Montagu history 2018-03-11T11:47:38+00:00

Short History of Montagu

Montagu was founded in 1851 on the farm Uitvlucht, which had belonged to Pieter Swanepoel since 1841. The first erven were sold and the Dutch Reformed congregation was established. The village was named after JOHN MONTAGU, then Colonial Secretary of the Cape, who travelled here to “baptise” the town at a ceremony held on the erf situated at the corner of Church and Long Streets. Signed photographs of John Montagu may be viewed in the Montagu Museum and Library. Most of the erven were sold to colonists from the “Wagenmakersvallei” (Wagon Builders Valley) near Wellington from where building materials had to be lugged by ox wagon over Bain’s Kloof to Montagu. Most of our Cape Dutch thatched roof houses date from the years 1853 – 1870. It is generally accepted that Joubert House situated in Long Street, built in 1853, is the oldest house in Montagu. In 1983 it was restored to its former glory, and as a section of the Montagu Museum, it depicts the lifestyle of the late 19th century. Montagu, once known as “Agter Cogman’s Kloof”, lies between the Keisie and Kingna rivers which join at the western extremity of the town. In the l9th century the only exit to the West was through Cogmanskloof and during the passage through the Kloof the river had to be forded eight times! Strong teams of horses or oxen were required for the trip as carts and wagons were very often stranded in the Kloof. A mail coach transported the post between Ashton and Montagu and its arrival on special days was always a great event. The old coach house is still in existence and is used as a dwelling house. After the tunnel, constructed by Thomas Bain, was completed in 1877, a decent road was built through Cogmanskloof and other roads soon followed. In 1931 the road through the Kloof was tarred, streets and the provision of electricity in the village soon followed. Work on the Dutch Reformed Church, looking today much as it did then, built at a cost of 4 490 pounds, commenced in May 1852; the first minister was Dr Servaas Hofmeyr, who was ordained 2 years previously: his salary was 300 pounds per annum! Education was not neglected, and Mr Bernardus Keet was appointed as the first teacher in 1855, followed by Mr George Euvrard. Dr Joseph Castles was the first resident medical doctor and with Dr Hofmeyr and Mr Euvrard made the triumvirate, much revered and respected in the area. Mr WA Joubert was the first mayor of the newly-declared municipality in 1895, and within a few years water was laid on to every house in town after having formerly been carried from The Mill. The authentic water mill from the farm “Meulplaas” in the district has been reconstructed neat the site of the original and forms part of the Eyssen House complex (Die Ou Meul). The latter is the birthplace of Stephan Eyssen, the first well-known composer of Afrikaans music and song. The Montagu Museum in Long Street was officially opened in May 1975. It’s theme is the History of Montagu and its people in all aspects and it contains collections of Africana well worth viewing and studying. It is practically impossible to ascertain the exact date of the discovery of Montagu’s hot mineral springs, but the manner of their discovery is as follows: In the very early days trekkers often followed the course of rivers, and, according to our archives, the wagon on one such nameless pioneer became stuck in the rocks of the river bed. In his efforts to free the wheels, the trekker’s hand was so badly injured that his party was obliged to pitch camp in the vicinity of the present-day Montagu. They drank of the clear, strange-flavoured water, found it wonderfully refreshing and traced its course through the Kloof where they discovered the hot springs. The injured hand, bathed frequently in the warm waters, healed miraculously. News of the healing water was soon spread by word of mouth and as a result the sick and ailing visited the hot springs, sometimes from as far afield as 50 miles, which was a considerable distance to travel in those days. The now-popular Montagu baths were originally part of the farm “Uitvlucht” but were sold for the first time in 1857, and have since been in the hands of various hands and bodies. At one time the property belonged to the old NCCR (New Cape Central Railways), also to Mr Jannie Marais, the great benefactor of Stellenbosch University. Other owners were a Mr Fernandes (from Madeira) who gave the whole complex an exotic and literally colourful character; Mr Hugh Tevis, Australian millionaire, intended building a large imposing spa but wartime restrictions (1939 – 1945) dictated otherwise and he settled for building only “Little Sanctuary” as a holiday home. A Montagu hotelier, Mr Aaron Idelson followed, and the Montagu Municipality then took over, and the caravan park and public swimming pool were subsequently constructed. On the 25th of January 1981, disaster struck Montagu in the form of a flood which swept away the entire Baths complex, stripped the Kloof off all vegetation (excepting 1 tree) and altered the course of the Keisie River to such an extent that the beautiful walking trail through the Kloof was completely obliterated and Lover’s Walk destroyed. However, the Municipality investigated all venues until a developer was found who gave Montagu Springs its present new look, and reconstruction of the Hotel had already been commenced by a local hotelier. Lover’s Walk has been painstakingly been built up and spacious lawns now fringe the walk that, like before passes the beautiful cliffs, leads past Eyssen House (the Ou Meul) and through the Baths Kloof to the hot springs. Many trees have been planted, and the enchanting beauty of the most charming walk can once again be enjoyed. The luxurious new Springs Hotel attracts hosts of tourists, including many from overseas and all are fascinated by the exquisite setting and most impressive beauty of the whole Baths project. The Nature Garden was founded in 1954, and offers peace and total relaxation throughout the year, but in spring the vygies and other plants in bloom are an absolute delight.

2 Kloof Street, Montagu, 6720, South Africa

Phone: +27 23 614 3147

Mobile: +27 82 561 7818