The history of Knysna is exceptional interesting. Many places that you can visit today will remind you of the journey that some of our ancestors took to get us here. I say “some” because the colonial record far surpasses that of the original settlers, the Khoi and the San tribes.

I find it sad that local government hasn’t deemed history, an obvious Tourism seller, important enough to dedicate a website to it. Much lies in the museum, undigitized and therefore at risk of becoming the dust of history. nevertheless, there are dedicated individuals who will assist this website in becoming an introductory archive. With particular assistance from the Knysna Historical Society, articles will be posted in the History Blog section.

There needs to be lobbying of government for a more comprehensive solution that fully salutes the cultures that have made us who we are…residents of one of the greatest towns on earth.

Here is a general introduction…


1858: Main Street – Old Gaol, St. Georges Tavern, Thomas Prince & Co. & original St.Georges Church

Stephanus Jesaias Terblans was the first white settler in the Knysna area. He farmed at Melkhoutkraal, which was established in 1770. Stephanus Terblanche died in 1790 after having had the loan rights for over twenty years. His widow, Hester Marx, stayed on the farm and ran it with the help of her children. She subsequently remarried Johann von Lindenbaum in 1798.

George Rex left the British Admiralty Court in the Cape, where he had practised as a lawyer, after the handover of the Cape to the Batavian Republic and in 1804 bought the loan farm Melkhoutkraal from the deceased estate of Richard Holiday, who had a year earlier purchased it from Johann von Lindenbaum.

George Rex, extending his landholding, bought the farm Eastford, between Grey Street and Salt River and later ceded 80 acres (40 morgan) to the Colonial Government on which the Royal Navy laid out the naval township of Melville on the lower part of the town in 1825, named after Viscount Melville, the 1st  Lord of the Admiralty. On the death of George Rex in 1839 his properties were put up for sale.

Lt. Col. John Sutherland of the Indian Army bought the northern section of Melkhoutkraal during a visit to the Cape in 1844. The village of Newhaven, was surveyed by William Hopley and laid down in 1849. The erven were then offered for sale by John Sutherland, the Colonel’s son.

Knysna was at this time a Field-Cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay in the Division of George. It was declared a separate Magisterial Division in 1858; bounded in the west by the Swart River, the east by the boundaries of the Division of Humansdorp, north by the Outeniquas and south by the ocean.

In 1882 the two villages plus “the wedge”, a triangle of land between the two villages, being the remaining land of the farm Eastford, were amalgamated to form a municipality, known as The Knysna, taking its name from the Knysna River.  “Knysna” is a Khoi word meaning “fern”.

Please view our History section for posts on our beautiful town of Knysna.