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Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein
Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein
Matjiesfontein is located in Western Cape
Matjiesfontein is located in South Africa
Matjiesfontein is located in Africa
 Matjiesfontein shown within Western Cape
Coordinates: 33°13′S 20°35′E / 33.217°S 20.583°E / -33.217; 20.583Coordinates: 33°13′S 20°35′E / 33.217°S 20.583°E / -33.217; 20.583
Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
District Central Karoo
Municipality Laingsburg
 • Total 1.22 km2 (0.47 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 422
 • Density 350/km2 (900/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)[1]
 • Black African 1.2%
 • Coloured 97.6%
 • White 0.7%
 • Other 0.5%
First languages (2011)[1]
 • Afrikaans 97.4%
 • Tswana 1.2%
 • Other 1.4%
PO box 6901
Area code 023

Matjiesfontein is a settlement in Central Karoo District Municipality in the Western Cape province of South Africa.


Matjiesfontein Station

The original inhabitants of the region were the Khoikhoi herders and the San hunter gatherers. Following the arrival of the early European colonists, the area was settled by Afrikaner Trekboers and Griqua people.

Railway origins[edit]

The town itself owes its existence to the Cape Government Railways, and to the route that their founder, Cape Prime Minister John Molteno, chose for a railway line that would connect Cape Town's port to the diamond fields of Kimberley. The Royal Commonwealth Society (1898) records that in a meeting with his consulting engineers, the Prime Minister called for a map of Southern Africa to be brought to him and, taking a ruler, drew his pen along it from Cape Town all the way inland. He then handed the map to the engineers, telling them to build the railway accordingly. [2][3]

The line rapidly extended inland, and a station was built on 1 February 1878, that was named "Matjiesfontein". The name was derived from a type of sedge, Cyperus textilis, used by Khoekhoen to make mats (matjies) employed in the construction of their huts.[4]

Logans refreshment station[edit]

Originally, Matjiesfontein was only a small depot and farm, however a Scotsman by the name of James Douglas Logan, who was superintendent of this stretch of railway, bought land at Matjiesfontein, moved there because of his weak chest, and opened a refreshment station for the passing trains. This was so successful that the business soon formed the nucleus of a growing village. Logan was unintentionally very influential in South African history as he had secured the catering contract for the railways through his friend in parliament, James Sivewright, and discovery of the corruption involved led to the fall of the first government of Prime Minister Cecil Rhodes in 1893.[5][6]

Development and layout[edit]

A town was laid out in the 1880s, and formally purchased in 1968 to be preserved for its Victorian charm. The whole town was declared a National Monument on 12 September 1975,[7] the railway station on 15 December 1989 and the cemetery on 23 September 1994.[8][9]

An inaugural Fever Tree was planted at The Lord Milner Hotel by artist Beezy Bailey, Premier to the Western Cape Helen Zille and local environmentalist from Greenpop, Misha Teasdale on 6 August 2012.

Location and surrounds[edit]

The town of Matjiesfontein is located 27 km west of Laingsburg and 54 km east of Touwsrivier. The surrounding Karoo region is a flat, sparsely populated semi-desert. Matjiesfontein has a healthy climate for people with lung complaints, and was once home to a Victorian spa and health resort.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Main Place Matjiesfontein". Census 2011. 
  2. ^ Royal Colonial Society: Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute. Northumberland Avenue, London. 1898. p.26. "The Railway System of South Africa".
  3. ^ C. Schoeman: The Historical Karoo: Traces of the Past in South Africa's Arid Interior. Penguin Random House South Africa. 2013. ISBN 1770225684
  4. ^ "Dictionary of Southern African Place Names (Public Domain)". Human Science Research Council. p. 301. 
  5. ^ Burman, Jose (1984). Early Railways at the Cape. Cape Town. Human & Rousseau, p.58. ISBN 0-7981-1760-5
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Matjiesfontein Village - 9/2/058/0001". South African Heritage Resource Agency. 
  8. ^ "Railway Station building, Matjiesfontein - 9/2/058/0002". South African Heritage Resource Agency. 
  9. ^ "Matjiesfontein Cemetery - 9/2/058/0004". South African Heritage Resource Agency. 
  10. ^