Beaufort West

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Beaufort West
Main Street, Beaufort West
Main Street, Beaufort West
Beaufort West is located in Western Cape
Beaufort West
Beaufort West
Beaufort West is located in South Africa
Beaufort West
Beaufort West
Beaufort West is located in Africa
Beaufort West
Beaufort West
 Beaufort West shown within Western Cape
Coordinates: 32°21′S 22°35′E / 32.350°S 22.583°E / -32.350; 22.583Coordinates: 32°21′S 22°35′E / 32.350°S 22.583°E / -32.350; 22.583
Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
District Central Karoo
Municipality Beaufort West
Established 1818[1]
 • Total 56.5 km2 (21.8 sq mi)
Elevation 900 m (3,000 ft)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 34,085
 • Density 600/km2 (1,600/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[2]
 • Black African 18.2%
 • Coloured 72.7%
 • Indian/Asian 0.5%
 • White 8.1%
 • Other 0.6%
First languages (2011)[2]
 • Afrikaans 81.2%
 • Xhosa 13.6%
 • English 2.6%
 • Other 2.7%
Postal code (street) 6970
PO box 6970
Area code 023

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.[3]

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 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.[4] 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.

The town became prosperous with the introduction of Saxon Merino sheep. One of those who first farmed them, John Molteno, was a young Anglo-Italian immigrant who then founded the town's first bank in 1854 and went on to become the first Prime Minister of the Cape.[5]

Beaufort West became the first municipality in South Africa on 3 February 1837 and had the country's first town hall.[4] 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. [6]

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.[7]

Old style church in Donkin Street

Famous residents[edit]

  • Sir John Fraser LlD, was born in Beaufort West in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope in 1840. He later studied medicine at Kings College, Aberdeen. In 1871, he was appointed Private Secretary to Jan Brand, President of the Orange Free State. In 1878 he qualified as an Advocate of the Free State Bar and, after serving as Financial Commissioner of the Free State during the Second Boer War, accepted the Honour of the Knighthood from the British Crown for his reconciliatory role after the conflict.[8]
  • Christiaan Barnard, the pioneering heart surgeon, grew up in Beaufort West. His father, Adam Barnard, was a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church. One of his four brothers, Abraham, died of a heart problem at the age of five. Barnard matriculated from the Beaufort West High School in 1940, and went to study medicine at the University of Cape Town Medical School, where he obtained his MB ChB in 1945. He is commemorated in the local museum.
  • Cyril Karabus, MBChB, former Professor of Paediatrics, University of Cape Town (also FRCP, FRCPE) and head of the Oncology and Haemotology Unit of Red Cross Children's Hospital Cape Town
  • Sir John Molteno, the first Prime Minister of the Cape. In his youth, this Anglo-Italian immigrant was a farmer and businessman who opened Beaufort West's first bank.
  • Elizabeth Maria Molteno, civil and women's rights activist (and the daughter of John Molteno), was born in Beaufort West.
  • Cromwell Everson, the classical music composer and composer of the first Afrikaans opera, was born and grew up in Beaufort West. Gained the basis of his music skills under the piano tutelage of Beckie Karabus (whose husband, Isaac Karabus, was one of the first five Ford agents in South Africa), mother of the jurist, Alan Karabus and doctor, Cyril Karabus
  • Mandlenkosi, who fought against the apartheid government and was shot whilst feeding his baby boy (Sira). Mandlenkosi Senior Secondary School is named after him. His name is also present in the township area of Kwa-Mandlenkosi.[2]
  • Gert Vlok Nel, the pioneering poet, was born 1963 and grew up in Beaufort-Wes.
  • Alan Karabus, BA, LlB, BCL, former Professor at the universities of, inter alia, Tulane, McGill, and Bridgeport
  • Antoinette Pienaar (born 1961), is a South African actress, singer, and author.

Coat of arms[edit]

By 1931, the town council had assumed a coat of arms — it was depicted on a cigarette card issued in that year. The arms were formally granted by the administrator of the Cape Province on 10 March 1967[9] and registered at the Bureau of Heraldry in September 1969.[10]

The arms are : Gules, a portcullis with chains pendant all Or (i.e. a red shield displaying a gold portcullis with chains). The crest is an ostrich, the supporters a merino ram and an angora ram, and the motto Festina lente.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Chronological order of town establishment in South Africa based on Floyd (1960:20-26)" (PDF). pp. xlv–lii. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Sum of the Main Places Beaufort West, New Town, Kwa-Mandlenkosi and Rustdene from Census 2011.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Raper, R.E. Dictionary of Southern African Place Names. 
  5. ^ L. Nell: The Great Karoo. Cape Town. Struik. 2008. Beaufort West: A new municipality. ISBN 1770073876, 9781770073876
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Largest Herds (Mammals)". 
  8. ^ (1924) 41 SALJ 1
  9. ^ Cape of Good Hope Official Gazette 3392 (10 March 1967).
  10. ^ National Archives of South Africa : Data of the Bureau of Heraldry