The history of Hogsback

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(Read also the summarized version of the book: The History of Hogsback by Trevor Webster)

The village is magnificently sited on the slopes of the Amatole Mountains, overlooking the rivers and fertile plains of the Tyume Valley in a region dominated by three ridges said to resemble the bristles on a hog's back.

The earliest written reference to the name was found in the journal of the famous painter Thomas Baines, who passed the 'Hogs Back' while on his travels to the interior in 1848. The view from above the village is breathtaking and includes, besides the Hogsback, the highest peak in the area, the 1 954 m Gaika's Kop.

The local Xhosa tribes called this area Qabimbola (red clay on the face) as this is the area where they obtained the clay for face painting. The valley of the Tyumie River was one of the Xhosa tribe's strongholds, as was the mountain known as Gaika's Kop.  British troops were stationed here and a number of forts were built to guard the border.  One of these was Fort Michell, named after Colonel Michell/Michel of the Warwickshire regiment, who was at one time in charge of the troops in the area. The name has since changed to Fort Mitchell. Mitchell's Pass is also named after him. The outline of Fort Michell, and the first road from Fort Hare to the slopes of the Tor Doone is still visible. 

The conflict continued further north and a small settlement started to grow. Some of the first residents were Summerton, Odendaal and Booysens. Thomas Summerton, a gardener from Oxford,  whose legacy survives in the local gardens and his attempts to re-create the English countryside can still be seen in apple orchards, avenues lined with hazelnut, berry fruits and the flowering plants that have spread throughout the area.  European flowers, bushes and trees include rhododendrons, azaleas, fruits and berries. He named his farm Cherrie Orchard and also built a furrow - Summerton's furrow - to carry water from a stream on Tor Doone.

In the 1880's a mr. Collins built a small hotel, called the Hogsback Hydro, which later became the Hosback Inn. Hunterstoun, the  private estate of mr David Hunter, in 1910. Mr Hunter was the honorary secretary and treasurer of the Lovedale  Institution and the Victoria College near Alice(2, p16).  Forestry began in 1883 with a survey to determine the best areas for planting (2, p7). The Hogsback pass was opened in 1932. Hobbiton-on-Hogsback was started in 1946 as a holiday camp for children who could not afford to go on holidays and with the aid of several organisations and private donations has grown to an outdoor education facility for underprivileged children. There was also a shop, the Handy Log Cabin, situated in the grounds of Arminel.

St. Patrick-on-the-hill is one of the smallest churhes in South Africa. Because of its romantic atmosphere it is very popular for weddings

The Arboretum is a living museum of trees, both European and African including the largest Californian redwoods in Southern Africa.

By the turn of the century, local farmers and townsfolk began to build holiday homes here and its charms became more widely known. The cottages were mostly of wattle and daub with thatched roofs.  A rule was also made in regard to the size of the plots, namely that each one had to be at least two morgen (2, p8).

But it is the older African forests that provide the real atmosphere at Hogsback. To enter them is to  enter a truly mystical  world

There are two theories ( or more ) as how the village  got its name. Some think it was named for Captain Hogg, Commander of Fort Michell, while others think that it is due to the fact that  one of the three peaks that overlook the village, when seen from a certain angle, resembles a hog's back (A hog's back is a geological term describing this particular rock formation).

Hogsback scenery probably also played a role in the mystical forest created by Tolkien in his trilogy "The Lord of the Rings". Tolkien's son was a commander of some Royal Air Force troops in the region and he visited Hogsback regularly. He sent Tolkien a number of sketches and descriptions of the Hogsback forest which probably contributed towards the special atmosphere of the forest scenes found in "The Lord of the Rings".


1. Ballantyne, M. M. S.  Hogsback our haven. [Alice]: Lovedale press, [1982]

2. L.G.C., pseud. Hogsback, a guide. [Alice]: Lovedale press, n.d.              

3. Lister, rev       Echoes from the past

4. Lister, rev       I trace the rainbow




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