Karoo church dorpie

History of Merweville

Province: Western Cape
Coordinates:32°40′S 21°31′E
Area:32.59 km2
Municipality:Beaufort West

Church dorpie

So many of the dorpies in the Karoo began as parishes of the Dutch Reformed Church. Farmers from outlying areas had to travel long distances to take communion and partake in the social life that the church offered. Merweville is such a settlement. With the help of the Beaufort West minister Pieter Van der Merwe, the church authorities created a new parish in 1897 on a portion of the farm Vanderbylskraal. It was bought for the purpose from Johannes Jacobus Le Seur van der Byl. However, the establishment of the town was interrupted by the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, so the land was only transferred in 1905 and the village was established. The farm was well managed and there was abundant water available from the river. There was an efficient irrigation system in place. The fruit and vegetable gardens thrived and so did the community that grew around it.

Boer War Connection

The settlement regularly hosted coach passengers. soon it included a post office and a small police station. Van der Byl was appointed as a magistrate and he heard cases on mostly petty crimes for which he imposed fines and sentences to be served in the small farm jail. Van Der Byl also insisted that children were educated and he built a school and employed a teacher to this end.

During the Boer war, Van Der Byl found himself locked up in this jail when a raiding Boer Commando under the command of Commandant Wynand Malan who was on a scouting mission, locked Van Der Byl up and rode off with the key. There was no spare and he had to be broken out of the jail.
In 1903 a deafening explosion was heard for miles around, people rushed to the scene, and it was found that a meteorite had landed between the two farms Jakkelsfontein and Tamboersfontein The Jakkelsfontein meteorite was donated to the South African Museum in 1907.

Hidden wealth?

During the war, some coal was discovered which provided fuel for the locals. This caught the attention of Bernard Israel Nowitz, who was a Jewish businessman from Cape Town. He applied for a prospecting license to mine coal which was disallowed, however, he fell in love with a local girl. Her father did not want her to marry a Jew so he declared himself a “Christian Jew” and became a leading member of the Merweville community. He encouraged other Jewish people to settle in Merweville as they did in several other Karoo towns.
Every so often the Karoo has been the centre of wild speculation about supposed hidden wealth. Merweville had its share of speculators and during World War II and right up to 1966, geologists and engineers sunk boreholes and drilled for oil yet not a drop was discovered.
In 1978 the speculators returned, this time it was rumoured that there were rich deposits of uranium beneath the Karoo. Yet again nothing was found and Merweville was left in peace.

The postcode for Merweville is 6940 (Boxes only)


Things to do and see in Merweville

  • Dankfees held in May 084 962 2725 /023 501 4061 This is a carnivore’s delight, a festival for meat lovers. There are braais, potjies and pies.
  • Blounek pass
  • The old church was built around 1906, the ceiling beams are said to have come from a shipwreck and the organcame  from Aberdeen in Scotland.
  • The “Englishman’s grave: Lieutenant Walter Olifant Arnot was in fact Australian but he was with the British in the Boer War, he committed suicide after returning from Sutherland in April 1902 . It is said that he regretted the senseless killings of innocent black folk caught up in the white man’s war. Local people have always tended to his grave.


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Useful Numbers in Merweville

  • Police: 023501 4005
  • Municipality; 023 414 8100/ 023 414 8101 / 8141
  • Traffic department:023 414 8166
  • Fire: 10177 / 023-414 8176
  • Water:
  • Electricity: 023 414 8174
  • Ambulance: 10177
  • Post office; 023 501 4002
  • Library: Mimosa Library Beaufort West- 023 414 8158
  • Closest hospital; Prince Albert hospital; 023 5411300
  • Clinic– 023 501 4026
  • Pharmacy;Nuweveld Apteekl. 023-4152061
  • SPCA: (072) 847-7312/ (072) 847-7312
  • Schools

: Laerskool Merweville Primary School-023 501 4003
Merweville Boarding School-023 501 4003
Kleuterland Pre-Primary School-023 414 4252                                                                         [/vc_column_text]


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