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A Little  History


1488: The Portuguese recognized the Breede River Mouth as the finest natural anchorage on the whole southern seaboard of Africa.

1576: It was about this time when King Sebastian’s navigator, Manuel De Mesquita Perestrello was enthusiastic over this bay. He called the bay after “Dom Sebastiao, the most serene King of Portugal”, “St. Sebastian’s Bay, and on the west bank “Cape Infanta”.

1798: During May, the Breede River mouth was visited by Lady Anne Barnard and her husband, who was Colonial Secretary under the British Administration, with Jacob Van Reenen of Slang River.

1800: Landrost Anthonie Faure reported to Governor Sir George Young that the river was suitable for navigation “up to six hours inland, with excellent safe loading – places for small vessels along either bank”.

1802: Baron Von Buchenröder visited San Sebastian’s Bay, crossed the river in a small boat and pronounced it “only three to four feet deep at low tide, thus only suitable for sloops and long flat vessels, such as one sees on the Main, Nekker and Weser in Germany”. He also found an English ship anchored in the Breede River.

1813: Malagas got its name from the farm belonging to Adriaan Odendaal, “Malagas Craal gelegen aan de Breede River”.

1817: It was found that the bar was navigable by vessels displacing not more than six feet of water. Lord Charles Somerset named the east bank of Breede River after the title of his father, the Duke of Beaufort.

1817: Captain Benjamin Moodie and his partner, Hamilton Ross were to bring out 10,000 Scots to South Africa. After the first 50, Ross pulled out. Moodie brought in 200 men, many of them artisans. The Scots were to pay Moodie the £20 back before or after the trip. If they couldn’t, then they must work for Moodie for 18 months.

1819: Joseph Barry bought the cutter “Duke of Gloucester” and arrived at Port Beaufort with food for the starving populace signified the fact that the Overberg had achieved its own gateway to the markets of the world. 500 – 600 wagons were assembled on the heights above the river mouth awaiting the cutter. Joseph Barry was persuaded to open a small trading store here at Port Beaufort.

1820: Captain Benjamin Moodie established the Port Beaufort Trading Company. Credit must go to Benjamin Moodie for first enticing the vessels to cross the bar regularly for mercantile purposes.

1820: It was this year that the coastal trade established Port Beaufort.

1830: The Barry’s owned a substantial warehouse in Port Beaufort.

1834: Barry and Nephews were formed.

1841: Port Beaufort declared a port.


1853 the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in Swellendam resolved to establish a new congregation to serve the spiritual needs of residents in its southern region, described as Over het Roode Zand onderaan de Hoops Rivier. To this end it purchased the farm Over Het Roode Zand from its owner, Johannes van Zyl.  It was surveyed by H van Reenen and the first plots went on sale on 4 May 1853.

The settlement was named after Dr William Robertson, the first DRC minister in Clanwilliam, and up to 1857 it affairs were administered by the local church council. The 1865 census indicated that Robertson had a population of 715. In 1875 this number had risen to 1 104, and in 1891 it was 2 121. By 1904 it stood at 3 244, of whom 1 875 were literate.

1858: By this time Joseph Barry’s business was as far as Robertson, Montagu, Sweetmilk Valley (Rivier Sonder End), Bredasdorp, Heidelberg, Riversdale, Mossel Bay, Zwartberg (Ladismith) and Barrydale).

1859: September 26th. 158 Ton crew steamer “Kadie” arrived at Port Beaufort after sailing for 81 days from Scotland. This vessel was built expressly for Barry and Nephews. On board was her commander, Captain Fowler and his family and the Rev. John Samuel, headmaster of the Swellendam Grammar School and the 15 year old Francis William Reitz who was on holiday at Rhenoster Fontein from the South African College. The trip up the Breede River to Malagas took two hours and twenty minutes. “Kadie” was piloted by one of William Dunn’s numerous descendants.

Barry Bank Note

The firm Barry & Nephews traded by ship all along the East coast from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and from Port Beaufort up the Breede River to Malgas. From here it was a short ox wagon journey to the Barry trading store in Swellendam and over the Tradouw pass to Barrydale. This developed farming in the Overberg, as the overland route was a hazardous, long and expensive journey discouraging the farmers from trading with Cape Town.

1862: “Kadie” reached Knysna to load wood for Cape Town. The farthest “Kadie” sailed was to Mauritius with a cargo of ostriches which were destined for Australia. 1864: Highlight of “Kadie’s” short life was the “Great Western Province Agricultural Exhibition” at Swellendam. “Kadie” made special trips to Cape Town with livestock and implements. Eastern Province exhibitors were fetched at Algoa Bay.

1864: Port Beaufort was abolished as a port.

Witsand as it is now known is a small coastal town boasting the largest Whale nursery in  South Africa.

Michael Barry's (Joseph's 5th son) sons George Joseph and his younger brother, Hamilton continued trading and farming as Barry Bros. In 1911 they built a gun powder magazine "kruithuis" on the outskirts of Robertson for the Barry Trading store in town.

The Barry Kruithuis was declared a National Monument in 1975. Barry Brothers was succeeded by Robertson Trading

Grand Hotel

In 1901 Hamilton Barry built a house for his sister diagonally opposite to his house (Oakdene) on the corner of what is now known as Barry and White Streets.

The Property was sold and in 1927 was established as a Hotel my a Mr Wolfe

In 1936 Mr Kamp took ownership

In  1944 Mr Arnold Kennedy took ownership

In  1957 Mr Manie de Kock took ownership, during de Kock’s his wife was mysteriously murdered. It is said that her spirits still roam the corridors of the Hotel

In 1957 The Kriel’ owned the Hotel, they managed the business until 1980 when the management was taken over by Mr Johan Sauerman. Sauerman changed the reputation of the hotel by hosting caberet’s over the weekend. The hotel went bankrupt under Sauerman’s management.

In 1988 Mr Dieter Sowade revived the hotel from an insolvent state.

Sowade,s family owned the Montagu Springs Hotel and it was Dieter’s ambition to form a Hotel chain

The Avalon Group was established an in its fold was Flagship the Avalon Springs, the Avalon Montagu Hotel, the Avalon Grand Hotel and the Avalon Bonnievale Hotel.

The Group battled to survive and the smaller hotels sold off, the Sowade’s only holding onto the Springs Hotel.

In 1995 The hotel was sold to Mr Arno Janetsky

In 1998 Dennis and Lauren Woolley took ownership, and continue to manage the business