The Eastern Frontier of the early 1800’s (1770 – 1814) was the meeting of two cultures, the Boer and the Xhosa, both of whom looked upon cattle as their wealth. They both coveted the same grazing area.
Earlier the Eastern trek of the Boers was through the arid areas of the Cape, and Graaff Reinet was founded as the fourth Drostdy in 1786 (it was the fourth district in the Cape colony to be granted a Drostdy or seat of local government).
It was in 1814 that Sir John Cradock decided to build a series of forts along the lower Fish River and all the way up to the Cradock to try to contain the Xhosa people to the East of the Fish River which had been proclaimed the boundary by the Government of the Cape.
Cradock, although intended as a fort, never saw conflict. The Xhosas in their Western migration were nearer the lower part of the Great Fish River rather than its upper reaches.
Lord Charles Somerset succeeded Sir John Cradock and decided to invite the 1820 settlers to South Africa to act as a buffer between the Xhosa and the rest of the Cape Colony.
In 1848 Thomas Baines, the explorer and painter passed through Cradock and said that it had a population of about 9,000 persons (4,300 whites and 4,490 black/coloureds). He was impressed with the great buildings, of both English and Dutch architecture.
A group of 25 refurbished Karoo style cottages from the 1840s, known as Die Tuishuise, serve as guste houses and are ideally located in Market Street.
Die Tuishuise capture the period of Thomas Baines’ visit as they were built in both English and Dutch style, and housed the artisans, namely harness makers and wainwrights, who made a living from the wagons and oxen and horses that passed through to the Great Northern line.
Lekker Links
Cradock municipality Eastern Cape province
Olive Schreiner
Buffalo City (a new municipality incorporating Bhisho, East London and King William’s Town), Graaff-Reinet, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, Mthatha (Umtata)
Addo Elephant National Park
Camdeboo National Park
Mountain Zebra National Park
Tsitsikamma National Park
As civilization caught up with Cradock, first the Railway line in 1881 and then the motor car between 1908 and 1920, the skill of the blacksmiths, the farriers and the harness makers became less and less in demand. Poverty began to descend on the inhabitants of Market Street. This poverty resulted in less and less money being available to modernise homes, with the result that Cradock has many houses that have stood unaltered for a hundred years.
Today Cradock is the capital of the Cape Midlands and is one of the thriving rural towns. Prosperity has come with the ability of the farmer to utilize the indigenous flora such as Karoo Bushes to produce of the best wool and mohair and to impart that typical Karoo flavour to the lamb and mutton.
Cradock has a healthy climate, with hot summers, bracing winters and a low rainfall. It is the lack of rain that provides the magnificent view of the stars at night and the glorious sun rises and sunsets one associates with a desert.
Tourism prospers in Cradock because of its historical past (the Great Trek started in Cradock and its surrounding districts) and the geographical position makes Cradock an ideal stop–over for the traveller en-route to the major centres.
Olive Schreiner House
Located in Cradock, this was the home of the famous South African authoress. It is a fine example of Karoo architecture.
Olive Schreiner’s Grave
A 3-4 hour hike to the summit of Buffelskop mountain takes you to the spot where the author is buried, together with her husband, their baby and dog.

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