Grahamstown Tourist Attractions
The university town of Grahamstown lies in a sheltered basin 60km/37mi from the south coast, half way between Port Elizabeth and East London.
It is the chief town of the Settler Country, in which white settlers came into conflict with the Xhosa in the early 19th C.With Rhodes University and many other educational institutions, Grahamstown has developed in recent years into a major cultural center. It is also the see of an Anglican bishop, and its many churches (said to number more than 40) have earned it the name of "city of the saints". The Grahamstown Arts Festival, famed throughout South Africa, is held annually at the end of June, when the town becomes one gigantic stage hosting a great variety of cultural events.In the 18th C Dutch settlers began to move east from the Cape in search of new land. On the Great Fish River they came into contact for the first time with the Xhosa, a Bantu people who were moving south, also in the quest for land. After the Cape Colony was taken over by Britain in 1806 there was an influx of British settlers, most of whom established themselves on the east coast. By 1857 there had been eight bloody wars within less than a C in the border region between the Great Fish River and the Bushman River. To protect the frontier between the white and the black population the British built a chain of military posts and forts, including a military base, established in 1812 and named after Col. John Graham, which was to develop into Grahamstown. The settlement flourished, and by 1831 Grahamstown was the largest town in the Cape Colony after Cape Town.Grahamstown is a trim and attractive place with many historic old buildings in the town center. The High Street, running east-west, is its central thoroughfare, with Rhodes University at its west end. From here a brief walk will take visitors round the town center and up Gunfire Hill.
Opposite the City Hall Bathurst Street runs south from the High Street. At the near end, on the left, is the Observatory Museum, in a house occupied from 1850 until his death in 1886 by Henry Carter Galpin, a watchmaker and goldsmith who was also interested in astronomy. Here in 1882 he constructed a camera obscura, still the only one in South Africa. In clear weather, with the help of a mirror on the roof, this shows an image of the whole town and its immediate surroundings.The museum, with a Victorian-style interior, displays old furniture and furnishings and a collection of old telescopes.
Grahamstown Anglican Cathedral
On an island site in the High Street is the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, originally built in 1824 and altered and enlarged in 1853, after Grahamstown became the see of an Anglican bishop. It has the tallest spire in South Africa (53.6m/176ft).
Botanical Gardens were established at some time before 1850 and thus among the oldest of their kind in the country. The gardens, which are open all year round, lie on the slopes of Gunfire Hill, extending up to the Settlers Monument. In addition to plants indigenous to the Eastern Cape there are exotic plants and an English-style garden with lavender, forget-me-nots and roses.
A short distance from Fort Selwyn is the Settlers Monument, a modern cultural center opened in 1974 which includes an art gallery, a number of conference rooms and a theater. This is the venue of the Arts Festival which has become the major cultural event of the South African year.A bronze monument at the entrance depicts a settler family in typical early 19th C dress.
Rhodes University, founded in 1904, was named after Cecil Rhodes. The site was formerly occupied by government buildings, which were demolished in 1935 to make way for the new University buildings, except for the old Drostdy Gate, now the entrance to the University campus. The University has some 4,000 students.
Address: Box 94, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape 6140, South Africa
Adjoining the entrance to the University is the Albany Museum. The main building, erected in 1899-1902, houses the Natural History Museum, which displays material on the history of early man in Africa, one of the three Egyptian mummies in South Africa and geological and ornithological collections. Another section commemorates Dr W. G. Atherstone, who discovered South Africa's first diamond in Grahamstown.
Beautiful paths run up through the gardens to Fort Selwyn (built 1835; restored), now a museum. This was one of a chain of forts and signal stations extending to the Great Fish River.
Bannerman House is headquarters of the South African Library for the Blind, established in 1918, which supplies books to blind people throughout South Africa.
Grahamstown City Hall
The City Hall, beyond the Cathedral, was built round the bell-tower of 1870.