An Old Mining Town
Barkly West can be found just 35 km’s north west of Kimberley, the Northern Cape’s capital city. Its counterpart, Barkly East, lies in the Eastern Cape close to Lady Grey with the only link between the two being that they are both named after Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Cape from 1870 for seven years.
Barkly West is essentially a dairy farming community, with a basic grocery store called Oppi Draai where you can stock up on simple supplies, but do not pass the town too quickly as there are a couple of places worth stopping at. So, despite being a small “dorpie”, Barkly West boasts a history and a number of firsts in the South Africa such as, the first alluvial diamond discovery, the first Anglican Church of the diamond fields north of the Vaal and the first bridge built over the Vaal River. The bridge was transported here in sections from the United Kingdom.
The area is also home to some 1 500 year-old rock engravings known as the Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavements and overlooking the town is Canteen Koppie, a hillock that has signs of occupation going back to prehistoric times. Numerous artifacts left by early inhabitants have been found here.
Some of the homes in town have been restored and function as B&B’s or Guest Houses. More accommodation and attractions can be found in Kimberley less than thirty minutes away.
Things to do and see
- St Mary’s Anglican Church
- Barkly West Museum
- Barkly Bridge
- Canteen Koppie
- Vaal River Adventures
- Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Aberdeen receives approximately 427 mm of rain annually with most rainfall occurring during Spring and Summer.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 16˚C and 33˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 2˚C and 22˚C.
Barkly West was one of the first towns to be affected by the major diamond rush in the 1870’s. In January 1870 Capt. Loftus Rolleston, with a party of prospectors from Natal found diamonds in the gravels of the Vaal. The discovery of diamonds at Klipdrift on the Vaal Riverdrew thousands of prospectors and was the reason for the towns’ first name being “Klipdrift”, and yes, like the famous brandy! The name is Dutch for 'stony ford' or stony place on a river.
The town has, in fact, had many names - Parkerton briefly, and even Nieuw Boshof when the Boers moved in during the Anglo-Boer War. The area was only renamed Barkly West in 1873 after becoming part of the Crown Colony of Griqualand West. It was named after Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Cape in the 1870’s.
Renowned writer Sarah Gertrude Millin grew up in the district.
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