Cape Town - Grahamstown

Eastern Cape

Grahamstown is a city in the Eastern Cape situated about 130 kilometres from Port Elizabeth and about 180 kilometres from East London and about 60 kilometres inland from Kenton on Sea. Way back in 1812 the town was founded by Lt. Colonel John Graham as a military headquarters for a system of forts established along the Fish River which at that time was the boundary of the Cape Colony. The border region was a problem to the Cape Colony government as it needed many soldiers to patrol the area and keep it safe from marauding African tribes.

In 1814 at the end of the Napoleonic wars there were many unemployed people in England and to solve the problem of the Cape Colony border and the unemployment problem in England Lord Charles Somerset suggested that many of the unemployed people in England be persuaded to come to the Cape. Those who came were promised and given 100 acre farms along the border on their arrival in South Africa. Many of these settlers were artisans by trade and had scant knowledge of farming methods Soon the struggling settler families, after repeated crop failures, were forced to leave the land and many of them made their way to Grahamstown. To accommodate all the settlers moving into town two new narrow streets were built.

New Street and MacDonald Street as the streets were named were built at right angles to each other creating a square which became known as Artificer's Square, a place where artisans gathered to look for employment. Over the years Grahamstown became an important city for communications and agriculture in the area.

As it grew many buildings were constructed on its wide tree lined roads and many of these old buildings are still in evidence today.

In 1852 a bishopric was established in Grahamstown and today there are more than 40 active churches and places of worship which testify to the variety of cultures in the city. In 1864 history was made when Grahamstown became the only town outside of Cape Town ever to host a session of the Cape Parliament. Today, nearly 200 years later Grahamstown boasts it own University and several excellent schools. Because of its rich history Grahamstown has many historical attractions for visitors to see.

The most well-known is the 1820 Settler's National Monument. Another monument dedicated to the memory of the Settler's is the Settler's Memorial Tower, which was to be erected in time for the 50th anniversary of the British Settler's arrival in South Africa. However this did not happen and the tower was incorporated into the building which was to become the City Hall. Another interesting building is the Provost Prison which was used as a military prison on instruction of Sir Benjamin d'Urban, the then Governor of the Cape Colony

Modern day Grahamstown has much to offer the visitor. In June/July each year the Grahamstown/Standard Bank National Arts Festival is held. This year the festival starts on the 30th of June and runs through to the 9th of July. The festival caters to all tastes and actually is two festivals in one.

The main festival is packed with prestigious performers presenting innovative indigenous works and international successes while the fringe festival is anything goes as long as it's shows, In between all this visitors can shop at hundreds of stalls get mixed up with camels, belly dancers and bagpipes to mention a few of the side shows. Accommodation becomes a problem in the town as its population more than doubles during the festival. The schools and universities let out their hostels while every homeowner who has a spare room does the same. Surrounding towns also assist in accommodating the crowds.

It would be great to meet you there.

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