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Historical Buildings and sites, Mossel Bay - Garden Route, South Africa

It was just over 500 years ago that white man first anchored off the shores of South Africa. But southern Africa had a history of human occupation that goes back thousands of years. For perhaps as long as 10, 000 years the BUSHMEN or SAN were the only people to inhabited most of South Africa. They are the last survivors in southern Africa of a Stone-Age culture.

They were Hunter-Gatherers whose existence was governed by the seasons and the movements of the wild game. Some lived for part of the year as "Strandlopers" (beachcombers) gathering from the sea. They did wonderful paintings on rock faces, using natural pigments and dyes. Unfortunately, many are not well-preserved now.

Mossel Bay is a gentle seaside town on the Garden Route of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It's a welcoming place, not at all touristy, that loves children and families, singles and couples, backpackers and tour groups. This popular holiday town is surrounded by a sunbathed peninsula and the refreshing waters of the Indian Ocean. It is a busy summer destination as well as an ideal winter retreat. It is blessed with a mild climate all-year round but its most important feature is its status as the historical capital of the Garden Route.


The name bats cave was given by the locals many years ago, due to the vast amount of bats that were found here. The roof of the cave is over 10 metres high, 22 metres wide at the mouth and 12 metres deep. An archaeological dig revealed that early dwellers of the cave may have largely survived on shell fish. Looking at the cave from war memorial, from the left, an image of Gladstone's profile can be seen.

The Padrao

This is a replica of the stone Padrao that Da Gama erected together with a large wooden cross made of a mizzen mast. This erection was done whilst fresh water was being collected at Aguada de Sao Bras.

Munrohoek Cottages (1830)

The first building was built around 1830 by Alexander Munro from Scotland for 25. He operated a canteen on the premises, where unruly seamen met. His son got the first permit to cull whales on the beach below. The front house is one of Mossel Bay's national monuments.

The Spring

Dias named the fresh-water spring "Aguada de Sao Bras" (watering place of St Blaize). In 1512, Gaspar Correa, described it as flowing over a rocky verge into a small dam - just as it is today.

The Indigenous Garden

The valley that surrounds Dias Bay (today known as Munro's Bay) has been transformed into a garden of indigenous flora. Milkwood and Wild Olive trees predominate.

Malay Graves

This site was discovered in 1968, not far from the Post Office Tree. Records show that a piece of land had been granted more than 100 years before as burial ground for Muslims. It is believed that one of the graves is the resting place of a very influential Muslim who was buried here in the 19th century, after dying at sea.

Lazaretto Graveyard

This old graveyard lies close to the sea, and on a still day one can hear the crash of the waves. The oldest gravestone is dated 1809, and many of the stones are worn by time and weather, so that the names are indecipherable.

The Santos Pavilion

Built in 1906, it was inspired by the pavilion at Brighton, England. After being destroyed by a fire in 1979, a replica was built on the site of the old Santos Pavilion.

Tarka Township

Tarka dates back to 1898 and was at some point known as Garden Hill. The houses are from stone dug up in the area. Huge boulders were buried under branches and bushes, which were set alight. During the night it would cool down, crack and form smaller rocks, which were then dressed for the builders. Clay and sand were used instead of cement. The community was close-knit, and many of the Mossel Bay characters had their roots here.

Cape St Blaize Lighthouse

The Cape St Blaize lighthouse was erected in 1864. And up until recently, was one of the only two lighthouses manned 24 hours daily on the South African Coastline.

Ochre Barn / Barry Building ( 1849/50)

Erected in 1849 as warehouse and trading post by Barry & Nephews of Swellendam. In 1941 it was owned by the "African Golden Orche" Company, exporters of ochre from Albertinia.

10 Church Street

When it was erected in 1857, this building was described by the then resident magistrate as "the most extensive and commodious premises in this village". The iron hoisting apparatus to lift supplies is still visible today.

Old Black's Offices

One of only a few three-storied buildings in town, erected in 1904 as offices. The style reminds of a typical "Urk" style in the Netherlands.

Old Standard Bank building

Built in the Neo-Classical style in 1902 as Standard Bank, this is the only building of this style left in Mossel Bay.

Dutch Reformed Church, "Klipkerk", Church street

The stone-laying of this typical Romanic building was in 1878. The cost of the church, built of dressed stone, was 7 280 - including pews and a new organ.

St Peter's Anglican Church

Built in 1879, it features the very simple lines of the early English style. The steeple, added in 1906, is unique in that it is made entirely of stone - even the spire. The church has beautiful Gothic windows and is a national monument.

Masonic Lodge

The Lodge of St Blaize was founded in 1874, and the lodge built in 1884. The building has no windows, only skylights.

Goods Shed, Bland Street

Due to an increase in cargo, the Harbour Company was forced to build a warehouse. It was started in 1901 and completed in 1902 - hence the two dates on the gables. The stones were quarried at the Point. Two stained glass windows depicting life on the River Thames can be found on the Bland Street side.

Customs and Excise Office

It was built in 1874, a second storey was added in 1882 and a balcony in 1898. The exterior of the building has remained unchanged, at one stage the building was known as "Queens Warehouse". Outside on Bland Street corner is a Corner Stone which prevented the wagons from damaging the wall when turning.

80 Bland Street

Built in 1881 as a shop, it is said that this building was used as a concert hall during the Boer War. The window sills in Cuff Street were used for many years by the local fishing folk for sharpening their knives.

Culture Museum Annex

A piece of land was given to trustees of the Public Building Company in 1858 for the erection of a library, reading room and municipal meeting room. The white building was finished in 1858. Built in the typical Karoo style, facing the sea, this is today a national monument.

Carpenter's Shop

It is said that this building was designed by Sir Herbert Baker. It was built in 1898 as store for "W J Swart en Seuns" - the names still appears on a carved stone plaque. it is also a National Monument.

Useful Link:
The historical capital of the Garden Route
Mossel Bay Tourism Bureau Museum Complex
South Africa Business Guide
South African Tourism Contact
Garden Route South Africa and Southern Cape towns

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