HISTORY OF PLETTENBERG BAY
Archaeological findings in Nelson’s Bay Cave and Matjies River Cave indicate that these caves were inhabited for over 100 000 yrs by middle stone age man and then later by ancestors of the Khoisan.
Plett, situated 210km from Port Elizabeth and about 600km from Cape Town, was first called at and chartered by Portuguese explorers of the 15th and 16th century, the first being Bartholomew Dias in 1487. 90yrs later Manuel da Perestrello called it ‘Bahia Formosa’ or ‘Bay Beautiful’.
The first white inhabitants were the 100 men stranded here for 9mths when the San Gonzales sank in 1630. In 1763 we had our first white settlers in the Bay-stock farmers, hunters and frontiersmen from the Western Cape. The Swede, Carl Peter Thunberg, was the first to document valuable observations on the bay and Robberg.
The Governor of the Cape, Baron Joachim van Plettenberg, renamed the town ‘Plettenberg Bay’ in 1779
In 1787 a woodcutter’s post was established and Johann Jacob Jerling was commissioned by the Dutch East India Co to build a storehouse for timber, which was first exported in 1788. (You can visit the Old Timber Store; a beacon of stone stands approx. on the spot and has original markings on it!) The timber trade grew and led to Thomas Bain building Prince Alfred Pass (1868) and 90km of forest road through Tsitsikamma to Humansdorp. 3 Major passes had to be constructed: Groot River, Blauwkrantz and Storms River. The entire road was completed 16yrs later in 1885.
In 1910 Capt. Sinclair set up the Whaling Station on Beacon Island (got its first navigational beacon in 1772) to harvest the placid Southern Right Whales but this ceased operation in 1916. The first hotel was erected by Hugh Owen Grant in 1940 and replaced in 1972 by the current well known land mark on Beacon Island.
PLETTENBERG BAY HISTORICAL ROUTE
SAN GONZALES WRECK – off Robberg Beach
This Portuguese ship was wrecked in 1630 and 133 sailors perished. The Jerling family found pieces of the porcelain and other objects in 1979. These were donated to Plettenberg bay in 1988 and can be seen at the Municipal Offices on Sewell Str.
ST. ANDREWS CHAPEL – off Piesangvalley Rd, near the Golf course
This unusual, quaint church is the oldest in the diocese of George. The entire building is uniquely made of yellowwood.
OLD WHALING STATION – presently the site of the Beacon Island Hotel
Built in 1831 but burnt down in 1914. Whaling operations ceased in 1916. One can still view the original slipway and blubber cauldron. The stinkwood navigational beacon was first erected on Beacon Island in 1772 and was replaced by a stone one in 1881 by Capt. Sewell.
OLD TIMBER STORE – at Hobie Beach
Built in 1787/88 by Johann Jerling and the famous Dutch east India Co. The remains are preserved as a National Monument.
THE OLD RECTORY – near the Old Timber Store
This was erected as barracks for the Dutch East India Co in 1776. In 1869 it was bought by St Peters Church and used as a rectory for the next 70yrs. It’s presently privately owned.
ST PETERS CHURCH – on Church Street
A small wooden chapel-cum-school was first built there in 1855 but in 1875 the building was blown down during a seasonal storm. It was replaced with the present stone edifice in 1881 and now serves the local Anglican Community.
DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH – in Witterdrif
Situated in Witterdrif and built in 1834
FOREST HALL – in The Crags
William Henry Newdgate built this historical manor in 1864. The double storey building has an impressive entrance hall, musician’s galley and yellowwood and stinkwood woodwork. Forest Hall is now privately owned.