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Calitzdorp municipality had its own Coat-of-Arms which was registered to it in perpetuity. Calitzdorp Municipality no longer exists but legally no one else may use the Arms.
When electricity was installed in Calitzdorp in 1937, it was the smallest electricity supply setup in the country, the least costly installation and Calitzdorp’s supply price was the cheapest per unit in South Africa.
When built between 1943 -1954, the concrete road from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn - known locally as the \'sementpad\' - was the longest concrete road in South Africa. It was NOT the country\'s first concrete road, as is frequently claimed.
The last ever steam train on the Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp line was a special Union Line day trip for steam train enthusiasts on 13 August 1997, four years after the official closing of the line. The loco was a class 19D No 2753
The Little Karoo was once an inland sea of approximately 14,500 square kilometers. It would have been a quarter the size of Lake Victoria, half the size of lake Malawi, 24 times the size of the Dead Sea and 87 times the size of the Sea of Galilee!
Huge Fossil bones found in the Calitzdorp district were thought by Hoffman in 1966 to possibly be those of the Giant Plesiosaur – the same as Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, ‘Nessie’. However they were later identified as those of the sauropod Algoasaurus related to the Brontosaurus.
In the 1800s and early 1900s there was a thriving Jewish community in the Little Karoo. Many of their shops had no doors for customers - who climbed in through the windows!
Calitzdorp has South Africa’s largest Pale Chanting Goshawk bird population – the only polyandrous raptor in South Africa.
The Calitzdorp Nel’s river dam was the first mass-concrete agricultural irrigation dam wall built in the country.
The dam was built in 1913-1918, before modern equipment was available, and work was done with picks and shovels. Donkeys and mules did the hauling. There was one 36 BHP suction gas engine which ran all the major plant.
The Nel’s river which flows through Groenfontein valley and fills Calitzdorp dam was previously known as the Kango river and is shown as such on the original subdivision map of the Buffelsvlei farm, dated April 1834.
The word Kango comes from the Khoisan language – The Khoisan called the Swartberg mountains the Kango and the word means ‘place rich in water’.
A Surveyor General’s Map dated 25 Jan 1847 shows that Daniel Nel owned large sections of the Kango river / valley farmland, Probably why the river became known as ‘Nel’s river’.
Cape leopards still roam freely in the mountains around Calitzdorp. Extremely shy, and ranging over enormous territories, these rare, beautiful animals are seldom seen.
Calitzdorp sits on a geological fault line that runs for 300 kilometers along the southern edge of the Cape Fold mountains – proof being our local hot spring at the Calitzdorp Spa.
In the 1850s the town of George was a 50 hour trek by ox-wagon from Calitzdorp! This time did not include overnight stops and time for the oxen to rest and graze.
After their discovery, the Cango caves were known as \'die Druipkelder’. and only became known as Cango Caves many years later.
When Electricity was first provided in Bergsig, each of the smaller houses had one connection to a street light, and electricity was only available at night when the street lights were switched on.
Lucerne – a major fodder crop around Calitzdorp, came to South Africa from South America in 1861. Its introduction into the Little Karoo dramatically changed the ostrich industry
There are 34 internationally recognised biodiversity Hotspots in the entire world - and Calitzdorp is surrounded by four.
The plant biomes – areas of a certain type of plant growth - are identified as World Hot Spots because of the unique - and threatened vegetation, found nowhere else in the world.
Each of the four World Hot Spots around Calitzdorp –fynbos, thicket, remnant forest and succulent Karoo – has at least 1500 endemic plant species – each Hot Spot biome having more plant variety than the whole of Europe
Calitzdorp’s first cemetery is said to have been in the area of “The Queen of Calitzdorp” Lodge - but maybe this old cemetery was under the \'spookhuis\' - giving reason for its name? Long demolished, the police station now stands where the \'spookhuis\' once was.
During the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918, Calitzdorp was not spared and the beautiful double-storey home at 1 Queen street was used as a make-shift hospital for the duration of the epidemic
More than eleven thousand hand-cut stones were used to build the Dutch Reformed Church. The raw stone was transported by ox-wagon from Swartkop at Vlei Rivier and dressed on the building site.
Because of its enormous size, the Dutch Reformed Church vestry table (5,2m) had to be made on site.
On 22 February 1991 the imposing sandstone Dutch Reformed Church and its surrounding fence was declared a National monument - now known as a Provincial Heritage Site.
The cast-iron fencing, erected around the perimeter of the Dutch Reformed Church grounds in 1899, is eleven years older than the church itself.
The five massive Dutch Reformed Church bells - three huge and two slightly smaller ones, cost £425 and were cast in Germany. They were donated by J J Grundling and his wife in memory of their grandson Jacobus Johannes Grundling Meyer
The magnificent Dutch Reformed Church organ - considered the best in the country at the time and said to have then had 942 pipes, was imported from Hamburg, Germany.
The Huisrivier Pass underwent major upgrading in 2012 and 2013. To the astonishment of workers at a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them - in broad daylight!
The very rare, unusual, yellow Protea - Mimetes chrysanthus – was discovered in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve by game guard Mr Willie Julies in September 1987.
Calitzdorp is on Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world.
Voortrekker road – or Route 62 – was firstly known as Bloekomlaan (Bluegum avenue) due to the number of gum trees which lined the road.
A number of original little houses were demolished on Voortrekker Road and the bluegum street-trees were removed to widen the road when Route 62 was built.
The house which reputedly stood on the land where the police station and magistrates\' court now stand, was known as ‘die Spookhuis’. Could the reason be - that just maybe - this might have been the site of Calitzdorp\'s first unmarked, unidentified cemetery?
Axe Hill winery was named after stone-age hand tools, from some 250 thousand years ago, found on the property when the farm was being established by the late Tony Mossop and his wife Lyn.
It is rumoured that Cecil John Rhodes gave a speech to Calitzdorp residents from the steps of the beautiful residence at 1 Queen Street, but so far we have found no proof of him visiting the town.
Old timers have suggested that the beautiful home at 1 Queen street was ransacked or torched by Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers and his men during the second Anglo-Boer War. We have found no proof - but we do know that Scheepers was active in the Calitzdorp area at the time.
In 1922 when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, one of the first things he found was a perfect, 3,000 year old, ivory-handled ostrich feather fan.
In 1918 there were outlying schools in Groenfontein, Buffelskloof, Buffelsjagsfontein, Gamka-Oos, Gamka-Wes, Huisrivier, Janfourieskraal, Kruisrivier-Wes, Uitvlug, Warmbad en Warmwater, along with the Juta and Reenen school.
Spekboom - Portulacaria afra - takes in and uses huge volumes of atmospheric carbon – part of the global warming problem – and converts it into oxygen. How great is that? Plant some and help save the world!
DID YOU KNOW ?
\'Kougoed\' - the Kanna plant, Sceletium tortuosum of the Mesembryanthemoideae family - is a local ancient herb with mood enhancing properties said to rival Prozac! – but it is non addictive and has no side effects.
In 1869 Arthur Douglass invented an ostrich incubator , causing a stir in the Little Karoo where farmers now started fencing their lands to farm ostriches more intensively
In 1872 Mr Burdett opened Calitzdorp’s first shop
On the 3rd of July 2015, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), at a meeting held in Bonn in Germany, approved the elevation of the existing Rooiberg, Gamkaberg and Groenefontein Protected Areas, to the status of World Heritage Sites
Each return journey of the steam train between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, burned up four tons of coal!
The first regular train from Oudtshoorn ran into Calitzdorp on Friday 14th November 1924 and the official opening took place a few days later on the 20th November.
Seweweekspoort peak at 2,352m is not only the highest peak in the Klein Swartberg range, it is also the highest in the Western Cape. Classified as an ultra prominent peak it is also the 8th highest peak in South Africa.
Endemic to Seweweekspoort, the first specimens of an unknown, rare Protea were collected by botanists T P Stoekoe and R Primos in 1928. Later thought to be extinct – this Protea Aristata was ‘re-discovered’ in 1953.
The survey for the new Huisrivier Pass was started in 1951. It took almost ten years to find a suitable route over the difficult, treacherous mountains to Ladismith, before construction of the Pass could start.
Seweweekspoort’s rare endemic red Aristata protea was proudly displayed on the 10 cent postage stamp of the South African 1977 Protea Series.
Calitzdorp became the Port capital of South Africa by accident. Years ago, Shiraz vines ordered and planted by the Nel family of de Krans, later turned out to be Touriga Nacional – the main port grape! What a happy mistake!
On 25 December, 2015 there was a full moon. Younger than 38 years old at the time? Then this would have been your first Christmas full moon. The last one was in 1977 and the next one will only be on 25 December 2034!
DID YOU KNOW?
Everyone knows South Africa’s symbols – the flower symbol is the King Protea, the animal is the springbok, the tree is the Real Yellowwood and the bird is the Blue Crane. But did you know that we have a national fish? Believe it or not, we do! the Galjoen
DID YOU KNOW?
Western Cape’s provincial symbols : The provincial flower is the Red Disa, the provincial tree is the Silver Tree. Our animal is the Bontebok and our provincial bird is the Cape Sugarbird
DID YOU KNOW?
The ostrich is the world\'s largest flightless bird, followed in size by Australia\'s Emu and Cassowary.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Cape Leopard is a small animal - probably the size of a large dog – and is half the size and weight of its Kruger Park cousins. The average weight of a male Cape Leopard is about 35 kilograms.
No longer viable, the Oudtshoorn - Calitzdorp train service was officially stopped and the line closed to regular traffic on 31 May 1993.
 

Dutch Reformed Church

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Dutch Reformed Church, Calitzdorp

Dutch Reformed Church, Calitzdorp

The Dutch Reformed Church is Calitzdorp’s only building category Provincial heritage Site (National monument)

Andries Pretorius street,  Calitzdorp

tel :   044 213 3311
044 213 3400

e-mail  ngkerkcalitzdorp@telkomsa.net

GPS     -33.532362,   21.68834
-33°31’56.5032″   021°41’18.0240”

Calitzdorp grew around the Dutch Reformed Church building which has stood, since its construction, as the proud centrepiece of the town.

In the early years of the small, scattered farming community, far from any towns and without a church, occasional church services were held at Buffelsvlei (Calitzdorp) and in nearby settlements by preachers from Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn.

Oudtshoorn and surrounding districts – including Calitzdorp – became independent from the Mossel Bay mother church on 15 October 1853.

Because of the distance to Oudtshoorn to attend the four-monthly ‘Nagmaal’ (Communion) services, plans were made to build Buffelsvlei’s own church.

1854   By 1854 plans were under way to erect the church.

1855   On 7 February 1855 the contract to build a church for 4500 riksdalers was awarded to William Harris of Harding and work started almost immediately.

The first church

The first church

1856   Although long thought that the Calitz family had donated the land on which the church was erected, official records show a transfer document dated 16 July 1856, wherein 3 morgen 132.5 square roods (later erf 547 on which the church was built) was sold by the three owners of Buffelsvlei – Fredeik Calitz, J J S Geyser and M C Calitz, to the Church Committee for £22.10 shillings. This information is recorded on page 18 of the book– ‘Ned. Geref. Kerk Calitzdorp 1873-1973’  compiled by HC Hopkins to celebrate the church’s centenary.

1856   It would seem that the building started before the documentation was finalised as on 20 February 1856 the cornerstone of the new church was laid by Dominee van der Riet, assisted by Dominee Dirk van Velden – the first Dominee of  “Lady Smith”. According to the plans the new church was to be 80 feet (24.384 meters) long, 32 feet (9.75 meters) wide and 18 ft (5.48 meters) high.

1857   People came from far and wide to celebrate the inauguration of the rather lovely little church on the hillside, on Sunday, 7th June 1857.

The opening ceremony reportedly started ‘under laden golden orange trees’ on a day of howling winds, before the procession moved on to the church.

In 1857 to make church attendance easier for outlying farmers, land was once again made available to the church by the owners of ‘Buffelsvlei’. This time it was 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) of adjoining land on Andries Pretorius Street opposite the church.

This land was proclaimed in 1857, divided onto plots and made available to members of the church congregation only. This extended area covered mostly what became the Nagmaal cottages of Calitz, Geyser, Church, Potgieter. Lourens and Fourie streets, and possibly also on the opposite side of – and below the church – the area for permanent residential homes in Queen Street.

Enlarged - or second- church

Enlarged – or second- church

1858   The first erven were sold in 1858 and ‘Nagmaalhuisies’ were soon erected –typically very small with minimal space – just enough to provide overnight accommodation as needed.

It was decided to divide the church plot into smaller sections to sell, to ‘strengthen the church funds’. These were made available for sale in December that year.

1859   One of the original plots was sold to the church for £30 and it was here that the ‘Ou Pastorie’  was built.

1867   At a meeting on 22 April 1867 the Church Council brought up the possibility of Calitzdorp becoming an independent Congregation.

1873   Finally, on 22 February 1873, Calitzdorp became an independent Congregation.

Carl Otto Hager

Carl Otto Hager

Continued growth necessitated the enlargement of the original church building which was done by the addition of a diagonal extension by builder Samuel Orton senior and Carl Otto Hager who worked under the term of ‘boumeester’ (architect).

1874   Richard van Reenen Barry, born in 1849 in Swellendam, became the first preacher of the now independent Dutch Reformed Church. He served the community for 40 years from 1874 to 1915 and this was his only parish. He died in 1920 aged 71 years.

The lovely little cottage at 29 Andries Pretorius street is known as De Eerste Pastorie, as it served temporarily as the parsonage in 1874.

1880   In 1880 the newly enlarged church was inaugurated.

The pulpit, made of yellowwood and stinkwood, was – according to tradition, made in the workshop of Andries P Blignault’s  Wagonry in Queen Street. This building is now known as the Karoo Life B & B.

Eerste Pastorie

Eerste Pastorie

1899     The cast-iron fencing, (which was later included in the Heritage Site description in 1991) was erected around the perimeter of the church grounds, and is thus eleven years older than the sandstone church itself.

1908   After thirty years of good service and a town population which had grown to more than 4,000, it was once again time to consider extending the church to meet the demand.

In April 1908 the council make known that brothers Hermanus Lambertus, Johannes Hendrik and Jacobus Ernst Potgieter of Rietfontein and Buffelskloof had offered to donate a figure of £600 between them to purchase an organ for the church.

1909   Suggestions were made for further extensions to the church building but at the council meeting of 19 June 1909, demolition of the church, and construction of  a much bigger one was put forward.

1910  A great deal of planning followed. Designs were invited by the church council and 26 were received. Of these, two were selected and a vote of 18 to10 went in favour of the design with model, submitted by Oudtshoorn company Simpson & Bridgman’s architect Mr Watson Hall. However, members of the church were not satisfied with this decision, and a further vote gave final acceptance to the Neo Renaissance-Byzantine design of second architect, Mr Wynand Hendrik Louw of Paarl.

1910  After a final, leave-taking service on Sunday 31st July 1910 the old church was demolished. The foundation of the new church, the building style of which is typical of the sandstone architecture of the ostrich era of the Little Karoo, was laid on the 17th December 1910.

1912   Considering the logistics of building such a fine sandstone building in 1912, it is astonishing that the church  was completed within 2 years. Stone was brought by ox wagon from Swartkop (Vleirivier) and dressed on the building site. More than eleven thousand cut stones were used in the building and the French Marseille roof tiles were believed to have been landed at Port Elizabeth and transported inland by rail. They would have been brought from Oudtshoorn by wagon.

Piet Strydom, builder

Piet Strydom, builder

Architect W H Louw

Architect W H Louw

J E Vixsboxse - supervisory architect

J E Vixseboxse – supervisory architect

Builder Piet Strydom worked meticulously for 20 months on the project, overseen by architect Johannes Egbertus Vixseboxse of Oudtshoorn. The architect who designed the church was Wynand Hendrik Louw of Paarl..

The new church was completed in 1912.

Total Building Cost of the church was £12,790.00.

The magnificent organ – which is said to have had 942 pipes, and considered the best in the country at the time, was imported from Hamburg, Germany. It is believed to have been made by the Laukhuff factory in Hamburg and was erected in the church by GW Price and Son of Cape Town.

The final cost for the organ was £852. The difference between the original £600 and the final figure could well have been for installation costs.

The solid oak pews, shaped like benches, can seat 2 000 (1 400 + 600) people. Because of its enormous size, the vestry table (5,2m) had to be made on site.

There is a residual story concerning the completion of the 90 foot (27.432 meter) tower. Apparently no-one was prepared to work any higher than the scaffolding would reach, and only one man Oom Cornelis ‘Koot’ Grundling – obviously nick-named ‘Wildebees’ for a reason – was prepared to continue. Without records, one can only wonder at how the cupola was fitted and with their massive weight, how the bells were hoisted into position, The bells which cost £425 were cast in Germany and were donated by J J Grundling and his wife, in memory of their grandson Jacobus Johannes Grundling Meyer.

1912   The Oudtshoorn Courant on Thurdsay 25th April reported about the forthcoming event the next day :

“Everything is being done to make the place look neat and tidy. Dwelling houses are being repaired, the streets improved – and new dresses made! The 26th of April 1912, will be a memorable day for Calitzdorp”.

Merry-go-round at inaugural celebrations

Merry-go-round at inaugural celebrations

After all the inauguration of such an imposing church doesn’t take place very often! And once again the town was referred to as ‘Gamka dorp’.

A well attended ‘bioscope’ was shown the night before opposite the Bawdon’s hotel, and a little ‘merry-go-round’, looking something like an overgrown mushroom entertained the crowds.

The same Courant article commented on the Calitzdorp streets thus

“ …. I imagined  myself walking along George Road, for the condition of the streets compare very favourably with the aforementioned thoroughfare, and as far as the lighting up of the streets, the Calitdorp streets are on par with George Road !”

26 April 1912. With great excitement in a festive atmosphere the beautiful new stone church with its striking steel ceilings, lovely organ, acetylene gas lighting (in use until 1937), tall bell tower housing the clock from Holland and five enormous bells, was inaugurated.

The church bells with from left: J E Vixseboxse, Mrs & Mr Jacobus J (Dik J) Grundling (donors), builder J P Strydom

The church bells with from left: J E Vixseboxse, Mrs & Mr Jacobus J (Dik J) Grundling (donors), builder J P Strydom

There was a real festival air about the town the Friday morning of the great event and visitors had come from as far afield as Riversdale, Ladismith and Laingsburg. Dignitaries with Dominee Barry of Calitzdorp, were Dominees Murray of de Hoop, W A Joubert of Paarl, W de V de Wet of Ladismith,  D Rossouw of George,.A M McGregor of Oudtshoorn,  J P Burger of de Rust,  van Rensburg of Vanwyksdorp, not forgetting the Elders and Deacons – a veritable legion of religious fervour. The organ was played by Mr H Greeenwood, blind organist and music teacher from the School for the Blind in Worcester.

Indeed a memorable day for Calitdorp!

1917    Due to the feather crash and drought, conditions in Calitzdorp were so bad that in February 1917 the Dutch Reformed Church Council granted amounts of between 5 and 10 shillings to 43 extremely impoverished families.

1964  A new electric organ console was installed in the South gallery in 1964.

Although restoration had been done on the organ many times through the years, major work was done in 1964 by S A Orrelbouers and a grand celebration for the “new” organ was held on Saturday, 22 August that year.

1984  In 1984 further restoration was done on the organ by a Mr F E Clift

It is not certain at which stages of repair and restoration additional pipes were added, but according to the organist in 2011, the organ today has 1 495 pipes in 7 sets.

1991    On 22 February 1991 the imposing sandstone Dutch Reformed Church was declared a National monument – now known as a Provincial Heritage Site.