- Western Cape
The town of Nelspoort is a small community lying at the foot of the Nuweveld Mountains, 50 km north-east of Beaufort West on an old section of the N1 highway, deep in the Karoo.
The San, whose rock paintings and engravings still adorn the stones in the hills around Nelspoort, were the first inhabitants of this area. Then in the 1700s, waves of semi-nomadic farmers arrived from the Cape. A century later a young Italian immigrant, John Molteno arrived and established a farming business by that name which developed into an enormous estate. He then left for Cape Town where he became the first Prime Minister of the Cape Colony leaving his family to continue running parts of the region until in 1944 the last portion was sold.
During the Anglo-Boer War hundreds of blockhouses were built in the area by the British to protect the railway link and in 1920 a Sanatorium was opened nearby for patients suffering from Tuberculosis and other pulmonary illnesses. The location took advantage of the dry, clean, fresh air of the Karoo mountains and provided employment for many local villagers. It produced excellent results, with visitors including the likes of the British royal family. By the 1970s though, tuberculosis was in decline and the sanatorium eventually closed.
A change in the route of both the N1 highway and the Cape's main Railway line, meant that the town was deprived of a large percentage of its income and has consequently shrunk.
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