grahamstown forts posts and signal stations


Fort Frederick, Port Elizabeth




The advantages of Algoa Bay as landing place for the defence of the country up to Graaff-Reinet was realised during the first British Occupation.  In the immense frontier district of Graaff-Reinet that had been established by the Dutch in 1786, the burghers were beginning to exercise that freedom of speech and independence of action which had been spread by the ideals of the French Revolution.  The Black tribes,  pushed southwards by aggressive Zulu impis, had found a sparsely populated land with occasional herds of sleek cattle and flocks of lazy sheep, unprotected by any communal kraals, in fact wealth and inyama spread out for the taking.

The English arriving in 1795, inherited both the incipient rebellion of the Graaff-Reinet burghers and the warlike raids of a strange Black land-hungry people.

The Blockhouse.  Major-General Francis Dundas, Acting-Governor of the Cape, placed General Vandeleur in command of 200 dragoons and disciplined Hottentots with orders to establish a military post at Algoa Bay.  A prefabricated wooden blockhouse was built in Cape Town and sent round in pieces on board the Camel to Algoa Bay where it arrived in August 1799 with artificers to erect it.  It was placed near the beach so as to command both the fort over the Baakens River and the landing place on the shore.  It was capable of housing sixty men and was armed with two three-pounders mounted on a flat square roof.

The Fort.  On the hill behind the blockhouse, a second blockhouse was erected surrounded by a massive, square stone redoubt.  This was named Fort Frederick in honour of the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.  It is said that this was the first piece of ‘substantial and permanent building ever erected in the Eastern Province’ and it is still in existence today.

The Fort commands a fine view of the whole of Algoa Bay.  Its walls are eighty feet long and nine feet high, the wide arched entrance with double gate being situated on the western side.  Inside the fort was a powder magazine capable of holding 2,000 lbs of gunpowder and to the left of the entrance was a small guardhouse.  Inside the wall was a raised platform for patrol duty and defence.  The heavy armament consisted of eight twelve-pounders and the full complement of the garrison was 350 men, most of whom were housed in barracks near the fort and the first blockhouse.

The Batavian Government.  In 1803, the Batavian Government took over the Cape by treaty from the British and in 1804, the new district of Uitenhage was created.  And so the development of a civilian centre around Fort Frederick was for a time delayed although it apparently remained the military headquarters.

The Second British Occupation.  This took place in 1806 when Britain’s line of communication with the Far East was being threatened by the ambitious plans of the new French regime and the decline of the Batavian Government.


 View of Fiosh River from Topetters Drift Loophole

The Fish River Frontier, as seen from a loophole in the
gun tower, Trompetter’s Drift.

By 1811, a large body of Xhosa had crossed the Fish River, plundering and burning the homes of the farmers who had retreated to Uitenhage and Algoa Bay with their families and cattle.  In October, Sir John Cradock, the Governor, appointed Col. John Graham to clear the frontier.  This he accomplished by March 1812 and established military headquarters nearer the Fish River.

The site he chose was De Rietfontein, a loan farm formerly occupied by Lucas Meyer.  In august, 1812 the Governor decreed that it should also become the seat of the Deputy-Landdrost of Uitenhage and should be called Graham’s Town in testimony of Col. Graham’s achievements.  The East Barracks, built to accommodate the Cape Regiment, were later extended and in 1835 re-named Fort England after Col. Richard England the commanding officer at the time.

Fort England, Grahamstown

Fort England, Grahamstown

The First Frontier Posts.  Col. Graham instituted a series of posts from which patrols could guard the drifts across the Fish River.  They were first manned by burghers from George and Swellendam, one of the three commandants being Piet Retief.  These posts were either rehabilitated farmhouses of wattle-and-daub or stone built shelters enclosed by primitive earthen redoubts.  Van Aardt’s Post, near the present Longhope siding, was the furthest north and was the recognised crossing place for communication between White and Black.  Three other posts were the abandoned farm of Conraad Buys; Kranz Drift near the present Pigot Bridge; and Old Kaffir Drift Post which was later called Cawood’s Post.  This was about an hour’s ride from Upper Kaffir Drift Post, established about two year’s later on the heights overlooking the actual drift, and is not to be confused with Lower Kaffir Drift about 3km further down the Fish River and about 13km from the mouth.

Lombard’s Post, buildings and walls forming a hexagonal farmyard.

Lombards Post

Lombard’s  Post. Col. Graham recommended that two additional posts be established.  One was to be at Noutoe, a farm 13km west of Graham’s Town, formerly belonging to the de Lange family and situated on the road between Bruintjies Hooghte and Uitenhage.  It was soon abandoned and the site later developed as Table Farm by the 1820 Settler Major T.C. White.

The other post was established on the loan place of Commandant Piet Lombard, about 48km west of Fish River Mouth.   A few kilometres south-west of it Theopolis, a London Mission Station for Hottentots, was founded in 1814.  Lombard’s Post was a key point in border raids and frontier wars, particularly later on when the area was taken over by settler Benjamin Keeton.  In 1835 he erected a fortified farm house close to the site of the old post.  The stone buildings of the farm, now called Lombard’s Post, were placed so as to enclose a spacious hexagonal farmyard and the outer walls were loopholed.

During the war of 1850-51 Lombard’s Post saw its last action; Whittles laager was formed near it and the farm buildings were filled with refugees.  From it also a patrol was sent out to quell the rebel Hottentots at Theopolis.


 Fort Brown, the gun tower from the parade grounds.

Fort Brown, the gun tower from the parade grounds.

Lord Charles Somerset, successor to Sir John Cradock, visited the frontier early in 1817 and worked out a plan for a peaceful co-existence with Ngqika, chief of the Xhosa west of the Kei.  Troops on the frontier were warned that they were on duty at the outposts for observation and not for aggression.

“It is his Excellency’s wish that these posts should be improved so as to attain that solidity which many of them (constructed of the slightest materials) had not when he inspected them; but this is a service which must not be hurried, and the greatest attention possible should be paid to having the men’s Barracks dry and airy…”

Signal Stations.  Somerset in his dispatch on September 4, 1818 also urged the officer commanding on the frontier to hasten with the erection of previously recommended Signal Stations so that communication with the front line might be improved, depredations reported and culprits apprehended before they vanished across the Fish River.  A Field Officer was to be stationed at van Aardt’s on the left wing and another at one of the Kaffir Drift posts on the right wing.  The Officer in Charge of the Signal Establishment was also responsible for the superintendence of the buildings.  The clearest evidence of Somerset’s early signaling system seems to be in Old Signals as shown on Hall’s Map of 1856, the height now known as Signal Hill outside Grahamstown.

The Outer and Inner Post Lines.  The most northerly post was Kruger’s Farm, near Slager’s Nek (1815), followed by Somerset Farm, Prinsloo’s and Roodewal (Cookhouse).  Going down the river and about an hour’s ride from each other were Van Aardt’s, Paul Bester’s, De Lange’s and van der Merwe’s.  Following the eastward meanders of the river were Junction Drift, Wentzel Coetzee’s or Espag’s (Carlisle Bridge), De Bruin’s, Kranz Drift, Koester’s and Hermanus Kraal (Fort Brown).  It is uncertain whether Double Drift, Committees and Trompetter’s Drift were garrisoned at this time, as they were deep in the valley in dense bush.  Waai Plaats and Old Kaffir Drift (Cawood’s) on the flats and Upper and Lower Kaffir Drifts on the river completed the line to the river mouth, with Lombard’s Post further west.

Fish River Post

Upper Fish River Post

The inner line of posts was over the Zuurberg from Grahamstown on the road to Uitenhage; these were Assegai Post, Rautenbach’s Drift, Vermaak’s Farm, Sandflats, Nieuwepos, Coerney, Addo Drift and Jacobus Oosthuizen’s with Klaas Kraal north-west of Uitenhage.

Fort Willshire in Ceded Territory.  Lord Charles Somerset visited the frontier again in October 1819 after the Battle of Grahamstown.  He conferred once more with Ngqika and the assembled chiefs, and the Xhosa agreed to cede a strip of country between the Keiskamma, Tyumie and Great Fish Rivers.  This was to be a neutral zone, unoccupied by either white or black colonists and patrolled by troops stationed at two military posts, Fort Willshire and Fort  Holloway within the ceded territory.  The latter was never built but the first Fort Willshire, the most ambitious and most forward military station, was started in November, 1819. 

A Fair at Fort Willshire Barracks, 1828     

A Fair at Fort Willshire Barracks, 1828

Plan of Fort Willshire Barracks erected
Plan of Fort Willshire Barracks erected
In lieu of the first Fort Willshire.


The dispersion of the 1820 Settlers to their locations was not accompanied by any significant preparations for their protection by the military authorities.  Although fort Willshire was established for trade, the western observation posts were allowed to deteriorate.

Scott’s Barracks, Grahamstown.  Col. Maurice Scott, who became Commandant of the Frontier in December, 1821 endeavored to obtain better and more convenient quarters for the European troops in Grahamstown, for until that time they had been quartered at the East Barracks with the Cape Corp.  the contract was awarded to Piet Retief and Scott’s Barracks, on the site in High Street now divided by Scott’s Avenue, was completed in April, 1823.  However the workmanship was poor and during the heavy rains of October roofs leaked, foundations sank and walls fell in.  Such was the state of the building that accommodation for the troops had to be found elsewhere.

Fort Beaufort.  The spread of Xhosa tribes westwards along the foothills of the Amatole Mountains was now causing some alarm.  Maqoma and his followers had settled in the valley near the source of the Kat River.  To check and watch his movements, Col. Scott, in 1822, erected a blockhouse and stationed troops on the north-east bank of the Kat River, naming the site Fort Beaufort in honour of Lord Charles Somerset’s family.

On the route between Grahamstown and Fort Beaufort, Hermanus Kraal grew in significance and Tomlinson’s Post, near the juncture of the Fish and Koonap Rivers was established.

Bathurst.  On Battery Hill, north of the newly laid out village a small post with an earthen work redoubt was built, the most enduring part being the powder magazine which could store 600 lbs of Gunpowder, 7,000 rounds of ball cartridge and six guns!

Clay Pitts.  A temporary post was established at the red clay pits near the Coombs and under the supervision of the military, Xhosa were permitted to barter skins and ivory for clay.  Nearby one may still see the ‘target stones’ used by the soldiers during musket practice.  There was now an observation post at Trompetter’s Drift as illicit trade between Settlers and Xhosa was becoming more and more frequent.

The Sixth Frontier War.  Towards the end of 1834 events moved swiftly to a climax, over 12,000 Xhosa invaded the Colony, Fort Willshire was abandoned and refugees poured into Grahamstown.  Col. Harry Smith, after an epic ride from Cape Town, arrived to take command.  He directed a three pronged attack from Committees Drift, Trompetter’s Drift and Upper Kaffir Drift.

The attack was pushed past the Keiskamma River and troops eventually crossed the Kei River.   Governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban joined in the final Conduct of the campaign, proclaimed the new boundary of the Colony to be the Kei River and named the new Province Queen Adelaide.


Province of Queen Adelaide.  The first measure Governor D'Urban took for the protection of the new province was to erect Fort Warden, on the west bank of the Kei, overlooking the river crossing, about fifteen miles down stream from the present rail bridge.  Fort Waterloo was then established as a temporary observation post on the road east of Gonubie River.

Barville Park, a fortified farmhouse
Barville Park, a fortified farmhouse

King William’s Town.  Moving to the Buffalo River, D'Urban set builders to work on Fort Hill, a star fort near the ruined house of the Rev. John Brownlee.  Its low earthen walls with flanking bastions for three field guns protected wattle-and-daub huts for about 300 men, a stone hospital and a prison.  Not far away was Fort Harding, both part of the defence of King William’s Town funded and proclaimed as the headquarters of the new province in 1835.

The building of Fort Beresford ten miles further up the Buffalo River was supervised by Col. Harry Smith and finished in June, 1835.  he recommended that cold and exposed Fort Wellington should be abandoned but established Fort Murray 12km south-west of Fort Hill and Fort Waterloo between the Gonubie and Nahoon Rivers.

Fort Cox.  This was a garrison built on a peninsula formed by a loop of the Keiskamma River and accommodated six Royal Artillery, one company of British Infantry and 160 Hottentots.  It occupied a wildly beautiful situation with Mount MacDonald and Seven Kloof Mountain towering beyond it.  Fort White, named after major T.C.White killed in Hintza’s country, was situated on the Debe Flats as a communication post between Fort Cox and king William’s Town and to intercept marauders escaping though Line Drift to their haunts in the mountains.

Fort Thompson was erected to guard the entrance to the Tuymie Valley.  It has since been incorporated in the Village of Alice and is about a mile or so from Block Drift on the Gaga tributary of the Tuymie River.  Peddie District.  In the former Ceded Territory Fort Peddie was built to guard the new Fingo settlement.  It was named after Col. John Peddie of the Seaforth Highlanders.  Earthworks were thrown up to form a star-shaped wall mounting several six-pounders and around it was a deep ditch in which many Fingos sought shelter during the siege of Peddie in 1846.  Inside the fort the commissariat store, Magazine and guard rooms were built of stone.

Fort Willshire was re-occupied and Fort Montgomery-Williams was situated not far south-east of it.

However this hastily instituted defence system was of no avail as Lord Glenelg recalled Col. Harry Smith and terminated Sir Benjamin D'Urban’s appointment.  On July 28, 1836 the British Government renounced its claim to the province of Queen Adelaide and ordered the withdrawal of all troops in the area, retaining only King William’s Town and Fort Cox, and Sir Andries Stockenstroom was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Eastern Cape.


At the time when a number of rather flimsy forts were being built in the new Province of Queen Adelaide, most of them to be abandoned within twelve months, Lt. Col. G. Lewis, Commanding Officer of the Royal Engineers at the Cape, drew up a Lewis scheme for a series of strongly fortified barracks at Trompetter’s Drift, Double Drift and Hermanus Kraal along the west bank of the Fish River.  The line turned north then to Fort Beaufort and finally west to Fort Armstrong.

The Imperial Government also approved of Lewis’s scheme for signal towers, and new roads and bridges to improve communications between these forts and headquarters at Grahamstown where new barracks were to be built on the old Drostdy Ground.

Trompetter’s Drift Fort, the gun tower from the outside.

Trompetter’s Drift Fort, the gun tower from the outside

The Drostdy Barracks, Grahamstown.  Major Charles Selwyn, in charge of the Royal Engineers at Grahamstown from 1834 to 1843, was largely responsible for initiating the high standard of stonemasonry in military and other buildings that has now become part of the heritage of the Eastern Cape.  He adapted the Drostdy House, now demolished, to military purposes; built two large double storeyed stone buildings for offices and officers quarters which are still standing; an artillery barracks, powder magazine and guard house, now demolished; the Provost or military prison, completed in 1838; the hospital forming three sides of a square; and the Drostdy Gate, completed by 1842.  The Royal Engineers workshops were also enlarged at this time.  Welsh slates or ridged zinc were used for the roofs of these buildings and the timbering was mostly yellowwood.

Roads and Passes.  Major Selwyn found that Andrew Geddes Bain, a settler who had come out in 1816, had an eye for country and employed him as his Superintendent of Roads.  The Queen’s Road to Fort Beaufort, Ecca Pass and Pluto’s Vale were  his first achievements and other fine roads and passes throughout the Cape were to follow.

Trompetter’s Drift, Double Drift and Fort Brown.  The Cape Colony now came to be considered one of the best schools for young military engineers in the British colonial possessions and a promising young officer, William Jervois, was appointed in 1841 to the Eastern Cape to carry out the work planned by Lewis.  Jervois was later to become Deputy-Director of Fortifications of the British Army.

During his seven years at the Cape amongst other important works he carried out the construction of the fortified barracks and gun towers at Fort Peddie, Trompetter's Drift and Fort Brown, the latter previously known as Hermanus Kraal but re-named after Lt. Brown of the 75th Regiment who was in command there during the war of 1835.

Fort Brown, an isometrical drawing with the gun tower on the right.

Fort Brown, an isometrical drawing with the gun tower on the right.

The bridge over the Fish River at Fort Brown was also constructed by Jervois, being completed in 1848.  The original stone piers have stood the test of every major flood and are now incorporated in a much longer bridge.


Semaphore Mast, Fort Selwyn, 1850

In 1837 Lt. Col. Griffiths Lewis recommended that communications with Fort Beaufort and Peddie be improved by a series of signal towers based on Fort Selwyn in Grahamstown.


Semaphore Mast, Fort Selwyn, 1850

The survey to establish suitable points on which to erect the stations was done by Henry Hall, an officer of the Royal Engineers stationed in the Eastern Cape, 1842 – 1858.The stone-built towers were about 30 metres high.They had only one entrance, to the first floor, and it was provided with a ladder which could be drawn up before the door was closed.A staircase led to the flat roof of the tower on which was mounted a semaphore, a type of signalling mast first developed by Claude Chappe during the French Revolution.

The mast was composed of a ‘regulator’, pivoted at its centre so that it could rotate and also slide up and down.  At either end of the regulator were indicator arms which could each be placed in seven different positions.  In practice only 196 combinations of positions were used although there was the possibility of more.

The Fort Beaufort Line.  The stations on this line went from Governor’s Kop to Grass Kop, Botha’s Post, Dan’s Hooghte and Fort Beaufort.  When war broke out in 1846, all the towers on this line had been completed and equipped with semaphore masts.  A projected extension to Zwart Kei Post was never carried out.  Henry Hall, when testing the section between Dans Hooghte and Fort Beaufort, found that the signals made to Fort Beaufort from Dans Hooghte could not easily be read although his signals from Dan’s Hooghte were clearly visible at Fort Beaufort.  Unless the towers were placed against the skyline, it was difficult and sometimes impossible to read the signals, furthermore the telescopes supplied were not sufficiently powerful.

The Peddie Line.  This operated via Governor’s Kop to Fraser’s Camp, Piet Appel’s Tower and so to Peddie.  These towers had been completed when war broke out but had not yet been provided with semaphore masts.  A third section from Fraser’s Camp, to Round Hill and Battery Hill at Bathurst was envisaged but never started.

The signal towers were in fact of very little use for the signals were difficult to decipher, the up-keep of the garrisons expensive and water supply was always a problem.  Henry Hall later recorded that ‘Within one month of the outbreak of war (1846) all these towers were in ruins, abandoned by us or burnt by the enemy.”

THE 7TH FRONTIER WAR 1846 – 1847

The initial disasters of the war which commenced in march, 1847 were severe.  Elands Post was abandoned.  A strong punitive force under Col. Somerset which had pushed across the border of the Colony to Burn’s Hill near Fort Cox, had to retreat to Block Drift but at the Keiskamma River crossing another heavy attack resulted in the loss of half of the 125 ox wagons carrying military stores.  Peddie was invaded.  In Lower Albany, Cuylerville, Bathurst and the fortified farmhouses were besieged.  Refugees flocked to Grahamstown where the streets were barricaded.

Eventually Fort Peddie was relieved via Committees Drift and Trompetter’s Drift and the Battle of the Gwanga ended in a resounding victory for the Colonial forces.

Fort Dacres.  A temporary earthen fort was built by seamen of H.M.S. President on the west bank at the mouth of the Fish River as a base for troops crossing into the war zone.  It was named after Admiral Dacres.  Reinforcements also came by sea from Cape Town and some were landed at Waterloo Bay immediately east of the river mouth.  The campaign was pushed eastwards and an advance base was set up at old Fort Warden for the final push across the Kei River.

Fort Hare.  The new Governor, Sir Harry Smith arrived in December 1847.  On landing he issued two proclamations:  the first extended the boundary of the Colony to the Keiskamma River thus re-incorporating the old Ceded Territory.  The chief town was to be Alice and Fort Hare was built to protect it.

The Forts of British Kaffraria.  By the second proclamation the territory between the Keiskamma and Kei Rivers became British Kaffraria, this was virtually the former Province of Queen Adelaide.  Re-occupation of Sir Benjamin D'Urban’s old forts started immediately.  Fort Hill was in ruins but KingWilliam’s Town was re-built as headquarters for the troops in British Kaffraria.  Col. Evelyn wrote of the Rifle Brigade “They built a town, they built a barracks, they built houses for their officers, some of ‘wattle and daub’, some of bricks, and roofed with various materials.  They also made an aqueduct some 3 or 4 miles long to supply the camp with water and for irrigation.  When we left they had had more than half built permanent barracks of stone…”

Fort Glamorgan was established on the west bank at the mouth of the Buffalo River and on January 14, 1848 Sir Harry Smith named the new port East London. 

The Military Villages.  At the end of the war discharged soldiers were encouraged to settle on the frontier and four military villages Woburn, Auckland, Juanasberg and Ely were established in and around the upper Tuymie valley.  The experiment was not a success, more than half of the men moved away after about twelve months and the tragedy of 1850 put an end to these establishments.


WAR 1850 – 1853Fort Armstrong.  The defection of the Hottentots began in the Kat River Valley and spread to Theopolis and Whittlesea.  Hermanus, the Kat River leader, was killed early in January, 1851 when leading an assault on Fort Beaufort.  William Uithaalder, a Cape Corps pensioner assumed command and with augmented forces led an attack on Fort Armstrong.  The Whites managed to escape and the fort became Uithaalder’s stronghold and storehouse for plunder.  In February a force assembled at Post Retief consisting of 200 English, 400 Burghers, 200 Fingoes and volunteers from Grahamstown under Commandant Currie.  They proceeded to Fort Armstrong where they met with stubborn resistance.  Reinforcements arrived under Col. Somerset from Fort Hare when other rebels had been successfully repulsed.  The attack was pressed home with two howitzers, the walls were breached and 400 women and children were taken into custody.  The men in the tower held out doggedly and only after considerable effort was the fort recaptured.

Fort Armstrong

Fort Armstrong

Fort Cox.  The sudden and simultaneous attacks on many parts of the frontier showed that Sandile and his followers had prepared their plans well in advance.  The Christmas Day massacres at Woburn, Auckland and Juanasberg and the attack on the 45th Regiment on the Debe flats were but part of this widespread uprising.  Sir Harry Smith had come to direct the offensive in person and on 23 December 1850 sent out a strong patrol of 500 infantry, 150 cavalry and Fingo police to Keiskamma Hoek.  This force was ambushed in the Boomah Pass with heavy losses.  The Governor was then virtually a prisoner at Fort Cox which was situated on a narrow neck of land with the river far below on either side.  However he succeeded in making his escape with a detachment of the C.M.R. before the fort was completely cut off.  The garrison was eventually relieved in January 1851, the men being then in a weak and emaciated condition.

Castle Eyre.  Sir George Cathcart took office as Governor in march 1852 and by August a large force had been assembled for a concerted drive across the Kei.  Sandile fled and Kreli, chief of the Ngqika sued for peace which was proclaimed in march, 1853.  Cathcart’s blockhouse policy to police the frontier called for the erection of eight towers in the area between the Keiskamma and the Kei.  Only one of these was ever built, this was ‘Castle Eyre’, called after Col. Eyre of the 75th Regiment, and erected on the outskirts of Keiskamma Hoek.  The tower of two storeys was fifteen foot square, with a flat roof which provided emplacement for a swivel gun.

The Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort.  In 1794 a round tower at Cape Martello in Corsica was only captured with great difficulty by the British.  The sturdy design was subsequently used for the coastal defense of England when threatened by invasion during the Napoleonic Wars and over 70 ‘Martello’ Towers were erected.  The plans for the Martello Tower at Fort Beaufort, originally proposed for Grahamstown, were certified as correct in April 1857 at which time the tower was presumably completed.

Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort
 Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort

Emplacement for rotating canon at top of tower.Martello Tower, Fort Beaufort

Sectional view showing basement-          
magazine, left and store room, right: barrack floor with entry port; Gun emplacement on top.


POST RETIEF, 1836 – 1878

This Post is magnificently situated in the Winterberg on a plateau at the foot of the Didima Mountains where it guards the head of the pass that drops steeply down into the Blinkwater Valley, the last home of Piet Retief in the Cape.

Sir Benjamin D'Urban wrote: ‘when in 1836 I caused a military post to be established in the Winterberg, I named it Retief…This Gentleman, Mr. Retief, is the same whom in the latter end of 1835 I appointed Field Commandant, for this active and judicious conduct at a period of difficulty and anger.’

The Post was heavily invested by a large force of rebel Hottentots in February 1851 when it was crowded with refugees, their animals and household possessions.  For four days it was cut off from all supplies of food and water, then it was relieved by a commando of 130 burghers and 140 Fingos under Capt. Ayliff, W.M. Bowker and Dods Pringle.


Many settlers suffered heavy losses during the war of 1835 and afterwards started to fortify their farmhouses adopting points suggested by Capt. J. Alexander, Aide-de-camp to the Governor, in an article published in the Grahamstown Journal in August 1835.

Post Retief in the Winterberg

Post Retief in the Winterberg

At Septon Manor there was a signal tower with firing ports.  Heatherton Towers had two castellated towers in place of stoepkamers.  At Stoneyfields the barn was linked to the house by stone walls, this plan was also adopted at Sidbury Park where the gracious house later included a ballroom.  These fortified houses were recognised as military posts in later wars and were manned by volunteers to protect the refugees and their animals that congregated round them when danger threatened. 

Woodlands in Lower Albany6 was one of the many attacked in May, 1846 when doors and windows were under heavy fire while another enemy party drove off 2500 cattle.  1000 head were recovered but next day the attack was renewed on Woodlands and also Barville Park.  Col. Somerset eventually arrived with 300 mounted troops including the 7th Dragoons and the siege was lifted.  Meanwhile Richmond House at Port Frances was also under siege and the station gun was fired at intervals to warn Woodlands and other farms and to direct the relief troops.  Many of these farms as far west as Barville Park were again under siege during the war of 1851.

Many of the places of interest are open to the public or are police stations where permission may be obtained to view historical sites.  In most other cases the forts, posts, signal towers and fortified farmhouses are privately owned, some of them being dwelling houses, consequently permission to view can not easity be obtained, many of the sites however may be seen from the roadside.  The following places are open to the public:

Fort Frederick, Fort Selwyn, Drostdy Gate, Battery Hill – Bathurst, Fort Brown, Fraser’s Camp, Kaffir Drift Post, Fort Peddie Signal Tower, Barracks and Commissariat Store (the Church), Fort Hare, Fort Cox, Castle Eyre and Elands Post.

Approximate distances from Grahamstown:

Port Elizabeth           127km       Keiskamma Hoek     175km
Uitenhage                137km       Fort Cox                  135km
Coerney                   106km       Alice                       106km
Addo Heights            82km         Fort Beaufort            80km
Nieuwepos Kop          80km         Fort Brown                25km
Sandflats                  77km         Double Drift             40km
Rautenbach’s Drift      52km        Zwart Kei Post          159km
Sidbury                      5km         Post Retief              120km
Assegai Post              27km        Seymour                 115km
Alexandria                 48km        Fort Armstrong         105km
Salem                       23km        Bedford                   137km
Barville Park              82km         Adelaide                 114km
Lombard’s Post          50km        Cathcart                  198km
Bathurst                    43km        Whittlesea               180km
Port Alfred                 58km        Cradock                   182km
Fort Dacres                65km        Somerset East          150km
Fish River Post           55km        Cookhouse              96km
Cawood’s Post           45km         Longhope                70km
Waai Plaats               27km         Riebeeck East          44km
East London              177km       Junction Drift            60km
King Williams Town    116km       Carlisle Bridge          38km
Peddie                      68km            
Trompetter’s Drift       46km
Fraser’s Camp            34km
Governors Kop            17km

Compiled for the Grahamstown Historical Society by Eily Gledhill. 
Photographs by Rex and Barbara Reynolds.
Published by the 1820 Settlers National Monument Foundation.


grahamstown forts posts and signal stations

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