. Water is obtained from the Jan Dissels River and electricity supplied by a hydro-electric plant below the Clanwilliam Dam in the Olifants River, completed in 1935.

This picturesque town has a sawmill and a velskoen factory. It is the headquarters of the Rooibos Tea Control Board. A memorial library in honour of Dr. C. Louis Leipoldt, who spent his childhood at Clanwilliam, and his bosom-friend Dr. P. le Fras Nortier, was inaugurated on 11 Oct. 1958. Leipoldt's ashes lie buried in a cave in the Pakhuis Pass near the town. During October of each year a popular regatta is organised on the Clanwilliam Dam in the Olifants River.

District. Area 2,879 sq miles (7,457 sq km). The eastern half of the district is rugged and mountainous. The Cedarberg, considered by many mountaineers to be South Africa's most attractive mountain range, traverses the district from north to south. The Sneeu-berg (6,767 ft, 2,063 metres), highest peak in the Cedarberg, is also the highest point in the district. The Cedarberg may be crossed by car by the Buf-felshoek, Uitkyk and Pakhuis Passes. Virtually the entire mountain area is a forest reserve. On the high rocky crags grow the remarkable Clanwilliam cedar (Widdringtoniajuniperoides) - formerly plentiful, but now much reduced in numbers by fires and indiscriminate felling, mainly in the 19th century. The western half of the district, adjoining the Atlantic coastline, consists mostly of undulating 'sandveld', hills and rocky outcrops. In the late winter and early spring, valleys and lowlands of the district present a magnificent spectacle of massed wild flowers. The Biedouw valley especially is noted for this.

On account of high precipitation in the mountains, the district is well watered by many perennial streams. The Olifants River is the principal stream, dammed for irrigation purposes at Clanwilliam and Bulshoek. The Doring River, principal tributary of the Olifants, also flows through the district and forms the boundary between the districts of Clanwilliam and Calvinia, and Clanwilliam and Van-rhynsdorp, along part of its course. Among the tributaries of the Olifants River are the Malans, tee, Noordhoeks, Hex,Jan Dissel, Seekoei and Elandskloof Rivers. The Jakkals and Langvlei Rivers drain westwards into the Atlantic. To the east of the watershed (the Cedarberg) the rivers drain mainly eastwards into the Doring River. Among these are the Onderplaas, Matjies, Matjiesfontein, Tratra and Biedouw Rivers. Some of them, however, flow only seasonally.

The principal centres of population, apart from Clanwilliam itself, are Lambert's Bay, Citrusdal, Graafwater, Leipoldtville and the mission station of Wuppertal. With the exception of the Olifants valley, the district is rather sparsely populated.

Intensive farming is practised below the Bulshoek Dam over a relatively small area before the northern boundary of the district is reached. Clanwilliam is famous for its rooibos tea (1,462,720 lb, 663,459 kg in 1968) and its fruit, mainly oranges. The wheat production is not insignificant: 4,632 short tons were reaped during the year 1965/6. There is a considerable wool production (about 1,008,280 lb, 457,328 kg, during the season 1966/7, sold for R294, 700). In 1965/6 there were about 163,600 sheep and 11,400 cattle in the district.

Dam. Storage dam in the Olifants River, 2 miles (3 km) from Clanwilliam. As irrigation development progressed along the Olifants River lower down, the water-supply obtained from the Bulshoek Dam, 15 miles (24 km) below Clanwilliam, became inadequate, and the Clanwilliam Dam was built by the Department of Water Affairs during 1932-35 at a cost of £211,000 to augment the supply. It is a concrete overspill structure 126 ft (38 metres) above foundation level with a capacity of 60,100 acre-feet and a surface area of 1,942 acres (786 hectares) when full. The catchment area of 807 sq miles (2,090 sq km) includes the mountainous high-rainfall region as far south as Ceres, and yields a mean annual run-off of about 369,400 acre-feet, so that the dam has overflowed every winter since it was built. To increase the water-supply the dam was raised during 1964-68 by 20 ft (6 metres), 10 ft (3 metres) by solid concrete and 10 ft (3 metres) by crest gates. The new capacity is about 98,000 acre-feet. The total area for which water is being supplied is about 22,192 acres (8,980 hectares), extending for a distance of 60 miles (97 km) down the valley from the dam and forming part of the Olifants River Irrigation Works.

Irrigation Works. Irrigation from the Clanwilliam Dam is practised on a small scale by 23 farmers on 1,150 acres (465 hectares). The works are administered by an irrigation board.

•   New Dictionary of South African Place Names by Peter E. Raper
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Last updated : 27-Mar-2017

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

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