Surrounded by Karoo koppies (hills) that form part of the Karee mountains, one finds Carnarvon, an attractive and fascinating Karoo village in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.
Carnarvon and surrounds charm visitors with magnetic hospitality, good traditional food, a history steeped in land conflict and mission work (mostly Rhenish missionary history). The former, combined with unique architecture, hundreds of windmills and vistas of flat topped hills, gave Carnarvon and district a unique charm that lures visitors to experience all of this in the peace and quiet of this sparsely populated land.
The San-Bushmen that roamed the area hundreds of years ago used the typical Karoo hills for ceremonial events such as initiation rites. The San were hunter-gatherers and their lifestyle and culture could not survive in an era when migrating livestock farmers moved into the region. The game that they depended on for their livelihood became scarce as the large herds of domestic animals competed with the game for grazing. At the same time hunters with firearms killed off large numbers of game. The result was that the San started killing domestic animals for food with resulting reprisal raids carried out by the livestock farmers. The San clans that did not move away, started working for the livestock farmers and their culture was lost for ever. The only evidence that remains today of their presence is the thousands of rock engravings on the black boulders of the Karoo.
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The livestock farmers comprised a wide variety of cultures such as white European trekboers, Basters, Khoi, Koranna and Xhosa. A Xhosa community under British protection established themselves during the early 1800's at Schietfontein, a local water resource. The farmers competed, even violently, with each other to secure enough grazing for their livestock.
Britain, in its role as coloniser also tried to exert its influence. It it is therefore no wonder that the history of Carnarvon has been described as one that is hallmarked by the most enthralling interactions between migrating tribes and the British colonial authorities. Even the village's original name, Harmsfontein, was changed to Carnarvon to honour the British colonial secretary, Lord Carnarvon. Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, the fourth Earl of Carnarvon (8131-1890), studied for his BA degree at the University of Oxford, became under secretary of Colonies in 1858 and State Secretary in 1866.
Present day Lord Carnarvon (George Reginald Oliver Molyneux Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon) and Lady Carnarvon lives in Highclere castle. More about the interesting history of the family as well as many photos can be found HERE.
In the gallery below, a few present day gardens in Carnarvon are shown (October 2010)