History of Oudtshoorn

Province: Western Cape
Klein Karoo
Coordinates:33°35′S 22°12′E
Area: 37.6 km2
Municipality: Oudtshoorn

Klein Karoo farming town

The first Europeans in the little Karroo were a party of traders led by Ensign Shrijver. They were shown the Elephant trail in 1689 by a Griqua guide but the area was only settled about 100 years later.
Farmers settled in the Oudtshoorn area in the 1750s and farming was well established there by the end of the century. Produce consisted of livestock, wheat, barley, tobacco, and some fruit. By the 1830s subsistence farming in the area had become a successful market economy which laid a foundation for more development.

The church as the centre of social life

A Dutch Reformed Church in the area on a part of the farm Hartebeesrivier belonging to Cornelis P. Rademeyer became the centre of social and congregational life for the next 40 years. By 1847 CP Rademeyer requested permission from the Cape Government to build a town on his farm. 500 residential stands were measured out. This town was originally called Velskoendorp. It was subsequently named after Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, who was appointed as Governor of the Cape colony by the VOC but unfortunately, he died aboard ship in 1772 before he ever got to Cape Town.

A stopover between the mountains.

This town was originally founded due to the need for a central service area between the Swartberg and the Outeniqua mountains. Previously the area fell under the Swellendam authority. By 1855 the area had grown so substantially that Colonel A.B. Armstrong, was sent to be the first resident magistrate. Oudtshoorn was proclaimed as a magisterial district in 1858. That year, some British settlers arrived in the area as well. The Dutch Reformed Church in Oudtshoorn was established in 1853. The feather industry also attracted a large Jewish community to Oudtshoorn. At the peak of the boom, there were at least 300 Jewish families in Oudtshoorn

Water availability controls development.

The growth of the settlement was limited only by the supply of water. Many irrigation innovations stem from water scarcity. The first necessary barrels of water were delivered for sixpence a barrel.
The year 1859 brought an extended period of drought broken only in 1869 by floods when it became possible for farmers to become prosperous again. Ostriches were introduced against competition mostly from California. Farmers realized the way to dominate the industry was to improve the stock and develop the best quality feathers. Many fortunes were made and lost in the feather industry. Farmers became rich sometimes overnight. The remnants of this rather fickle industry can be seen in the large fantasias locally known as feather palaces. Some of these buildings can still be seen in the older parts of town. The feather industry suffered at the whims of fashion and the effects of the First World War. With the new austerity, feathers were no longer fashionable. Oudtshoorn today still dominates the Ostrich industry and is a thriving Karoo town

The postcodes in Oudtshoorn are 6625(Streets) and 6620 (Boxes)





Things to do and see in Oudtshoorn

  • Provincial heritage site– Mimosa Lodge 85 Baron van Rheede Street
  • Suspension bridge– Constructed by Rowley and Sons in London, it was suspended over the Grobbelaars River in 1913 linking the fashionable residential area of Westbank with the centre of town. There is a magnificent view of the Swartberg Mountain from the bridge.
  • The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) is a national arts festival with a focus on the Afrikaans language in performing arts. It is held annually in Oudtshoorn for eight days at Easter time.
  • Brakpoort pass
  • Droekloof pass
  • 36 one MTB challenge
  • Eseljagspoort pass
  • Attakwas One day MTB race  https://www.atta.co.za
  • Dust 4 glory challenge
  • Attakwas extreeme
  • The Leopard Crawl offers 3 mountain bike routes https://www.entryninja.com/events/77157-leopard-crawl
  • Klein Karoo Klassique 
  • The Oudtshoorn Scale RC event is one of the most anticipated events on the radio control flying calendar each year. Held in September
  • Veldskoen shuffle, a 90 minutes, 2,8km Walk with a local guide, see some Ostrich Feather Palaces, and hear local stories.  082 4618253 starts at the local tourism office.

Useful Numbers in Oudtshoorn

  • Police: 044 203 9014
  • Municipality:044 203 3000
  • Traffic department: 044 203 3910
  • Fire: 044 203 3000
  • Water: 044 203 3000
  • Electricity:044 203 3000
  • Ambulance: 10177 044 272 2526
  • Post office; 044 279 1777
  • Library: 044 203 3928
  • Schoemanspoort Cultural Centre: (044) 279 1766
  • Local newspaper : Oudtshoorn Courant 044 272 8918
  • Closest state hospital; 044 203 7317.
  • Klein Karoo Mediclinic: 044 272 0111
  • Bongolethu clinic 044 274 0929
  • Pharmacy; Watson and Brink. 044 272 2184
  • SPCA: 044 279 1850
  • Schools:
  • Oudshoorn high: 044 279 1623
  • Van Reede Primary school 044 272 2845
  • Langenhoven Gimnasium 044 272 2151
  • Museum; CP Nel museum 044 272 7306
  • CJ Langenhovenmuseum 044 272 2968
  • Tourism -044 279 2532                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               [/vc_column_text]

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