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Molteno

Molteno

Municipality

Municipality: Inkwanca Local Municipality
District Municipality: Chris Hani District Municipality

Name

Molteno is named after John Charles Molteno, Prime Minister of the Cape Colony

Attractions

Also see the neighbouring towns

The area is rich in sandstone, and many old buildings were built with this stone. The oldest building in Molteno is a Mill, built in 1874, the year when the town was founded. Italian artisans shaped blocks. In 1991 the Mill was restored.

San rock paintings can be viewd in the area. There are also lots of fossils and 3 extinct volcanoes, where semi-precious stones are found.

Blockhouses from the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) are found on the farm Vegkoppies and at Stormberg Junction.

Molteno dam offers waterskiing and trout fishing.

The Farm Museum has a collection of farm equipment, machinery and implements.

The Molteno Museum is housed in the sandstone library building. The museum hosts exhibitions on history of European culture and the area’s indigenous people. There is a selection of daguerreotypes (old-fashioned glassplate based photographic method) of the town.

There are 4x4 trails in district.

Tennis, golf and bowls are offered in Molteno.

The contemporary South African artist and writer Johannes Meintjies (1923-1980) lived here and was curator of the museum and librarian. He was born in Riversdale on 1923 and died 1980. You can visit the Johannes Meintjies Art Gallery.

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History

The earliest known tribes were the San, and several rock paintings can be seen in the vicinity.

In 1852 coal was discovered by George Vice on his farm Onverwacht. The Cape Colleries was established on the farm. The coal deposits are not as large as those in the old Natal and in the old Transvaal, so the mine eventually closed down.

James Barry built the first town in Molteno, and owned the first shop.

Molteno was founded in 1874 on this farm. Molteno was named after John Charles Molteno (British Prime Minister of the Cape Colony: 1872 - 1878). Molteno was proclaimed a Municipality on 7 September 1883.

In one week in December 1899 (known as the "Black Week"), during the Anglo-Boer War, the British forces experienced three major defeats at the hands of the Boers: at Magersfontein, Colenso and Stormberg (which is near Molteno).

Before the war began the British occupied Stormberg Junction at Molteno, for strategic reasons. On the arrival of General Buller at the Cape as supreme commander of the British forces in Southern Africa, he ordered the withdrawal of the garrison to Queenstown, and the Boers occupied the area around Molteno, under Commandant Jan Hendrik Olivier.

Major General Sir William Forbes Gatacre was the commander of about 3000 British soldiers spread across several towns -- Sterkstroom, Dordrecht, Jamestown and Molteno, and Boesmanshoek, which is a pass over the Bamboesberg between Sterkstroom and Molteno. The Boer forces in the area were about 3400.

On 9 December 1899 Gatacre launched an attack at the Boers at Stormberg Junction, having gathered his troops since the 5th. Due to some poor decisions by Gatacre - such as pushing his already tired soldiers too hard, not having proper communication channels in place, and making last-minute decisions that did not reach all his troops, some 634 soldiers, including officers, who were exhausted and still fast asleep while the retreat was ordered, were captured by the Boers. The British were lucky as the next day was a Sunday, and the deeply religious Jan Olivier did not believe in battle on Sundays. This allowed the retreating column to escape capture, and to regroup at Sterkstroom.

Another unsuccessful attempt by the British to capture the Stormberg Junction took place about two months later, on 23rd February 1900.

About the same time a major battle took place at Paardeberg Drift on the banks of the Modderrivier ("Mud River") in the Orange Free State. Paardeberg is abouot 35Km southeast of Kimberley.

On 15 February 1900 the 5000-man Boer army under Piet Cronje left Jacobsdal and crossed the Modderrivier two days later (17th) at Paardeberg Drift. While crossing, Major General John French's men started firing on them, which led to confusion among the Boers.

Cronje made a huge mistake by deciding to have his men dig in at the drift. The British did not have cavalry, and the Boers could easily have escaped. The men of Major General French besieged the Boers and kept on bombarding them.

The British army under General Roberts were on their way as relief force to Kimberley, which at that stage was besieged by the Boers. General Roberts was ill, and his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Horatio Kitchener, was in command.

When Kitchener arrived on the scene, he decided to attack immediately. Several frontal assaults by the British made no headway, as the crackshot Boers killed any soldier within a 200m range. When evening came, 24 British officers and 279 men were killed, with 59 officers and 847 men wounded. Boer casualties were 100 dead and 250 wounded. This was one of the most severe casualty lists experienced by the Birtish, and the day became known as Bloody Sunday.

The next morning General Roberts arrived, and Cronje requested a cease-fire to bury the dead. The British at first refused, and the rest of the day was spent negotiating the truce. For several days nothing much, but a few skirmishes happened. During the night of 27 February 1900, the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry approached the Boers to within 60m and dug themselves in. When the Boers woke up, Cronje surrendered with some 4,019 men and 50 women, the greatest victory of the British during the entire war. Leaders on both sides made huge errors, and it is probably only shortsightedness on Cronje's part that led to a British victory.

Cronje's surrender at Paardeberg led the Boers at Stormberg Junction to leave the area and to retreat further north. The British now took Stormberg Junction without a fight and turned it into a stronghold. The only fights that occurred afterwards were attackes by Boer guerrilla's, and British defences.

Climate

Rainfall

Average is about 470 mm per annum. Rain falls mostly between October and March.

Temperature

Summer:
Average maximum: 30ºC
Average minimum: 14ºC

Winter:
Average maximum: 15ºC
Average minimum: -1ºC

Nature

Molteno is situated in the WWF Great Karoo ecoregion, on the banks of the Stormbergspruit with the Stormberg Mountain Range to the east, and the Bamboesberg to the west and south.

The landscape around Molteno is mainly flat Karoo plains.

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