The Village takes its name from the Three Hogsback Mountains
spreads across the crown of the plateau with the mountain
peaks high above and the Tyumie river, with its many
waterfalls from the Amatola (uMathule) mountains, flowing
through the deep, indigenous forests.
The name Hogs Back was referred to by Thomas
Baines, the famous painter, on his travels in the interior in
1848. The name is a term for a geographical feature, although
some think it was named after Captain Hogg, commander of Fort
Michel near TorDoone or even after the hog’s
(pig’s) shape of the three peaks.
The mystery of the name forms part of the romance of
this beautiful place of mist-wreathed forests and fantasy.
Xhosa people of the Tyumie valley called it Bhukazana
as described by Basil Holt: “The glories of the Tyhumie
region in scenery and story could be described adequately only
in a book of poetry… Here the great curve of the Amatole
Range holds in its embrace a valley of grace and beauty,
equaled in few other places and excelled in none in South
Africa…. Across the valley was the strange mountain the
Xhosa called “Bhukazana”, with its three peaks of serrated
ridges; and, between these and the Juanasberg, the Hogsback,
but which the Xhosa called “Belekazana”, from its fancied
resemblance, when seen from the Mnyameni valley, to a woman
with a child on her back.”.
AJT Cook wrote a tourist brochure and poignantly
expressed what all who have been to Hogsback feel:“ There
is a magic about Hogsback which cannot be reduced to cold
print; but which steals away the hearts of those who visit it
so that they come back year after year to recapture their
first love”. In this short history I hope to give you a bird’s eye
view of this rare treasure: its value as a lovely mountain
village; as a magical holiday resort; as the caretaker of the
Amatola forests and their natural biodiversity; as one of the
sources of the rivers of the Amatola region; as the historic
frontier of the clash between the British military forces and
the Xhosa tribesmen; and as the terrain of the missionaries
whose spiritual and intellectual influence was pivotal in the
unfolding history of South Africa.
History is an everchanging conversation with the past
so that what one thinks is the true picture of the past
changes with other perspectives and future times so, too, will
this version change in due course.
climate is affected by its height above sea level which varies
from the Shepton Mallet farm of 1471m, to Arminel
in the centre of the village of 1273m, to Hunterstoun
at the “bottom” of 1166m.
The rise from the valley to the village is 419 m and a
further 663 m to the top of the First Hogsback mountain
(1936 m, although Nqgika’s Kop is the highest peak at
eco-region echoes the Knysna forests and is of inestimable
value to the biodiversity of the Ciskei.
The forests are the second-richest per unit area in
South Africa with a disproportionate percentage of forest
species being rare or endangered.
Indigenous forests, with pockets of Afromontane rain
forests, cover vast areas.
The famed Big Tree is a Yellow-wood.
It is the biggest tree in the Eastern Cape, named the Eastern
Monarch. It is a natural wonder, being about 2 000 years
old, 36.6 m high and has a girth of 9.3m.
Red clay used for Xhosa face-painting is collected from
here, those who paint their faces red are called Qabimbola.
Because of the precipitous nature of the mountains and
the abundance of rain there are many waterfalls: the Kettlespout
is a natural wonder too and dams up its water on a windy day
and can spout up to 9m high, the Madonna and Child, is
the largest of the waterfalls. Some others are Robinson Falls, the Swallowtail,
and the 39 Steps.
The Amatola and Winterberg mountains play
a pivotal role in creating rivers to fill the dams and
cultivate the fields of the Amatola region.
There were large numbers of animals in the past,
including animals like elephant, lion, buck. The number of monkeys has increased considerably
with the disappearance of their enemy, the leopard, and they
are now a menace. So,
too, are the invasive exotic plants like wattle.
Beautiful waterfalls are a feature of
are entranced by this magical, misty place and intrigued by
the way Africa and Europe mingle, giving Hogsback an
enchantment that awakens the imagination.
This can be seen in the writings of two poets: FC
Slater (1876 – 1958); and Mzi Mahola
both long for Hogsback in their poetry: Mahola in Return
to my Birthplace wishes for the recognition from the
spirits of his ancestors and is assured that the spirits do
indeed “dwell here” (in Hogsback).
Slater in In the Mist can’t see the
view because of the mist (very common in Hogsback) but is
aware of the spiritual dimension behind his experience and
longs to see “the heaven (Hogsback) that here
around me lies”.
wrote a novel set in Hogsback and used the setting of the Oak
Avenue and the 39 Steps waterfall.
She lived in Hogsback and felt “entranced by the
mountains, forests, steep-running streams and waterfalls
seemed to me to hold an ancient magic that was just beyond my
one of the best-known Shakespearean scholars, edited his book
on sonnets in 1962 while staying with his daughter-in-law,
Prof Monica Wilson, at Hunterstoun (Monica (1908-98),
herself, born and educated at Lovedale, was a major social
scientist and wrote Reaction to Conquest when studying
the Pondo peoples.
romance of Hogsback, is recognised by reading The Lord
of the Rings or The Hobbit by JRR
Tolkien (1892-1973) which seems to capture the special
atmosphere of the unspoilt Hogsback forests and of a time when
peace will rule the world.
He, however, did not visit Hogsback although he was
born in Bloemfontein.
Some properties have “Tolkien” names: Away with
the Fairies, Middle Earth and Hobbiton.
Today popular attractions like the Eco-shrine which
gained the Green Dove Award from the USA in 1998, and the
Labyrinth echo these romantic sentiments.
John McKinnell and Ken Harvey have taken beautiful
photographs of Hogsback scenes.
Felicity Wood, a resident, wrote the biography of the
herbalist, Extraordinary Khotso.
There are many artists, sculptors like Anton vdMwerwe
and the Mafika Potters, poets like the Ecca poets and
musicians who live on the Hogsback who, from time to time,
present their work, especially at the Annual Arts Festival,
organized by Gwyneth Lloyd.
The Xhosa youth create quaint clay cattle and other
items, which they sell on the roadside. FC Slater captured the spirit of the pathos and
innocence of the impoverished rural Xhosa youth in his poem, Clay
Cattle: “Shaping in dull, dead earth their dreams of
riches and beauty”.
The most poignant and unappreciated art are the rock
paintings of the San nearby.
The earliest inhabitants were the nomadic San peoples.
Their paintings captured the events of their lives and
their spiritual awareness.
The paintings on Lowestoffe farm and further
afield indicate that they were in this area.
Tribes of the Amaxhosa moved into the region from the
16th to the 18th century.
The San peoples were absorbed into the Xhosa culture or
driven into Namaqualand. In
the middle of the 19th century English travellers
passed through, mission stations opened and, during and after
the frontier wars, burgers and settlers farmed.
village is situated high on the plateau with four routes to
it: from Keiskammahoek and Alice via just below the First
Hogsback – the earliest route; from Alice via Woburn
– the current route; from Seymour up Michel’s Pass;
and across from Cathcart via Happy Valley.
All these towns were established before Hogsback came
into being. It
was the coming of the British Settlers in 1820 that led to the
increased opening up of the Eastern Cape, the conflict with
the Xhosa peoples, the consequent military conquest, and then
the establishment of farms and towns.
Rev. John Browlee’s Mission of Gwali
established in the Valley in 1820
Missions established from 1820; later the missionaries set
up homes in Hogsback
missionaries pioneered these areas.
The first to settle in this area was Rev. John Brownlee
who established a mission station in 1820 at Gwali off
the Tyumie river near Ngqika’s Kraal.
At that time the area between the Fish and the
Keiskamma was Neutral Territory except for Fort Willshire
where trading between white and black was allowed.
Brownlee was aided by the interpreter, Jan Tshathu.
Within a year there were 200 inhabitants with wattle and daub
houses, an irrigation canal, trees, a church and a school.
Within three years John Bennie had brought a Ruthuen
printing press and translated portions of the Bible into
Xhosa! In a
letter written to the Glasgow Missionary Society on 20
December 1823 from Gwali he wrote: “On the 16th
we arrived and assembled (the printing press) in Mr
Brownlee’s house, and thanked God for His mercy … On the
17th we got our Press in order; on the 18th
the alphabet was set up, and yesterday we threw off 50 copies.
Rejoice Sir, rejoice dear Society.
Through your instrumentality a new era has commenced in
the history of the …. nation.”
So the first printed words in the Xhosa language
appeared at the Gwali Mission just below Hogsback in
missionary education and conversion to Christianity helped
give confidence and produce leaders of South Africa, both in
the struggle and in the establishment of democracy in 1994.
Miss Jessie Brown was the teacher in charge of the “Native”
primary School, attached to St Mungo’s, in Auckland.
She was the grand-daughter of William Chalmers who came
to the Gwali Mission in 1827.
When the War of the Axe (1846) broke out the family
fled to Fort Armstrong for refuge, again during the 8th
Frontier War (1850-53) all the white males were killed, and
the family sought refuge in Fort White.
After the war Rev. Brown, disillusioned by the
destruction and brutality, gave up mission work and farmed at St
Mungos to provide for a family of 9.
He planted the first orange grove and made marmalade.
Another mission close by at Keiskammahoek was St
Matthew’s mission school started in 1855.
The Kettlespout waterfall “spouting
Eastern Cape is the site of one of the greatest military sagas
in South Africa where the British troops and the Xhosa
warriors tenaciously fought for 100 years, from 1779 to 1879.
Hogsback was mainly unaffected by the fighting but
three wars did take place close by and Fort Michel was
built near Nqgika’s Kop as the end of a chain of
forts into the frontier from Fort Beaufort and Fort
Hare to Fort Michel.
The fort and Michel’s Pass to Seymour were
named after Colonel Michel who was in charge of the troops in
Fort Beaufort. In
1834-5 the Great Trek took place and Piet Retief, who lived
close by at Post Retief, led one of the parties.
In 1846-7 the 7th Frontier War broke out
with Col. Sir Henry Somerset leading troops against the Xhosa
under Sandile. He
declared British Kaffaria to be between Keiskamma and Kei
Rivers and settled military villages in the Tyumie
valley in 1848. In
1854 the Woburn barracks (still evident from the road)
were built. Later
the area was farmed and Ballantyne became a very successful
orange farmer until his farm was taken over by the Ciskei
Government in 1983.
the 8th Frontier War, 1850-3, Maqoma, a brilliant
strategist, led the Xhosa.
This war was the closest to Hogsback.
A British military column was attacked along the Boomah
Pass near Keiskammahoek in December 1850, a valuable
victory for the Xhosa, and then the military villages of Auckland,
Woburn and Juanasburg in the valley were
attacked on Christmas Day 1850.
Thus the war was started.
All the men were killed; women and children, as was the
Xhosa custom, were spared and they made their way to Fort
the end of the War, Sir George Cathcart opened up the
districts of Victoria East (Alice), Cathcart and Queenstown
for white occupation. Farmers trekked over the Hogsback to these areas.
Thomas Bowker’s son, William Monkhouse Bowker, gained
the farm Gaika’s Kop which was left to his son
who re-named it Dunskye.
He left it to his son, Meyrick who also owned the
farm Hogsback Plateau which was sold in plots and is
lower Hogsback to the west of the road.
The Bowker family still farm on their original farm in
the Happy Valley, with Andrew Bowker, of the 6th
generation, taking over from John.
Hogsback, before the wars was the frontier; afterwards
the frontier moved to the Kei River.
early road to Hogsback was across the eastern side,
much the same route as that taken by the brigade of General
Somerset in 1851. There
is a description in the Journal of Thomas Philipps of a lion
hunting party in the Winterberg returning via this
route in 1825. He
is one of the earliest recorded travelers in this area.
Rev. Lister first visited Hogsback in 1919 when he
became the Presbyterian Minister at Alice.
At that stage there were only 6 houses on the Hogsback:
the hotel, the Forest Reserve and two small farms:
Summerton’s and Odendaal’s.
Major Stocks owned the Coolin Farm which
supplied Hogsback with meat and produce. Along the route there was an
outspan where Hobbiton now stands, nearby was Mike’s
Path up the First Hogsback (named after Mike Booysen).
In 1932 the present pass was completed on the western
side, which led to rapid growth of the settlement. The new
road made access easier, land increase in value and farmers
sold 4 morgen plots, later 2 morgen.
RH Hoskyn (whose grand-daughter, Carol Nieth, lives on
Hogsback) came up from East London before the First World War
and bought land on which the Summerton sons built his
unlicensed hotel, Arminel.
He built a trading store, the Handy Log Cabin, on
his property, which became a popular gathering place.
The shopkeepers, Joe and Anne Kingsley, made it the
social centre. S.
Galbraith built Ambleside, later to become King’s
Lodge, in the 1960’s.
The Hogsback Hotel, later named the
Hydro, and then the Hogsback Inn
Hotel (later named the Hydro and then Hogsback
Inn) was established in the 1880’s by Mr Collins.
Mr WG Wiles, the artist, bought the dilapidated hotel
in 1925 from Holshausen, gave up the licence, and re-named it
the Hydro. He
improved the place and built the first swimming pool on the
Burton in Cape Colony Today 1907 describes how a post
cart went from Alice to Fort Beaufort in a four-in-hand Cape
cart. He speaks of the magnificent view as they descended the
ridge where they could survey the Tyumie valley and the
Amatola basin: “The only hotel and its precincts
constitute at once the store, the market place and the Post
were in time to pluck from the orchard trees the apples,
pears, peaches and plums of the season.
Never since we were in Devonshire did we taste and see
apples to excel these at Hogsback. The growers send great quantities of fresh fruit,
especially apples, to the neighbouring colonies and towns. The hotel tariff is 10/- per day.” The hotel had no baths or indoor toilets, guests
would bath in the stream.
There were happy gatherings of farmers and guests especially
at Christmas and New Year with the Gymkhana and horse races at
the spot where the Village Green now is.
Campers from Lovedale, Alice and Cathcart would come in
their ox-wagons and set up camp at the old Police Camp
opposite the hotel and at the present Arboretum and sometimes
under the old yellow-wood in the Kettlespout forest.
The hotel has kept up this tradition of hospitality
under the present owner, Mark Andersen, a son of the Hogsback
property owner, Daneswold.
The hotel had a general dealers store.
MMS Ballantyne describes life on the Hogsback:
“Life was very simple and satisfying as we were able to live
close to Nature, free from restriction.”
The day would start early with a bath in the stream
and then they would sit under the single wattle tree in
Hunterstoun for meals and the day would end with prayers
and his wife, Sarah, came from Oxfordshire, England, and were
the first to settle in Hogsback, in 1880.
He was the pioneer of Hogsback.
He was a skilled market gardener who farmed Cherrie
Orchard which was covered in apple, cherry, pear, peach,
almond, hazel nut and raspberry orchards.
His orchards stretched right out to the cliff edge,
beautifully laid out and irrigible, but too far from the
market for deciduous fruit by ox-wagon.
He would market his produce and trees, which he grafted
in his nursery, by donkey wagon as far as Bloemfontein and
even further. His
ingenuity led him to tap the stream coming from Tor Doone
and lead the water by furrow to his house.
His sons, John and Albert, were tall handsome men seen
as patriarchal figures with long drooping moustaches.
The Forest Station was started
in1884 and in about 1897 a forester was stationed at the end
of the Oak Avenue.
Exotic trees including the famous Californian Redwoods
were planted in the arboretum. The forests today are under the control of SAFCOL with Hamish
Whyle in charge.
David Hunter of Lovedale was
another pioneer and was the first to buy a holiday home in
1910 from Mr Collins of the Hydro.
He bought a large tract of land, which he called Hunterstoun
and his daughter Prof. Monica Wilson did some of her academic
research there. His
grandsons, Francis and Tim Wilson, still holiday on the
property and have just sold the manor house to Fort Hare for
academic research and meditation.
Plaatjies Kraal and used to rescue stuck cars with his
span of oxen and to lead search parties for lost souls.
Tom Nicholls built a fine house of local stone and
thatch and his son, John, and daughters established beautiful
English country gardens in Hurry, Malingwe and Mistlea.
Tom Atkinson sold land to Healdtown teachers and
others on the Arminel hillside whereas most of the Lovedale
teachers had bought nearer Tor Doone.
Many famous missionaries built holiday homes in the
Hogsback so it was easy to get a preacher on a Sunday,
especially for what has become famous, the Oak Avenue
Ministers like: Dr Henderson, Principal of Lovedale,
(one of the first to come up to Hogsback by car),
Hobart-Houghton, James Chalmers, Charles Pilson, Dr Alexander
Kerr, Principal of Fort Hare University, Rev. AJCook, Rev.
AAWellington, Grant and others had holiday homes on the
was a touch of greatness among many at Hogsback; often
they’d have international connections and were impressive
leaders in their field.
Another popular custom was climbing the First
Hogsback to watch the sun rise at Easter.
Life was simple: wood fire and candle-light made for
early nights. Mrs
Whyle, whose family farm in Happy Valley, ran Nutwoods.
Azaleas in bloom among the yellow-wood
trees in the Mistlea garden
the holiday home of the Wilsons of East London, gained an
international name as a garden and nursery.
There has always been a friendly spirit among Hogsback
residents and a good relationship between employers and
employees, much more intimate than a mere work relationship.
Kenneth Hobart Houghton bought land, Innisfree,
in the 1920’s, and built St Patrick-on-the-hill in
donated this lovely chapel to the Anglican Diocese of
Graham’sTown in 1963, although it has always been available
for worship to all Christians, and gave the Diocese Innisfree
for clergy holidays.
A fine feature is that its door is always open.
It is a popular destination for visitors and weddings.
Hogsback climate is similar to that of England and
there are many “English” gardens that have become
famous and are visited from all over the country.
The blind Presbyterian Minister, Rev. Joe Lister, a
remarkable man, preached in the Chapel often, and wrote: “In
that little thatched shrine the sense of worship was often
deepened by the loveliness of its setting.”
Homes were mainly wattle and daub huts with thatched
roofs, the thatch being brought from the valley.
Saw mills would be set up when a particular forest was
to be cut down. Today the Schenk brothers have a sawmill in the valley.
Ox-wagons were used on the Hogsback and Xhosa men would
ride up from the valley by horse. In 1946 Hobbiton was started as a holiday home
for needy children.
Visitors flocked to Hogsback for picnics, some came to
gather mushrooms, make jam from the berries, to climb and walk
or to see the snow.
Chapel of St Patrick’s-on-the-Hill, built in 1935
building of the Municipal Dam at Plaatjies Kraal in
2000 helped stabilize occupancy although many residents still
use water piped from streams in the mountain.
The number of residents has increased and they have
organized events like the Xmas in July, Arts Festival
and the Garden Club’s Spring Festival.
The tourist trade has increased with names like Granny
Mouse House, Maylodge, Never Daunted, The Edge,
Back o’ the Moon, Hog and Hobbit, Hog and
Hornbill, Enchanted Treehouse, Swallowtail
Country Estate, offering accommodation, shops and
catering; hotels have been upgraded, especially the Arminel
and The Hogsback Inn, and campsites opened.
The Amatola Trail along the back of the Hogsback
mountains through the forests and waterfalls is regarded by
some as the best in the country.
who are privileged to reside in this heavenly citadel, are
aware of their responsibility to care for this natural realm. Although the village has grown there is a permanance
about the place that makes it unique.
Many try to protect the streams, the indigenous
forests, the simple style of life and nature in all its
abundance and beauty.
Hogsback is so beautiful that one can forget the other
perspective of the paradox of the place.
Major poverty and inequality
are challenges for the future. There is a huge contrast
between the forested mountain and the grassland valley.
Hogsback is a mountain citadel with restorative powers
that draws out the good in people through its simple, natural
way of life, the outdoor exercise, the joy of growing plants,
the freedom of having time; all these help to capture its
by Trevor Webster: 14 September 2008
is a summarized version of The History of Hogsback by