The story of Kanonkop started at Pietersfontein in the Montagu district before 1825 when Abraham Verreyne came to Pietersfontein to farm. He was a very interesting character – a true pioneer who brought with him a front loader ship’s cannon with balls that weighed 8 pounds each.
He put the cannon on a hill somewhere in the valley. The only time a shot was fired, was when someone tried to rob his beehive. Fortunately no one was hurt. Only an old goatskin bag was left by the would-be thief.
The old cannon was later transferred to the hill above the town; hence the name “Kanonkop”. The cannon was placed near the two gunpowder houses that belonged to the firms Brink Bros. and Barry & Nephews where each firm housed its ammunition and gunpowder. During those years one could order a few sticks of dynamite with one’s groceries. Then someone would be sent by bicycle to fetch it at the gunpowder house.
The idea behind the placement of the cannon was to fire shots on special occasions, like Queen Victoria’s birthday. When the first church in Montagu was inaugurated in 1852, a few shots would have been fired, but it ended in tragedy. A young man called Jackie had to put the gunpowder in the mouth of the cannon. The person, who had to fire the shot, brought the lighter too soon and the cannon fired and Jackie lost both his arms. Al the best remedies were used and the two stumps were eventually healed. The furious farmers of the area threw the cannon over the hill into Lover’s Walk.
When the Cogmanskloof Pass was finished in 1877, the engineer, Hendie, transported the old cannon to Rooiwal outspan, now called Ashton, to fire a salute – probably during the inaugural ceremony. The old canon was, however, so rusted that it burst.
Kanonkop was without its cannon for many years, but in 1988 Mr Kenneth Knipe, the mayor of Montagu at that time, heard that a cannon was lying in the sea near Simon’s Town. It was part of an old wooden ship that had sunk many years before. Mr Knipe, with the help of Gerhard (Gerry) Smuts, retired Naval Commander then owner of Mimosa Lodge in Church Street, obtained permission to fetch the cannon. In order to get it out of the sea, air bags were fastened to the cannon and filled with air until the cannon floated on the water. It was brought to Montagu on a municipal lorry, but after nearly 20 years under the sea, the cannon were covered with a thick layer of salt and mussels. To neutralize this the cannon was unloaded in the Baths Kloof stream, which helped a great deal. It was transported to Kanonkop with a fork-lift truck, and placed on solid jarrah sleepers.
Thanks to Mr Knipe’s initiative and perseverance the Cannon still watches over Lover’s Walk, Montagu West and the whole valley.
Apart from the cannon, a few tragedies happened on Kanonkop. According to Mr Jan Jordaan of Montagu, a Coloured man named Kallie, who worked for Mr Beets, got lost in 1947 and fell down Kanonkop and died.
Years ago there was also a Nothling family who stayed close to Kanonkop. Every afternoon the boys used to take goats to the hill to graze. One day, while the boys were chatting, the goats grazed too near the cliff overlooking Montagu West. One boy, Gertjie, tried to chase them back, but lost his balance and fell over the edge onto a rock ledge. After the accident the Family moved to Paarl.
References: Montagu Museum archives; the Library, conversation in October 1998 between Mr Kenneth Knipe, Mrs Esther Hofmeyr and Mr Jan Jordaan.
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Famous for more than the hot springs, but till today one of the best preserved historical towns of the Western Cape.
THE HISTORY OF MONTAGU (in short)
Montagu was cut off from the main trek routes due to the seemingly impenetrable nature of Cogmans Kloof. It wasn't until Thomas Bain built the pass and the tunnel that trade began to develop in the area.
In 1841 Montagu was laid out on the farm Uitvlucht and in 1852 John Montagu, the Colonial Secretary of the Cape, visited the infant town.
In 1855 the first school was opened and two years later a contract was signed for the building of a church designed by George Burkett.
In 1873 the Montagu Hot Springs began charging a fee for the use of the baths. Their use obviously goes back to time immemorial, with traces of early man found in the nearby caves. The importance of the baths to the general public is reflected in the conditions written into the title deeds:
That the outspan place and thoroughfare as laid down on the diagram shall remain free that the grant now made the public shall not be excluded from the benefits derived from a Hot Springs situated within the Limits of this land, but on the contrary, have the right of using the said Springs as a Hot Bath and that it shall be optional with them, should the proprietor hereafter construct suitable accommodation on the spot, to avail themselves there or not, as they may think proper; that all roads leading to the bath shall remain free, that the said public frequenting said bath shall be allowed to Outspan on this land, but the cattle shall not, unless with the consent of the grantee or his successors, remain longer that twenty four hours on his land.
Montagu banknotes were printed and issued from 1861, up until the demise of the bank in 1868. Samples of notes are on display at the museum. In 1877 Thomas Bain built the Tunnel and the new road through Cogmans Kloof.
Between 1902 and 1985 the Brink Brothers enterprise was of major significance to the town. Their activities included general dealers, bottling work, canning factory, dried fruit production and a department store.
In 1936 Montagu was declared a health resort. This resulted in an influx of wealthy people purchasing holiday houses. At one time during the early years, Montagu boasted 5 millionaires!
In 1941 the Montagu Muscadel Co-Operative was formed with fifteen members present at the first meeting. The development can be gauged by the fact that in 1944, 800 tons of grapes were processed; in 1991 the figure had grown to 11,000 ton.
In 1950 Montagu hosted the first South African Wine Festival. With much trepidation and debate the committee members assured the protesters that drinkers will not be able to make themselves drunk during the periods the wine will be served. "We will not have dishonour brought to our product" ... and all went well.
In 1954 the Montagu Nature Garden was inaugurated by a group of ladies gathered to work in the gardens, as it still is to this day. During certain months of the year - usually until October, the Tuesday morning teas & snacks are still on offer to all who care to join them.
In 1982 Joubert House was acquired by the Museum Trust.
In April 1995 President Mandela in his first informal engagement following his inauguration, opened the twenty first Muscadel Wine Festival.
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Traditional Medicines Project
There is a rich heritage of traditional medicinal remedies in the Montagu district. This knowledge was handed down by the Khoisan, who lived in the Langeberg Mountains and were expert users of the veld, to the coloured people who became farm labourers. This knowledge was absorbed by the settler farmers as it was virtually impossible to obtain medical services.
For the past twelve years the museum has been involved in a conservation research project dealing with the traditional medicinal plants of this district.
An important aspect of the project is the collecting of information about herbal remedies used in the past, as many of the older generation pass away and meaningful knowledge is lost. The remedy for an ailment is carefully written down and included a museum publication titled Herbal Remedies: Montagu Museum.
The colourful local names for the plants used in the remedies are carefully noted aas well as the area where found, and specimens are taken to Compton Herbarium for identification.
The Museum is busy compiling a complete collection of water colour sketches of all the medicinal plants used in these remedies for easy identification.
An indigenous medicinal plant garden has been created at the back of Joubert House, our house museum. The aim is to cultivate examples of all the medicinal plants of the district for public viewing, information and environmental education.
The museum also exhibits examples of herbs cut and dried in the traditional manner, slaves and various infusions.
Further research is being undertaken in conjunction with the National Botanical Institute and Department of Pharmacology, University of Cape Town.
Visitors are invited to contact Montagu Museum for further information and for lecture tours.
Longstreet 41, Montagu, 6720
Tel: 023 614 1950
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Kwela Dorp van die Jaar 2018 / Kwela Town of the Year 2018
-Stem vir MONTAGU!!!! – Vote for Montagu!!!!
By now everyone should know that Montagu was chosen as the Western Cape Town of the Year – which puts us directly inline for the National (including Namibia) Town of the year.
Thanks to great promotion and many Social media postings and most importantly VOTES – we got to this privileged position.
The secret was already out when the recognizable KIA and Afrikaans.com branding was very visible all over town in April.
On 10 and 11 April the Kwela team already spent many hours in Magical Montagu to film as many as possible of the beautiful places, people and things to do for a special insert that announced Montagu as the Winning Finalist of the Western Cape in the Kwela Town of the Year Competition.
Now that all 9 finalist towns have been announced – the voting lines is open (from 27 May until 1 June, 12:00 midday).
The winning town will be announced on 17 June 2018 on Kwela, KykNet, at 18:00. The winning town walks away with one -million- rand TV airtime on KykNet for a year.
It is only VOTES that count at this point- so please do not hesitate to vote immediately – Just sms to 33157 – MONTAGU!!
You can send 30 sms’s from a cell number.
Homebrew Films, the producers of Kwela, will produce a 45 second advert about the town that will be flighted for the year.
There will also be a huge KIA Dorp van die Jaar Makiti (party, Festival, jollification) in the winning town and everyone is invited.
Music, food, fun and loads of that winning town spirit. Also, this Makiti will be filmed and flighted at a later stage on KykNet – publicity that is indeed invaluable for our lovely town.
So, all that remains now: STEM VIR MONTAGU!!!!! VOTE FOR MONTAGU -SMS 33157
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