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About George

George, Western Cape


 is a city in South Africa's Western Cape province. The city is a popular holiday and conference centre and the administrative and commercial hub of the Garden Route.

The city is situated halfway between Cape Town and Custom Office - Port Elizabeth on the Garden Route.. It is situated on a 10 kilometre plateau between the Outeniqua Mountains ( Aquila Private Game Reserve )to the north and the Indian Ocean( Gartner Group Africa Indian Ocean )to the south. The township of Pacaltsdorp lies to the south.



Dutch Reformed Church in George (Moederkerk)
Dutch Reformed Church in George (Moederkerk)
George is located in South Africa
 George shown within South Africa

Coordinates: 33°58′S 22°27′E




18th and 19th century


The town of George was established as a result of the growing demand for timber and the wood used in building, transport and furniture. In 1776 the Dutch East India Company established an outpost for the provision of timber; its location is thought to be near the western end of York Street. The Timber Post had its own Poshouer (manager), some 12 woodcutters, a blacksmith, wagon maker and 200 oxen plus families. After 1795 and the British occupation of the Cape, a caretaker of the forests in the area was appointed. After the second British occupation in 1806, it was decided that the Swellendam magistracy was too large and needed to be sub-divided. George was chosen because of the availability of good water. In 1811 George was declared a separate district and Adriaan Geysbertus van Kervel was appointed the first Landrost (Magistrate Court) and the town was proclaimed by the Earl of Caledon, governor of the Cape Colony on St George's Day, 23 April 1811, and named after the reigning British monarch, King George III ..One of Van Kervel's first acts as Landrost (Mayor), was to dig a furrow to supply the first thirty six plots in George with water. An 1819 map shows the original furrows and storage dam where they remain to this day in the Garden Route Botanical Gardens. The first Furrow originated from the Rooirivier (Red river) and later a diversionary weir was built at the Camphersdrift River. George gained municipal status in 1837.

From 1772 there was a gradual influx of settlers intent on making a living from the forests. These were mostly descendants of the Dutch settlers. In early days the lives and livelihood of the people revolved around the timber industry and the rich forests in the vicinity and it remained a quiet outpost. It was the dramatic improvement of communications – the roads, rail and air links eclipsing the ox-wagons and coastal steamers of the 19th century - that exposed other charms and resources of the region and resulted in unprecedented growth for the town.




Timber Industry


From the beginning of European colonisation in South Africa in 1652, timber and the provision of various woods was of paramount importance for the survival of the settlers. Once forest areas near the present Cape Town were exhausted, the search for more timber continued along the coast.

The great forests of the Southern Cape were discovered as early as 1711, but because of their inaccessibility it was only in 1776 that the Dutch East India Company established a timber post where George is today.

Early woodcutters and their families lived in forest clearings where they evolved into a closely knit community where intermarriage was common. The men were thin and wiry, but they were also tough and strong with an incredible skill in felling, sawing and handling timber.

The utilization of the forest trees led to such industries as furniture and wagon making. By 1910 several large sawmills had been established in the district. Timber for export was transported to coastal ports by ox wagon.

Today you will find sawmills with the ultimate in modern wood technology and innovative furniture factories in the Southern Cape. Unique to this area is the age-old technique and skill of manufacturing wood furniture by hand..



Montagu Pass


The historic Montagu Pass between George and Van Oudtshoorn St was declared a National Monument in 1972. It is open to traffic and is a good gravel road, some 10 km in length. With many serpentine curves, this pass gradually winds its way through the fynbos-covered Cradock's Kloof until it reaches the summit.

The world traveller Anthony Trollope visited George in about 1878 and his comment on the Montagu Pass was: "...equal to some of the mountain roads through the Pyrenees". Emma Murray was so enthralled by the Montagu Pass that she wrote in a letter to a relative in 1852: "One forgets everything in the beauty and grandeur of the scene. It was to me exquisite enjoyment".

A traveller will notice that some parts of the stone wall along one side of the road are slightly protruding. The purpose of this was to prevent the axles of the wagons from scraping against the walls and thus becoming damaged..



Toll House


During the construction of the Montagu Pass, in about 1847, a stone toll house, with a thatched roof, was erected on the George side of the mountain. According to a proclamation in the Government Gazette of 24 February 1848, a toll gate was set up, and a tariff of tolls publicised. Upon payment of the prescribed fee the toll keeper would raise the bar across the road to enable the vehicle or animal to pass.

The first toll-keeper was John Kirk Smith, born in Nottingham, England in 1818. During 1849 he collected the amount of £400.13.8p in toll fees. His son William Kirk Smith was appointed toll-keeper in 1880. William and his son made "veldt schoens" (simple leather shoes) at the toll-house for sale to travellers and transport riders. Soon they had a thriving business and J.K. Smith, grandson of the first toll-keeper, expanded this concern to Market Street in George. From this humble beginning grew the large and flourishing shoe industry J.K. Smith and Company, which was the forerunner of Modern Shoes Ltd.

Other early toll-keepers were James Scott (1852) and Charles Searle (1858). The toll-house caught fire on 23 July 1855 and the entire roof was destroyed, later being replaced with corrugated iron.

In the Government Gazette dated 16 July 1867, the toll-tariffs were: Each wheel of a vehicle – two pence; Animal drawing a vehicle – one penny; Animal not drawing a vehicle – two pence; Sheep, goat or pig – one halfpenny.

All tolls were abolished on 31 December 1918, but thanks to the fact that it was declared a National Monument in 1970, this interesting relic of the last century has been saved for posterity.






George has a sophisticated infrastructure with banks, conference facilities, businesses and shopping chains including the newly completed Garden Route Shopping Centre, transport and sporting facilities, yet retaining its small town atmosphere. The town is also a major accommodation centre.

George has numerous world-class courses, some designed by famous golfers. Amongst these are Oubaai and Le Grande George. These are built on common land in Pacaltsdorp, removing traditional access rights to the sea for that community..The most well-known is Fancourt Golf Estate, which hosted the Presidents Cup in 2003 and is often the host to high-profile golf tournaments.

Every December through 2010, top national rugby sevens teams from around the world came to Outeniqua Park for theSouth Africa Sevens, one of the tournaments in the IRB Sevens World Series. However, the tournament has since been moved to Port Elizabeth.

George has many historical landmarks:

  • The Slave Tree, an ancient English Oak planted by Landdrost (magistrate) van Kervel, known as the Slave Tree because of the very large chain and lock embedded in the trunk, has been declared a national monument.
  • The King Edward VII Library building, said to be the best example of Edwardian architecture in George.

The First Class School for girls was started by Miss Christina Petronella van Niekerk, a "New Age" young lady with visions for the future which were very different from those ideas held by the conservative population of George.

George is often used a base to explore Tsitsikamma National Park.

The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe is South Africa's last scheduled mixed steam train service and operates on the Outeniqualand Preserved Railway between George and Knysna on the Garden Route. Opened in 1928 and declared a preserved line in July 1993, this train winds its way through picturesque scenery. However, after a landslide disrupted operations in 2007 service was maintained on the section between George, Hartenbos and Mossel bay. In 2010 Transnet, the South African railway authority decided to discontinue all operations of the Choo-Tjoe train.[11]

The Outeniqua Transport Museum houses a large collection of steam locomotives and carriages.

The Garden Route Botanical Garden is situated the top of Caledon Street. The Garden Route boasts the largest continuous natural forest area in South Africa, covering some 650 km². Marketable timber is harvested from 20% of the State forest.Stinkwood, named for its unmistakable odour when freshly cut, is highly prized by the furniture industry, as are white pear, hard pear, ironwood and assegaai. The most sought after timber is the Outeniqua Yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus).






St Mark's Cathedral


Pacaltsdorp Church is the oldest in the George district, completed in 1825. The Norman-style church has thick stonewalls and features a tall square tower topped by battlements. Across the road is the little mud house in which the first missionary, Charles Pacalt of the London Missionary Society, lived after arriving in 1813.

The Dutch Reformed Mother Church was consecrated in 1842 after taking 12 years to build with its 23-metre domed tower and 1 metre thick walls. It was constructed by a supervisor and a number of skilled slaves who continued to work as 'apprentices' after the emancipation of slaves in 1834. Completed in 1843, St Peter & St Paul Catholic Church in Meade Street is the oldest Catholic Church in South Africa. St Mark's Anglican Cathedral, designed by Sophy Gray and built in 1850, attained cathedral status in 1911. It was the smallest cathedral in the southern hemisphere until extensions in 1924-25. The nave is the oldest section. Its most distinctive feature is the number of stained glass windows in relation to its size..




N2 Freeway between Mossel Bay and George


Road: George is 420 km east of Cape Town along the N2 national road and 330 km west of Port Elizabeth.

Rail: There is no scheduled passenger service to George. Rovos Rail and the Union Limited however offer vintage train trips to the Garden Route. TheOuteniqua Choo Tjoe steam train offered leisure rides between George and Mosselbay but closed in 2009.

Air: George Airport (IATA code GRJ), situated approximately 7 km from the city centre, has scheduled flights to Cape Town International Airport, King Shaka International Airport (Durban) and OR Tambo International Airport(Johannesburg).






The City of George is made up of a number of suburbs:

  • Ballots View
  • Bergsig
  • Blanco
  • Borchards
  • Dorp 
  • Bos en Dal
  • Campher's Drift
  • Conville
  • Denneoord
  • Delville Park
  • Denver Park
  • Eastern Extension
  • Eden
  • Fernridge
  • George Central (CBD)
  • George Industria
  • George South
  • Glen Barrie
  • Glenwood
  • Groeneweide Park
  • Heatherlands
  • Heather Park
  • King George Park
  • Lawaaikamp
  • Le Vallia
  • Loerie Park
  • New Dawn
  • Pacaltsdorp
  • Protea Park
  • Rooi Rivier-Rif
  • Rosemore
  • Tamsui Industria
  • Thembalethu
  • Twee Rivieren










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