Grahamstown: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Grahamstown from Fort Selwyn
Country South Africa
Province Eastern Cape
District Cacadu
Municipality Makana
 - Type City Council
 - Total 3,333,344 km2 (1,287,011.3 sq mi)
 - Total 124,758
Time zone SAST

Grahamstown (Afrikaans: Grahamstad) is a city in the Eastern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa and is the seat of the Makana municipality. The population of greater Grahamstown, as of 2003, was 124,758.[1] The population of the surrounding areas, including the actual city was 41,799[2] of which 77.4% were black, 11.8% Coloured, 10% white, and 0.7% Asian. Since 1994, there has been a considerable influx of Black people from the former, and nearby, Ciskei homeland. The city proper has an overwhelming white majority, while the neighboring townships (geographically separate, but politically together) have Black or Coloured majorities.

Located some 130 km from Port Elizabeth and 180 km from East London, Grahamstown is also the seat of Rhodes University, a diocese of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and home to the College of the Transfiguration- the only residential provincial college of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa - and a High Court. However it does not form part of the South African Cities Network.[3]



Fort Selwyn

Grahamstown was founded in 1812 as a military outpost by Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham as part of the effort to secure the eastern frontier of British influence in the then Cape Colony against the Xhosa.


Egazini, Battle of Grahamstown

On 22 April 1819 a large number of Xhosa warriors, under the leadership of Nxele, launched an attack against the British colonial forces. The Xhosas warned Colonel Willshire, the commanding officer, beforehand of their planned attack on Grahamstown, brought about by the continued harassment of Xhosas within their own territory by the British authorities. The Xhosas came close to taking the town, but were repulsed by the heavy artillery and gunfire of the British, suffering heavy losses. Nxele surrendered, was taken captive and imprisoned on Robben Island where he later died.


Grahamstown grew during the 1820s as many 1820 Settlers and their families left farming to establish themselves in more secure trades. In 1833 Grahamstown was described as having "two or three English merchants of considerable wealth, but scarcely any society in the ordinary sense of the word. The Public Library is a wretched affair."[4] In a few decades it became the Cape Colony's largest city after Cape Town. It became a bishopric in 1852.

In 1904 Rhodes University College was established in Grahamstown through a grant from the Rhodes Trust.[5] In 1951 it became a fully-fledged University, Rhodes University. Today it provides world-class tertiary education in a wide range of disciplines to over 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

With the establishment of the Union of South Africa the Grahamstown High Court became a Local Division of the newly formed Supreme Court of South Africa (under Cape Town). However after several years the court was elevated to a Provincial Division and a Local Division was established in Port Elizabeth. In certain other areas of provincial government Grahamstown similarly served as a centre for the Eastern Cape.

In 1994 Grahamstown became part of the newly established Eastern Cape Province, while Bhisho was chosen as the provincial capital.

Name changes

The provincial government has recently announced that it plans to rename Grahamstown along with several other towns and monuments, with African names. One possible official name for Grahamstown would be Rhini, which is the current Xhosa name for the city. This, however, has been met with opposition by the Grahamstown community and is widely seen as an expensive distraction aimed at drawing attention away from the ANC municipalities' inability to improve on basic service delivery.

Religion - 'The City of Saints'

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Church Square

St. Michael and St. George Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown. Grahamstown also has Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Ethiopian Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Pinkster Protestante, Dutch Reformed (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk), Charismatic, Apostolic and Pentecostal churches. There are also meeting places for Hindus, Scientologists, Quakers, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Muslims.

For historic reasons, particularly the vibrancy of evangelism during Grahamstown's heyday, the City is home to more than forty religious buildings, and the nickname the "City of Saints" has become attached to Grahamstown. However, there is another story which may be the source of this nickname.

It is said that, in about 1846, there were Royal Engineers stationed in Grahamstown who were in need of building tools. They sent a message to Cape Town requesting a vice to be forwarded to them from the Ordnance Stores. A reply came back, 'Buy vice locally'. The response was, 'No vice in Grahamstown'.[6]

Education, Arts and Culture

Grahamstown is home to many schools as well as Rhodes University. It is also home to several institutes, most importantly the South African National Library for the Blind, the National English Literary Museum, the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (formerly the JLB Smith Institute), the International Library of African Music (ILAM), and the Institute for the Study of English in Africa.

The effects of Apartheid still affect the provision of secondary education in this former frontier town, where significant discrepancies in matric pass rates and general quality of education exist. Addressing this problem is one of the city's greatest challenges.

The Observatory Museum

In 1859, Henry Carter Galpin bought a simple double-storey establishment in Bathurst Street for £300. During the next 23 years he made extensive changes. The front was elegantly decorated, and a basement and three floors added to the back. Rooftop developments included an observatory, from which the building took its name, and what was for many years the only Camera Obscura in the Southern Hemisphere.

Born in 1820 in Dorset, England, Galpin trained as an architect, surveyor and civil engineer, as well as a chronometer, clock and watchmaker. These skills, together with his keen interest in optics and astronomy, are reflected throughout The Observatory- the most unusual Victorian home and business premises in South Africa.

Galpin's thriving watchmaker and jeweller's shop was run by three of his seven sons after his death in 1886. They sold to Messrs Leader and Krummeck in 1939. Several businesses occupied the ground floor while the basement and upper floors were divided into flats and lodgings.

By the end of the 1970s the structure was dilapidated and unsound. The historic link with the identification of the Eureka diamond led to the purchase and restoration of the Observatory by De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited.

The building was subsequently proclaimed a National Monument and presented to the Albany Museum to form part of its History Division. Exhibits were arranged, and The Observatory Museum was opened by Mr. Harry F. Oppenheimer, the then Chairman of De Beers, on February 2, 1983.


Two large festivals take place annually in Grahamstown: the National Arts Festival in June/July and SciFest Africa in the first term of the year - sometimes April but it will be in March in 2009 and will attract some 50,000 people. The National Arts Festival is the largest Arts festival in Africa and sees some of the leading talent on the South African and international art scene arriving in Grahamstown for a celebration of culture and artistic expression. [7][8][9][10] [11]


Grahamstown is the only city in South Africa whose primary commerce sector is that of education. Whilst this statistic is surely abetted by the high cost of the private schools and the relatively small population, it has a remarkable number of schools per capita. Of these, some of the more privileged schools are listed below:

School Year Founded Denomination Language Grades Gender Private/Public
St. Andrew's College 1855 Anglican English 8-12 Single sex male (integrated classes with D.S.G. from Gr.10 onwards) Private
Graeme College (known variously before 1939 as Victoria Boys' High School and the Grahamstown Public School) 1873 Non-denominational English 1-12 Single sex male Public
Diocesan School for Girls (D.S.G) 1874 Anglican English 4-12 Single sex female Private
St. Aidan's College 1876 (closed 1973) Jesuit English  ?-12 Single sex male Private
St. Andrew's Preparatory School 1885 Anglican English 0-7 Single sex male (Co-ed. until Gr.4) Private
Kingswood College 1894 Methodist English 0-12 Co-educational Private
Victoria Girls' High School 1897 Non-denominational English 8-12 Single sex female Public
Victoria Girls' Primary 1945 Non-denominational English 1-7 Single sex female Public
Oatlands Preparatory 1949 Non-denominational English 0-3 Co-educational Public
P.J. Olivier 1956 Non-denominational Afrikaans 0-12 Co-educational Public


Grahamstown is home to the oldest surviving independent newspaper in South Africa. Named the Grocott's Mail, it was founded in 1870 by the Grocott family, and bought out a pre-existing newspaper called the Grahamstown Journal, dating from 1831.[12] It is presently a local newspaper operated by the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, and still retains its name. Grocott's Mail's main competitor is an independent free weekly community magazine called Makana Moon, which is owned by Grahamstown journalist Mike Loewe. As a major centre for journalism training, Grahamstown also hosts two student newspapers, Activate, established in 1947, and The Oppidan Press, a student initiative launched in 2007 that caters mainly to the student population living off-campus.


Grahamstown forms part of the Makana Local Municipality in the Cacadu District. Grahamstown is a seat of the Eastern Cape High Court, as well as the Magistrate's Court for the Albany District. As a result of the presence of a High Court, several other related organs of state such as a Masters Office and a Director of Public Prosecutions are present in the city. A few other Government (mostly provincial) departments maintain branches or other offices in Grahamstown.

Famous people


  • Grahamstown was the only settlement outside Cape Town to host a sitting of the Cape Colony legislature (a move to defuse a call for the creation of a separate colony).
  • Grahamstown was the location of the testing of the first diamond find by Henry Galpin.
  • Grahamstown has the "tallest toilet in the world" (housed in an abandoned chimney).
  • Grahamstown has 52 churches of numerous denominations, gaining it the name the City of Saints.
  • Grahamstown had its first tornado since 1972 on the 8th October 2008 injuring three people and maiming two domestic animals. Parts of Kingswood College were also damaged.



  • SciFest, the annual national science festival, held in Grahamstown [1]

External links

See also

Coordinates: 33°18′S 26°32′E / 33.3°S 26.533°E / -33.3; 26.533

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Grahamstown is a city in South Africa's Eastern Cape.


Grahamstown is known as The City of Saints, owing to it having more than 40 churches, and as Africa's Festival Capital since six national events are celebrated here each year.

This charming and picturesque small city is well worth a visit. It has maintained its old-time demeanour, and has many examples of buildings in the Victorian, Colonial and Gothic Revivalist styles.

Get in

By road

Grahamstown lies just off the N2 highway between Port Elizabeth to the west and East London to the east. From Port Alfred in the south follow the R67 north through Bathurst. From the north a number of different routes converge on Grahamstown.

By rail

The station is on Ayliff street (right in town). However there is no longer a train between Grahamstown and Alicedale, inland to the west.

From Alicedale there are regular trains south to Port Elizabeth and north to Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.

For several years there has been talk of reviving the disused rail link between Grahamstown and Port Alfred, but this project is still very far from completion.

By bus

Several companies, including Greyhound and Intercape, run long distance buses between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which stop off at Grahamstown along the way. As of 2007, they all appeared to leave Cape Town in the evening, which means you'll arrive at Grahamstown very early in the morning (and probably won't have had an awful lot of sleep along the way! If you choose to travel like this, remember to take some toilet roll as the bus ran out pretty quickly).

  • The Observatory Museum, Bathurst Street, +27 (0)46 622-2312, [1]. Open 9:30AM to 1PM and 2PM to 5PM, Monday to Friday. The only Victorian camera obscura in the southern hemisphere R8 entrance fee.  edit
  • The History Museum, Somerset Street, +27 (0)46 622-2312, [2]. Open 9:30AM to 1PM and 2PM to 5PM, Monday to Friday. The history and art of the Eastern Cape R3 entrance fee.  edit
  • 1820 Settlers National Monument (, Fort Selwyn Drive (Grahamstown.), +27 46 603 1100, [3]. The 1820 Settlers National Monument is both a national heritage institution and a conference and functions venue. It is administered by the Grahamstown Foundation, and is home to the National Arts Festival, as well as a range of educational and cultural projects, including Scifest Africa, Schools Festivals, Olympiad and Eisteddfod.  edit
  • National Science Museum, Somerset str, +27 (0)46 622-2312, [4]. Open 9:30AM to 1PM and 2PM to 5PM, Monday to Friday. R5 entrance fee.  edit
  • National Arts Festival, PO Box 304 Grahamstown 6140 (, +27 (0)46 603 1103, [5]. Every year in June/July this festival attracts more than 30 000 visitors to attend the 500-plus productions.  edit
  • National Festival of Science, Engineering and Technology, 1820 Settlers Monument (Fort Selwyn Drive), +27 (0)46 603 1106, [6]. This comprises SciFest Africa (formerly Sasol Scifest), SciFest-on-the-Road, National Science Week, Mall Shows, Deep Rural Programme and International Partnerships. SciFest Africa is South Africa's national science festival held annually in late March or early April in Grahamstown. It features over 550 events. Attendance now exceeds 58 000 visitors - it's a great way to get your children interested in Sience, Maths, Engineering and Technology.   edit
  • EP Skydivers, Grahamstown, +27 (0)82 800-9263 (), [7]. Go Skydive  edit
  • Under the Arch. There are two shops under the Drostdy Arch, the much-photographed entrance to Rhodes University. The shop called "Under the Arch" sells wonderful unusual gifts, specialising in crafts from the Eastern Cape region and further afield. They also stock a range of beads and snacks. Don't miss the pottery by local potters Greg Jacobs and Richard Pullen.  edit
  • Red Café, 127a High Street (Upstairs from UPB, just past Postnet), +27 (0)46 622-8384. A great coffee shop with friendly staff and eccentric customers, owner-managed by Justus. It is licensed and serves delicious light meals. There is an eclectic range of secondhand books on sale.  edit
  • Rat and Parrot, 59 New Street. A cosy student pub - anyone who has spent any time as a student in the UK will be instantly at home here!  edit
  • A Stone's Throw B&B, 9 Stone's Hill, Grahamstown (On the R67 towards Port Alfred), +27 (0)46 622-3294 (+27 (0)83 651-9244, ), [8]. checkin: 14h00; checkout: 10h30. A Stone's Throw B&B, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa offers accommodation with tranquil country living within easy reach of the main CBD of Grahamstown, which is famous for hosting to the National Arts Festival each year. R530.00.  edit
  • 7 Worcester Street, 7 Worcester Str, +27 (0)46 622-2843 (, fax: +27 (0)46 622-2846), [9].  edit
  • The Cock House, 10 Market Str, +27 (0)46 636-1287 (fax: +27 (0)46 636-1295), [10].  edit
  • Colonel Graham Guest House, 2 Lansdowne Road, +27 (0)46 622-2274 (), [11]. 4 star From R150 per person sharing.  edit
  • Henri House B&B, 16 Henry Str, +27 (0)46 622-8845 (), [12]. From R500 for a double and R300 for a single.  edit
  • The Highlander, Worcester Str, +27 (0)46 622-3564 (, fax: +27 (0)46 622-7417).  edit
  • Jenny's B&B, 9 Dulverton Road, +27 (0)46 636-1541 (), [13]. 4 star From R250 per person sharing.  edit
  • Lantern Hill Guest House, 2 Thompson Street, +27 (0)46 622-8782 (), [14]. 3 star From R250 per person sharing.  edit
  • Protea Hotel, 123 High str, +27 (0)46 622-2324 (), [15].  edit
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