Siddhesh Joshi (Editor)

Beaufort West

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Country  South Africa
Language spoken  Afrikaans
Area  56.5 km2
District  Central Karoo
Founded  1818

Beaufort West (Afrikaans: Beaufort-Wes) is a town in the Western Cape province in South Africa. It is the largest town in the arid Great Karoo region, and is known as the "Capital of the Karoo". It forms part of the Beaufort West Local Municipality, with 34 085 inhabitants in 2011.


Map of Beaufort West

It is the centre of an agricultural district based mainly on sheep farming, and is a significant town on the N1 national road.

Next door to Beaufort West is the Karoo National Park. Important fossils have been found in the area, initially by David Baird, son of the local magistrate in 1827.

As part of a drive to create employment opportunities, a hydroponics project was started and used to supply premium herbs and vegetables nationally. Despite receiving awards and rescue funding, the project was not sustainable and has been defunct since 2010.

The old Town Hall and the Dutch Reformed Church have been declared national monuments.


Beaufort West in the past, History of Beaufort West

Beaufort West was the first town to be established in the central Karoo. The town was founded in 1818 and initially named Beaufort after Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, who was the father of Lord Charles Henry Somerset, then governor of the Cape Colony. The town was renamed Beaufort West in 1869 to avoid confusion with Port Beaufort in the Western Cape as well as Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape.

Beaufort West in the past, History of Beaufort West

The town became prosperous with the introduction of Saxon Merino sheep by one of its early citizens, John Molteno. Molteno, a young Anglo-Italian immigrant (later nicknamed "the Lion of Beaufort"), founded the first bank in 1854 and went on to become the first Prime Minister of the Cape and the champion of the responsible government movement.

Beaufort West became the first municipality in South Africa on 3 February 1837 and had the countrys first town hall. When the railroad reached the town in 1880 it became a marshalling yard and locomotive depot and today it is the largest town in the Karoo.

Professor Christiaan Barnard, the town’s most famous son, performed the first successful human-to-human heart transplant. He is honoured in the local museum, which houses a display of awards presented to him and a replica of the original heart transplant theatre.

Beaufort West is the site of one of the largest migrations of mammals on record. In 1849, Sir John Fraser (son of the local Dutch Reformed Church minister) observed and famously documented a herd of Springbok that took three days to pass the town.


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