A Short History Of Montagu
3 min read
Montagu, 1948. Town view.
All images courtesy of the Digital Rail Images South Africa Collection.
A Short History Of Montagu
Montagu is a beautiful town along Route 62 in South Africa and is often seen as the gateway to the Klein Karoo. Our town has an interesting history, mostly thanks to the natural hot springs that are still the main attraction for visitors today. Here is a brief history of Montagu, perfect for the history buffs who like to know their facts before heading to their holiday destination.
Montagu, 1947. Part of the baths.
Montagu started on one farm called ‘Uitvlucht’ in 1851. The farm became known for its natural hot mineral springs. It’s impossible to determine when the springs were discovered, especially as the indigenous people probably knew about it for a long time before the colonists discovered it.
Montagu district, 1947. Old Dutch homestead.
The story goes that early trekkers followed the rivers on their routes and made camp near where Montagu is today. They drank some of the water and found it very refreshing. Upon following the river, they found the hot springs. One of the trekkers had injured his hand and after frequently bathing it in the hot springs, found that it had healed quite quickly and well. The news spread of the springs and quickly became a popular attraction. The springs form part of the Montagu Baths today. As the news spread, people started to move to Montagu – most of the Cape Dutch thatched roof houses in the town date back to 1853 to 1870.
Montagu district, 1947. Road.
The town was named after the then Colonial Secretary of the Cape Colony, John Montagu, who had envisioned the Cape’s potential but realised efficient transportation and communication would be key to its development. This led to passes being created by important road engineers to access the town from two sides. The labour used to create these passes were often from convicts.
Montagu district, 1960. Road pass in Cogman’s Kloof.
Montagu, 1948. Swimmers at baths.
Cogman’s Kloof was built by Thomas Bain and completed in 1877. This pass provided the only exit West out of Montagu and linked the town and the railway station. Montagu was actually once called ‘Agter Cogman’s Kloof’, as the town was situated on the other side of the pass. Strong teams of horses and oxen were required for the trip, and the ‘Hole in the Rock’ is still seen today as the gateway to the Klein Karoo. In 1931 the road through the pass was tarred. Soon after, the streets in the town were also tarred and electricity was provided to Montagu.
Montagu, 1960. Relaxing at the bathing pool.
Montagu, 1960. Golfing.
In 1936, Montagu was declared a health resort, thanks to the hot springs at the Montague Baths. Wealthy people began buying holiday homes here and the tourism industry expanded. Sports and recreational activities became commonplace in Montagu.
Montagu, 1947. KWV factory.
Montagu, 1960. Canning factory.
In 1941, the Montagu Muscadel Co-Operative was formed – still one of the most important local exports today.
Montagu district, 1947. Koo valley.
Montagu district, 1947. Apple blossoms at Koo.
Montagu is also known for its herbs, fruit (both normal and dried), and vineyards. Its peaceful surroundings and scenic mountains have made it a popular retreat among creatives. One such example is the English author, Francis Brett Young, who spent his last years in Montagu.
Montagu district, 1960. Woman picking fruit.
Montagu, 1947. Lover’s Walk alongside an irrigation ditch.
As you can see, Montagu is known for a lot: its natural springs, its produce, its architecture. Come find out for yourself and explore our wonderful little town. Don’t hesitate to ask our friendly staff for their recommendations on what to see in Montagu. And remember to tag us in your beautiful shots of the town and your adventures!