History of Knysna
A brief outline of Knysna's history
This timeline is made up of snippets from Steve Collinson's book, KNYSNA : 250 Years of History.
Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing a copy.
Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing a copy.
1770 - Stephanus Jesaias Terblanche was the first recorded colonist farmer to settle at the Knysna. On 14th September, he was issued with a loan permit for one year for a farm, Melkhoutkraal, on the east bank of the Knysna River. Terblanche was later granted Sandkraal (later renamed Westford) and Welbedacht (Eastford) on the northern shores of the estuary.
1774 - Stephanus’s brother, Pieter Terblanche, acquired the rights to the farm Buffelsvermaak.
The third brother, Salomon Terblanche, ended up on a farm to the north-west of the estuary, known as Leeuwenbosch.
1775 - Part of the farm Buffelsvermaak was spilt off and called Uitzigt (later to become Belvidere farm) and was first occupied by Hendrik Barnard.
1775 - Wessel Vosloo was granted permission to live and graze his cattle on the farm Ganzvlei.
1775 - Andries Gous, Wessel Vosloo’s brother-in-law, was granted the farm Ruigtevlei.
1786 - A Woodcutter’s Post was set up at Plettenberg Bay. Johann Friedrich Meeding took charge in February 1787.
1794 - Stephanus Terblanche died, and the running of Melkhoutkraal was taken over by his widow, Hester Marx, along with her twelve children.
1798 - Hester sold Melkhoutkraal to Johann von Lindenbaum from Alsace, Germany. Then, three weeks later, she married him.
1798 - Johann Meeding bought the opstal at Ruigtevlei in the hope of retiring there. After Meeding’s death and in lieu of his pension, Ruigtevlei was granted to his widow, Maria, by the Governor.
1798 - James Callendar, a Scottish ex-Navy Master Shipwright, was appointed Inspector of all the Government Woodlands to the eastward (of Mossel Bay) to survey and report on the forests, bays, and rivers as far as Plettenberg Bay. He drew the first map of the Knysna River "Chart of the Knysna, An Arm of the Sea, Seven Leagues to the Westward of Plettenberg's Bay" and expressed his opinion that the Knysna was far superior to the (Plettenberg) Bay as an outlet for shipping timber.
1800 - The Cape Government instructed that no timber from the forests under Meeding’s control was to be cut by anyone without its written permission.
1801 - Von Lindenbaum sold Melkhoutkraal Melkhoutkraal to Richard Holiday, a partner of the Mossel Bay businessman John Murray.
1802 - Richard Holiday died, and Melkhoutkraal was once again put up for sale.
1802 - During the time of the Third Frontier War, armed raiders invaded the area. Farms all along the Langkloof and the coastal areas from Plettenberg Bay to the Kaaimans River near George were looted and destroyed. The buildings at Melkhoutkraal were burned to the ground.
1802 - A number of farmers who were trying to flee Piesang Valley in Plettenberg Bay were ambushed at De Poort (near the Garden of Eden). Some of the men were slaughtered whilst the women and children were taken hostage. The gang responsible was hunted down by commandos and wiped out on a hilltop in the area known as Fisantehoek. Six days after their abduction, the hostages were released.
1804 - George Rex bought Melkhoutkraal from John Murray (the executor of Richard Holiday’s estate). It is not known when or how it started, but legend has it that George Rex was the son of Prince George (who became King George III) and the Quaker, Hannah Lightfoot, which could have made him a legitimate heir to the British throne.
1808 - George Rex replaced his partner, Johanna Rosina, with her second daughter, Carolina Margaretha Ungerer.
1810 - A new postal route was introduced from Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet. There were 21 stages on the route, including Melkhoutkraal at the Knysna. Each stage was given a time limit and was allocated a paid postholder, who was responsible for delivering the mail. Knysna’s first postholders were George Rex and Johann Friedrich Meeding.
1817 - The transport brig Emu's Master, Lieutenant G.B. Forster, saw an opportunity and sailed through The Heads. Unfortunately, Emu struck a submerged rock (which had not been charted and is now known as Emu Rock) and had to be run onto sandbanks near to Steenbok Island (now known as Leisure Isle). A few weeks later, HMS Podargus was sent to retrieve the crew and stores from Emu. The plan was to sit outside The Heads and send in small boats, but Captain James Wallis took it upon himself to sail Podargus into the harbour, thus becoming the first ship to successfully enter Knysna through The Heads.
1818 - The Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, established a Signal Post on the eastern headland, "with such Signals as are most obviously necessary at the present moment. Also a Pilot and Boat's Crew, for giving directions and assistance to all Vessels approaching the Port." John Gough was appointed the first permanent pilot.
1820 - In order to stop the spread of the first Asiatic Cholera pandemic into the Cape, the acting Governor, Sir Rufane Shawe Donkin, proclaimed that all ships from the East were to be anchored off-shore and placed under quarantine, "...while the Pilot at the Knysna is positively ordered not to conduct or admit any Vessel from the East into that Harbour."
1820 - George Rex ceded 40 morgen (around 84 acres / 34 hectares) of his Eastford farm to the Cape Colonial Government in exchange for its claims on the 20 morgen on each of his four farms adjoining the water’s edge. Sir Jahleel Brenton then negotiated to take over the land on behalf of the British Royal Navy. This enabled the Navy to establish a shipyard on the banks of the lagoon. However, in 1821, the mould loft was destroyed and the brig damaged when they were accidently consumed by fire.
1824 - The Naval shipyard was closed down when everything was destroyed by yet another fire.
1825 - As well as the shipyard, the land ceded by George Rex was to be the site for a naval township. Plans were drawn up, and the village was named Melville (after Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville and First Lord of the Admiralty). Anyone who wanted to settle at Melville had to be vetted by George Rex and the Government.
1826 - The Pilot Establishment was closed down. For over 30 years, the Rex family, mainly son John, then acted unofficially as voluntary pilots.
1830 - George Rex bought Uitzigt from the deceased estate of Hendrik Barnard and promptly renamed it Belvidere. With the purchase of the land on the western side of the estuary, from the ocean to the old drift as far west as Goukamma, George Rex now owned all the land around the estuary; more than 12,000 hectares.
1831 - Due to the abolition of the Pilot Establishment in 1826 and the danger in crossing the bar at the Heads, with the resultant reduction in shipping, insurance underwriters pushed up their premiums to such levels that it became no longer profitable to do business. George Rex decided to build his own brig and become his own underwriter. Originally to be named Britannia, the 140-ton stinkwood brig Knysna sailed out through the Heads with her first cargo of timber destined for Table Bay in Cape Town.
1839 - George Rex suffered a massive stroke and died. He was buried two days later, but his grave was unmarked until his only surviving son, George, erected a headstone in 1893.
1839 - Thomas Duthie bought the farms Westford and Portland out of the George Rex Estate: "These joined to Belvidere will give me a splendid estate of 13700 acres."
1844 - Lieutenant-Colonel John Sutherland of the 2nd Bombay Light Cavalry bought the northern half of Melkhoutkraal. He also bought Eastford from the Rex estate and Westford from Duthie.
1845 - Before returning to India, John Sutherland charged his son, also John, with the establishment of a village on the western edge of Melkhoutkraal and just east of Melville (leaving a wedge shaped piece of land between them). William Hopley surveyed the 57-hectare area, and Newhaven was laid down. The new village soon outstripped Melville in its development.
1848 - John Sutherland built the first school in Newhaven. The building was used as a school until the 1870s.
1848 - Charles Bull, a tutor in an English church school, was recommended by the Reverend Archibald Hamilton Duthie, the Rector of Deal (in Kent), to be the tutor for the children of his brother, Thomas Duthie.
1848 - The first Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, held a church service in the newly built school building (the school was licensed for services and marriages as there was no church).
1849 - As well as tutor to the Duthie children, Charles Bull acted as catechist to the people of the Knysna district until the arrival of Dr William Andrews. Andrews was a former London physician and Knysna’s first clergyman.
1849 - The first foundation stone for the first St George’s Church was laid by George Rex’s son, John. As was the custom, coins and other documents were buried beneath it. However, during the night, the money was stolen. Legend has it that once the money was replaced and the stone relayed, John Rex sat on the second foundation stone throughout the night until it had set.
1850 - During his visit to Knysna, Bishop Gray commented, "After having seen nearly all South Africa, I am still of opinion that the Knysna district is, perhaps, the most lovely of the whole."
1855 - Bishop Gray performed the consecration of the St George's Church.
1855 - The Holy Trinity Church was ready for service by 1853 but could not be consecrated until Bishop Gray’s next visit: "we went to inspect the beautiful little Norman Church, which has been erected chiefly at the cost of Mr. Duthie, and which, by general consent, is the most perfect Church as yet in the Diocese." The consecration took place two days after St George’s Church.
1856 - Captain Thomas Horn bought the plot of land to the east of St George’s Church from William Dutton. On this site was a small hostelry known as St George’s Tavern. This was later renamed to the Royal Hotel.
1856 - Mrs Wentworth (apparently she refused to allow use of her forenames) and her two sisters, Agnes and Magdalen Dalgairns, opened a private school at Melkhoutkraal. By the end of 1857, they recorded that their Private Boarding and Day School had eight pupils, all girls, and three were boarders.
1858 - Roland Trimen (curator of the South African Museum in Cape Town) first recorded the existence of the Orachrysops niobe (commonly known as the Knysna Blue) butterfly, which he found in the Knysna area.
1858 - Up until this time, the Knysna was officially part of the field cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay in the magisterial division of George. However, the boundaries for a new magisterial division were proclaimed. These were the Swart River to the west, the division of Humansdorp to the east, the Outeniqua Mountains to the north, and the Indian Ocean to the south, with the Knysna as the magisterial seat. James Fichat was sent to be the first Resident Magistrate and Civil Commissioner.
1859 - James Fichat purchased the land for the gaol from John Sutherland. The gaol was ready for use by the end of the year and was the first government building to be erected in Knysna.. The gaol was built by the convicts themselves and, whilst this was ongoing, they were housed in outbuildings on the Melkhoutkraal estate.
1860 - A man known only as Jacob became the first and only person to be hanged in Knysna. It is not known what his crime was. The public execution took place in front of a crop of foliage known as O'Reilly's Bush at the top of Queen Street.
1861 - Due to the inefficiencies of the defence system in the Cape Colony, the Colonial Parliament introduced the Burgher Levies Act. Many towns decided to form volunteer military units in preference to this. It was decided to form the Knysna Volunteer Rifles. Civil Commissioner James Fichat was appointed as Captain.
By 1863, the unit was 35 strong, and by the end of 1864, there were 70 volunteers.
However, due to costs, the unit was disbanded in 1865.
The pass is believed to have been named after the Keurbooms or Phantom moth (Leto venus), which is found in the Garden Route area.
1862 - Thomas Bain completed the one-mile Phantom Pass, from the pont on the western side of the Knysna River up towards the woodcutters in the forests near Zuur Vlakte (Sour Flats).
The pass is believed to have been named after the Keurbooms or Phantom moth (Leto venus), which is found in the Garden Route area.
1863 - A small chapel and schoolroom were built on a plot of land in Queen Street bought from Thomas Horn. The Roman Catholic Church was consecrated by Father John Rooney from George.
1864 - William Charles Romaine Groom, who had originally studied as a chemist in England, moved to Knysna in 1864, where he managed the dispensary for Dr John McGibbon, before setting up his own apothecary to become Knysna’s first chemist.
1865 - The first census to be conducted by the colonial administration registered 2,471 people in the Knysna region, of which 60% were of European descent.
1865 - The original arrowhead beacon on Steenbok Island was erected by the crew of HMS Rapid.
1867 - Up until this time, the loading and unloading of ships had been done either by small craft or, if the cargo was too heavy, by beaching the ships on the sand banks at high tide and (un)loading them at low tide. Thomas Horn built a wooden wharf and a stone causeway leading to it (where the Knysna Yacht Club is now). He formed the Knysna Landing and Shipping Company (later known as the Knysna Wharf Company). The company went into liquidation in 1887, after the Government had built a new wharf on Paarden Island.
1867 - Whilst on a tour of the Cape, it was arranged for the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred (second son of Queen Victoria), to visit Knysna on an elephant hunting expedition. Prince Alfred and his party set off for Springfield and then on to Buffels Nek, where they pitched camp for three nights. Here they found a herd of 16 elephants, and, although shots were fired hitting their targets, the elephants managed to escape. As they journeyed back to Springfield (later known as the farm Edinburgh), the Prince finally shot and killed an elephant.
1869 - After a very dry and hot summer, an intense fire raged across the Swartberg, Outeniqua, and Tsitsikamma mountain ranges. It burned for almost 250 miles from Riversdale in the west to Uitenhage in the east. Fanned by the hottest berg wind in living memory, The Great Fire spread down the Knysna River gorge consuming all in its path. Knysna itself was only saved when the wind suddenly changed direction to the west.
1870 - On 6th April the Thesen family, who were emigrating from Norway to New Zealand, arrived in Knysna on the ship Albatros. With their sailing, commercial and practical skills, the large family soon set to work in the vast indigenous forests, extracting and exporting timber on the Albatros to the Cape for construction and boat building.
1875 - The Great Fire of 1869 caused the Government to take the conservation of the forests more seriously. The forest conservancies of George, Knysna, and Tsitsikamma were amalgamated (to become the Midland Conservancy), and Captain Christopher Harison became the first full-time Conservator of Forests, based in Knysna.
1875 - James Hooper was collecting stones to aid his ostrich’s digestion on his farm at Ruigtevlei when he found an unusual one in a creek on the Karatara River. He took his shiny stone to the Knysna apothecary, where William Groom confirmed it was a gold nugget weighing 17 penny weight (almost an ounce / 26.5 grams). In 1879, the Government proclaimed its first gold-prospecting regulations, and this sparked a mini gold rush in the area. However, by the end of 1879, there had been no significant finds, and the diggings were all but abandoned.
1877 - When his father died in 1877, John Benn took over. He was the pilot, assisted by his brother, Donald, for 35 years until they both retired in 1912. John Benn, with his crew, was responsible for saving at least 16 lives. He received the Royal Humane Society’s Certificate of Valour on two occasions: for rescuing four men from a capsized boat in 1882 and six fishermen from their capsized boat in 1899. He also received the Society’s Bronze Medal for rescuing several of the crew of the Fredheim in 1897 when it was totally wrecked at Coney Glen.
1880 - Thomas Bain built a stone causeway over the Knysna River. This allowed the river to be crossed at any time. The causeway was washed away by floods in 1891, but it was later repaired.
At low tide, some of the original stones can still be seen from the privately owned Westford Nature Reserve.
1880 - Bain found, amongst other artefacts including a skeleton of a child, a bone shoulder blade with three pictures painted on it in black. He documented his discovery Bones Caves at Knysna in the Cape Monthly Magazine. The bone was displayed at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in mid-1886. In the Catalogue of the Exhibits of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, it is listed under Thomas Bain’s Bushman Stone Implements as Item 174. Blade bone of Seal, with paintings of Bird and Seal, in black. The bone, known as the Knysna Scapula, is now with the British Museum in London. However, the museum’s records show that it was purchased in 1886 from a Thomas Hedley. Thomas Bain originally believed the bone to be from a (now extinct) Cape Lion, but the British Museum catalogued it as from an antelope. It has since been confirmed as a seal scapula. Measuring 20 x 17 x 4 cm, the Knysna Scapula is believed to be the only known art of this type to have been found in South Africa.
1881 - Pilot John Benn found an abandoned three-masted schooner wrecked at the mouth of the Noetzie River. There were no signs of her crew, and it was evident that she had been drifting for some time. No cargo or anything of value was found on board.
1881 - The Cape Government wanted to start its own silk industry, and an agreement was reached with the Italian Government for a number of successful sericulturists and agriculturists from the Treviso area in northern Italy to emigrate to Knysna. The 13 men (4 with their wives and 14 children) arrived at Knysna on the SS Natal. They made their way to Gouna, where they believed they would receive land, homes, mulberry trees, and a wage for their work. They were to be severely disappointed, as there were no homes nor mulberry trees. After living on government rations for about six months, the Italians were left to fend for themselves, working as labourers (building roads), farmers, or woodcutters.
The story of the Italian silk farmers was used as a backdrop for author Dalene Matthee’s 1987 novel, Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest).
1881 - The first George & Knysna Herald newspaper was published, for gazette notices, news, and advertisements.
1882 - Knysna was officially constituted as a municipality by Proclamation No. 217 of 1882 under the provisions of the Municipal Act, No. 45 of 1882. The settlements of Newhaven and Melville, plus the wedge of land between them (a portion of Eastford), and a few other lots were amalgamated to form the new municipal urban area.
Nine councillors attended the first council meeting. Thomas Horn was voted to be the Chairman, as a motion to elect a Mayor was defeated.
1883 - As part of a contract to be supplied with railway sleepers (made of yellowwood from the Knysna forests), the Government constructed a long causeway to Paarden Island and built a new wooden wharf on the west side.
1883 - Doctor Charles O’Gorman built what was advertised as Knysna’s first Private Hospital, with rooms for both medical and surgical cases. The hospital closed when the building was put up for sale in 1903.
1885 - Due to the increased tensions between England and Russia, Magistrate Maximilian Jackson called a public meeting in order to organize a volunteer defensive force to protect the harbour against possible invasion. 92 people signed up and the Knysna Rangers were formed.
War was never declared, and in 1895 the Knysna Rangers were disbanded.
1885 - The local Board of Health demanded £250 to help it treat syphilis in the district. The Divisional Council countered by saying that there was no syphilis: only poverty and distress. The Council protested to the Government to no avail and was compelled to levy a health rate to meet the demand.
1885 - Thomas Horn died. All Knysna’s businesses closed, and the whole town turned out for his funeral. His obituary designated him as The Father of Knysna.
1886 - The next hospital to be built was the Infectious Diseases Hospital on what became known as Hospital Hill.
It was demolished in the 1930s.
1887 - The Millwood area was officially proclaimed "An Alluvial Digging and Mine". A village of 135 stands, with six hotels and four boarding houses, a hospital, a church, general stores, and a post office, was established. By the end of 1887, there were up to 600 miners as well as around 400 permanent residents in Millwood village. However, due to the lack of gold found, the gold rush was short-lived, and by July 1888, more people were leaving than arriving. At the end of 1893, there were only 74 people left, and most of the businesses had closed down. Just over 3,000 ounces of gold were officially recorded.
The Millwood Goldfields were officially deproclaimed in 1924.
1887 - Jubilee Creek in the Goudveld Forest was named in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It is now a picturesque picnic site.
1889 - The current Phantom Pass (a separate, longer, and less steep pass than the 1862 pass) was built by Thomas Bain.
1891 - The Roman Catholic silk farmers had no church until the tiny San Ambroso Church was built on the communal land in Gouna. It was named after San Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milan, and consecrated by Reverend Rooney (from George). In 2006, Rayno Sciocatti, a fourth generation descendant of one of the original silk farmers, acquired the land and, after evicting some hippy squatters, set about the restoration of the church. Now known as the San Ambroso Chapel Museum, the two rooms at the back of the church are filled with photographs, newspaper cuttings, and other memorabilia relating to the original settlers and their descendants.
1893 - The first bridge over the Knysna River was officially opened. The wooden bridge was built at Westford, two kilometres downstream of the drift. Richard Edgecombe Chevalier, who, as well as being head constable at Millwood, was one of the town’s earliest photographers. He took pictures of the rotting state of the timber piles, which had been eaten away by teredo (shipworms). As a result, the bridge was deemed to be unsafe for passage.
1893 - The first service of the Knysna Methodist Church, in Montagu Street, was held.
1893 - Mayor Charles Wilhelm Thesen officially opened the new Knysna Library. At this time, it was just the west and central wings of what is now the current stone building.
1893 - The newly opened Library was also home to the first museum in Knysna. Housed in glass cases in the entrance hall were geographical specimens as well as Mrs Metelerkamp's beetle collection, and a collection of guns.
1901 - At the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War (South African War) in 1899, the Knysna Divisional Council declared its loyalty to the British Empire. the Civil Commissioner and Resident Magistrate, Maximilian Jackson, put up notices announcing the declaration of Martial Law in Knysna. A curfew was imposed whereby the residents of Knysna had to be indoors by 22:00 and all lights out by 23:00. A Town Guard was formed consisting of 200 volunteers, of which 70 formed the Knysna District Mounted Troop. Maximilian Jackson acted as the Commandant until 1st March when Major William Anstruther Thomson (formerly of the Royal Horse Guards) took over command. Under Thomson’s command, a stone twin-towered fort was built overlooking the town on Verdompskop (Town Hill, behind the current hospital). However, the war never reached Knysna, and the fort became known as Thomson’s Folly. With the war over, the Knysna Town Guard was officially disbanded in 1902.
1901 - Augusta Vera Duthie (a granddaughter of Thomas and Caroline Duthie) became the first person from Knysna to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts, at the University of the Cape of Good Hope.
1902 - George Parkes wanted to continue manufacturing timber, which some of the shareholders of the Knysna Forest Company were against. So, he set up another separate company known as George Parkes & Sons, hardwood timber merchants and general turners.
1903 - Paquita, a German 460-ton three-masted iron barque, entered the estuary and offloaded its cargo. Before setting sail again for Barbados, a strong wind came up, which caused the anchor ropes to foul, and the ship ran aground on Steenbok Island. Having been re-floated, Paquita once again had her anchor ropes fouled. This time she ran aground on Beacon Rocks near the Eastern Head, where she took on water and started to sink (and lay there for 18 months until she finally disappeared beneath the waves). The fact that most of her crew had been paid off before the first fouling of the anchors was questioned. When, after the second running aground, it was discovered that her anchor ropes were intact, the suspicion of foul play arose, and the insurance claim was dismissed. For many years, the wreck was considered an easily accessible and popular diving site.
1904 - Charles Wilhelm Thesen bought Paarden Island (part of Melkhoutkraal). In 1922 the Thesen's sawmill and boat building factory were moved to the island and it became known as Thesen Island.
1905 - The first service at the new Dutch Reformed Church took place.
1905 - When the old Dutch Reformed Church building was auctioned, it was bought by the Dutch Reformed Mission, who re-used as much of the materials as possible in the building of a new Mission Church in Graham Street.
1905 - The South African Kerosene Oil Shale Syndicate was formed to mine lignite after deposits had been found near Bracken Hill and Veldtmanspad on land belonging to the Knysna Forest Company. The venture was not a success, and, within two years, the syndicate was liquidated.
1905 - The first motor car arrived in Knysna.
1907 - In his book, Cape Colony Today, Alfred Richard Edward Burton, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, wrote, "… by general acclaim the best flower garden in the world outside Kew is Mrs Horn’s. We have spent many happy hours in Kew Gardens, but never more so than among the rose bushes, the carnations, rhododendrons, the fuchsias, camellias, jasmine, honeysuckle, daphne, specially trained fruit trees and edible plants of many well selected sorts, and the thousand and one gardening things, from the rarest flowers to the humblest dweller in the lane, undergoing a reforming probation that may turn it into a new kind of daisy or cowslip – shady nooks, lovely walks and leafy arbours, all tended and devised by the lady of the Inn, the gentle genius of rural light-hearted Knysna."
1907 - The South Western Railway Co. Ltd. started operations from Knysna to Templeman's Station at Deep Walls (Diepwalle). The 20 mile 2ft narrow gauge railway had taken 3 years to build with stops at Bracken Hill (Thesen's) and Parkes Station (Veltmanspad). The forest railway, affectionately named the "Coffee-Pot", ran until 30th April 1949.
1908 - The first owner of a car in Knysna was Jack Harden, manager of Standard Bank. After selecting it from a catalogue, the single cylinder, chain driven American Cadillac was shipped from America and arrived in a big crate.
1908 - The Knysna elephants were declared Royal Game, thereby making it illegal for anyone to hunt the elephants except members of the British Royal Family.
1909 - After an earlier Golf Club had failed due to lack of interest, the Knysna Golf Club was founded by Arthur Scott, the Government School Inspector, and a few other keen golfers. The original 9-hole course was laid out near the current railway station and High School Playing Fields.
1910 - At the request of the Assistant Magistrate, Ascheton (Asche) Geddes de Smidt, a meeting was held in the courtroom, "With a view to discussing the establishment of a yacht club or sailing club in Knysna". At the meeting, the motion that a Yacht Club embracing sailing and motor boats be formed was carried.
1913 - the Forest Act No.16 of 1913 required all existing woodcutters to be registered in order to receive a permit to fell trees in the Crown Forests. The woodcutters later had to draw lots to determine which of the trees marked by the Forestry they could fell.
1913 - The Knoetzie Syndicate (shareholders were Stephen Parkes, George Marr, Edward O’Connor, and Lewis Powel) established the Knoetzie township after the land they had been granted (the farm Knoetzie) had been surveyed and the lots put up for sale at an auction.
1915 - The Edinburgh Industrial School (later known as the Knysna Trade School) was established at Edinburgh (near Bracken Hill). The school offered boys practical training in carpentry, cabinet making, and preparation for a trade in the timber industry. However, it was soon decided to move the school to a new site opposite the old cemetery (where the Knysna Provincial Hospital is now). In 1946, the school was closed, and the pupils transferred to join with those at the Trade School in Oudtshoorn.
1916 - As business thrived, more vessels were added to the Thesen & Co. fleet. This operated as the Thesen Line until 1916, when the subsidiary company, Thesen Steamship Co. Ltd., was set up. After an economic downturn, the Thesen Steamship Company was sold to the Liverpool based Houston Line in 1921.
1916 - Work started on the building of a new bridge over the River Knysna in 1913 to replace the rotten wooden one. before the bridge had been officially opened, torrential rain and record breaking floods caused the bridge to totally collapse, except for a pier and span on the eastern side of the river. The remaining pier and span were demolished in 1920, leaving just the concrete abutments which still stand today.
1918 - As a result of the First World War, 29 men from the Knysna area died.
1918 - To prevent the spread of the Spanish Influenza pandemic in Knysna, the Mayor (and Chairman of the Public Health Committee) William R. Kennett ordered, "that all persons arriving in the Knysna district from any outside district be placed under Quarantine for a period of seven days". Unfortunately, 115 people died in Knysna (not including any who may have died in the more rural areas).
1922 - The Knysna War Memorial was unveiled by the Reverend Captain Alfred George Duthie (grandson of Thomas and Caroline).
1923 - The new iron Red Bridge, with a 3-metre roadway, was opened. The bridge was superseded by the National Road bridge in 1955 and finally closed to traffic in 1973.
1924 - The first street lighting was installed in 1924. 27 poles with acetylene gas lamps were erected on the Main Road.
1924 - The King Edward VII Big Tree was named in honour of Edward VII, who became king on the death of Queen Victoria. It was named when the Empire (now Commonwealth) Parliamentary Association visited Diepwalle for an official picnic.
1925 - During his three month tour of Africa, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) paid a brief visit to Knysna. Having arrived at noon, the Prince spent some time with ex-soldiers and laid a wreath at the War Memorial. Lunch at the Royal Hotel was followed by a trip to the Heads before he returned to George.
1925 - Having completed his dentistry studies and practised for two years in Mossel Bay, Johannes Urbanus (Barney) du Preez became Knysna’s first resident dentist.
1925 - Initiated by the Postmaster Mr A. S. Swann, a group of bowlers gathered to form a bowling club and to establish a bowling green. The bowling greenh was situated in the garden of the Imperial Hotel.
1926 - Andrew Charles Bain (son of Thomas Bain) offered a prize for the first lady to swim across the channel at the Heads. Josephine (Joy) Robertson Horn (a great granddaughter of Thomas Horn) claimed the prize by swimming from Featherbed Bay to the eastern Head.
1926 - The Knysna Water Scheme was officially opened.
1928 - Sir Alan Cobham K.B.E. landed his flying boat (the first to be seen in South Africa) on the Knysna lagoon during his 20,000 mile flight around Africa. Such was the importance of this event that a half-day holiday was declared. The Singapore landed just after 2:30 p.m.
1928 - The railway branch line between George and Knysna was completed.
1929 - Knysna High School was officially opened.
1929 - George William Cearn bought the uninhabited Steenbok Island from John Duthie (of Woodbourne). He had a dream of creating a new, affordable residential area where people could live, build homes, raise families, and retire in idyllic surroundings. He re-named the island as Leisure Isle and started work on his ambitious project. In 1935, Leisure Isle was declared a township, and 499 plots were offered for sale.
1929 - Idonea Maria (Imar) Foakes (daughter of Henry Barrington), wife of the Mayor, Commander Edward Lindsay Ashley Foakes, turned on the electricity for Knysna’s first 140 consumers as well as the 70 street lamps that were to light the town.
1929 - Now that there was running water, Knysna’s first septic tank was installed by Donald Fraser at the Royal Hotel.
1929 - Knysna’s first cinema, the Regal Theatre, was opened. It was situated at the corner of Long and Pitt Streets and could seat 650 people. The Regal Theatre remained in operation until the 1970s when it was closed down in preparation for the building of a small shopping complex.
1929 - The Knysna Publicity Association was formed after a public meeting. The Publicity Association was renamed as the Knysna Tourism Bureau in 1996 and, in 2015, renamed again to Knysna and Partners, before reverting to Knysna Tourism in 2017.
1929 - The town of Sedgefield was proclaimed in the Division of George.
1931 - German Pallottine Sisters were brought to Knysna to open a convent. The property, known as Melrose House, had been sold to Bishop Henneman in 1930 by Donald Fraser (it had previously been used as an annexe of the Royal Hotel). The school closed on in 1947.
1931 - HMS Verbena made her third visit to Knysna. The crew were due to give a variety show and, earlier that afternoon, a number of them went ashore to prepare and decorate the Town Hall. Bondi was the ship’s mascot, and, not wanting to stay behind, decided to follow the crew. However, it was a very hot day, and, sadly, the long walk from Thesen Jetty was too much for Bondi, and he collapsed and died. He was buried on the edge of the jetty. After that, whenever a Navy ship visited, a detail would be sent ashore to tend to the grave.
1932 - Whilst driving from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and having stayed overnight in Wilderness, George Bernard Shaw crashed his hired car near the Homtini Pass. His wife's injuries were such that she was unable to travel and so they stayed at the Royal Hotel in Knysna for five weeks whilst she recuperated. It was during this time that Shaw wrote the book of short stories The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God.
1932 - Herbet Stephen Henderson, originally from Glasgow and the first recipient of a Victoria Cross on Rhodesian soil, had a holiday home built for his family at Knoetzie. Legend has it that during the building Rex Metelerkamp (who had first introduced him to the area) jokingly said, “All you need to do is add a few turrets and you’ll have a castle.” Henderson did just that and built Pezula Castle (Pezula loosely translated as high-up with the gods in Shona).
1935 - the lychgate at the entrance of St George’s Churchyard was donated by the Thesen family in memory of Eliza Bessie Georgina Thesen.
1936 - George Fechter founded Fechters Furniture Manufacturers.
1939 - As a result of the Woodcutters Annuities Act No.11 of 1939, the surviving 272 woodcutters were de-registered. Those over the age of 65 or unfit to work were pensioned off. The rest were paid an annuity until they retired and were employed by the Forestry Department, mainly in the plantations. The forests were closed except for the cutting of dead or dying trees.
1940 - A power station was built on Thesen Island and was fuelled by the waste wood chips from Thesen’s sawmill. Enough electricity was generated by turbines to supply both Knysna and Plettenberg Bay until 1973 when the electricity was supplied by Eskom. The power station was shut down in 2001. It has now been incorporated into the Turbine Hotel & Spa, with many of the original parts restored and integrated into the building’s design.
1942 - To aid the war effort, Stephen Parkes and Maude Roos-Bolton instigated a fund to raise £5,000 to buy a Spitfire for the RAF. As well as simply donating money, there were many raffles to raise the required funds. These included one for a plot of land on Leisure Isle donated by George Cearn, and another for a Ford Ten motor car which had been bought by Stephen and Howard Parkes. The Spitfire no. ER834 was named Knysna. A picture and plaque hang in the Boardroom of Geo Parkes & Sons Ltd.
1943 - The South African government wanted more volunteers to help with the war effort. Thesen & Co. wanted to close part of its factory to free up some of the workforce. Instead, the Admiralty commissioned the company to use its expertise to build 640 craft, which ranged from small life boats and dinghies to the much larger Fairmile class submarine hunters. Whilst the first Fairmile was being constructed, the Boatshed on Thesen Island (now the Loft’s Boutique Hotel) was built around and over it. Ten wooden (to go undetected by radar) Fairmiles were eventually built.
1945 - During the war, 36 men from the Knysna area were killed in action..
1946 - Robert (Bobby) Veldtman, whilst walking along the river bank with his wife, discovered, what turned out to be, the overgrown remains of the 1826 slipway from which George Rex’s brig Knysna was originally launched. Seven stinkwood beams were recovered. P J Van Reenen were then commissioned to turn the beams into a set of boardroom furniture. The 15 chairs and triangular table are now used by the Knysna Municipality. The remnants of the slipway were used by Rowland Benn (cousin of Reuben Benn, the last full-time pilot) to make two models of the brig Knysna. One was given to the Municipality of East London (to commemorate the historic first trip to the Buffalo River). The other was presented to John Rex Metelerkamp (a direct descendant of George Rex) and can now be seen in the Maritime Museum.
1947 - During their three month visit of Southern Africa, the British Royal Family - King George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret - voyaged from Cape Town on HMS Vanguard along the coast of South Africa. After leaving Mossel Bay, HMS Vanguard was due to anchor off the Knysna Heads to allow some of Knysna's citizens to join the Royal Family for cocktails. Unfortunately, due to the heavy sea breaking on the bar, this was not possible, and all any of the hundreds of spectators who had gathered on the Eastern Head saw was HMS Vanguard steaming slowly past about a mile offshore.
1948 - The Knysna Oyster Co. Ltd was registered as a joint venture between Thesen & Co. and the Fisheries Development Corporation of South Africa. The South African Railways & Harbours leased the company four morgen of the estuary for breeding.
1950 - St Boniface’s Catholic Church in Queen Street was opened.
1951 - The 1st Knysna Sea Scouts were founded.
1952 - Brian Wiles opened the Wiles Gallery on Leisure Isle (where the Leisure Isle Service Station and Garage had been previously). The idea of the gallery was initially to display the artistic works of his father, WG Wiles, but it later included all the Wiles artists, Bernard and Frank (WG’s brothers), Brian and Paul (his sons) and their wives Lucy and Pat, and some of their children.
1953 - The Divisional Council started the ambulance service.
1954 - The boy’s hostel of the Knysna Industrial School was converted into a public hospital.
1954 - The port was effectively shut down (by Proclamation 220/1954). Control was removed from the South African Railways & Harbours, and Reuben Benn, the last pilot, moved to Durban.
1955 - The Knysna Lagoon Bridge (now known simply as the White Bridge) was opened to traffic.
1958 - Hendrik Johannes (Hentie) van Rooyen opened Hentie’s Botel, South Africa’s first hotel on stilts, on the edge of the Knysna estuary. It had taken Hentie six years just to get permission to build his hotel on water.
1959 - The Knysna Music Society was formed by Izak Burger. In the beginning, there were only two or three concerts a year, mainly by local artists. These were quite formal evenings (ladies wore long dresses). Now there are nine concerts a year, providing the best classical music played by some of the top artists, local, national, and international.
1959 - The Knysna Municipality assumed a coat of arms. The arms, divided into quarters, show a white horse's head, a fern leaf, a yellowwood tree, and an elephant's head. The crest is the brig Knysna in full sail. The motto CONCILIO ET PRUDENTIA means by counsel and by wisdom.
1960 - On his 80th birthday, John Rex Metelerkamp (a great-grandson of George Rex) became the first ever recipient of The Freedom of Knysna.
1961 - The Knysna Divisional Council assumed a coat of arms. The arms, divided into four sections by two diagonal lines, show a stinkwood tree and the brig Knysna. The crest is a Knysna Loerie. The motto PULCHRA TERRA DEI DONUM means this fair land is a gift from God.
1962 - The Rotary Club of Knysna was chartered before 124 Rotarians at the Beacon Island Hotel in Plettenberg Bay.
1963 - The first St George’s Church became the first building in Knysna to be declared a Historical Monument.
1963 - Woodcutter Korneels Janjies became the last known human to be killed by a Knysna elephant.
1964 - The passenger rail service between Knysna and George was withdrawn (mainly as a result of the increase in motor traffic along the new N2). A bus service was provided as an alternative, but passengers were still able to travel by train as a coach was added to the goods train for many years afterwards.
1969 - Nick Carter, a professional game warden, conducted a 12-month survey of the Knysna elephants on behalf of the Wild Life Protection and Conservation Society of Southern Africa. The survey report, which was published in 1970, established that there were at least 10 elephants (but probably not more) still roaming the forests.
1969 - NSRI Station 12 was established in Knysna.
1969 - Rosalind Ballingall, a 20-year old drama student at the University of Cape Town, travelled with two friends to spend the weekend at the Sugar House (a local hippie hangout) in Fisantehoek. It was said that she was a member of the Cosmic Butterflies hippie cult and that she spent that evening at a drugs party. The following morning, Rosalind, apparently carrying a bible, went for a walk into the Knysna forest, and that was the last anyone saw of her.
1969 - Controversially, it was resolved that Ladies could become full members of Knysna Yacht Club.
1970 - Knysna’s first veterinary practice, the Knysna Veterinary Clinic, was opened by Dr Andre Reitz.
1971 - To celebrate its centenary, Thesen & Co. decided to build a yacht and enter it in the first Cape-to-Rio South Atlantic Yacht Race. At 01:38 local time, Albatros II became the eighth yacht to cross the finishing line. Her corrected time on handicap, meant that Albatros II was the overall winner, more than 5 hours ahead of the next yacht. The trophies can be viewed in the Maritime Museum.
1971 - After complaints of damage caused by the rogue bull elephant known as Aftand, the District Forest Officer for Indigenous Forests gave permission for the elephant to be killed. This was to be done in secret so as not to upset the Wildlife Society who were campaigning for the Forestry Department to take on the responsibility for the conservation of the remaining elephants.
1971 - Theo Klein, a 50-year old German tourist, became the first recorded fatality of a shark attack whilst swimming at Buffalo Bay.
1972 - Hentie’s Botel was sold in 1964 and changed hands a few times before the last owner, Jacobus van As, set fire to it. Van As was jailed and also had to return the insurance payout.
1972 - The Millwood House Museum was officially opened.
1974 - The Knysna Lions Club was chartered. The Lions Den is in Trotter Street.
1974 - Thesen & Co. was sold to South African company Barlow Rand Ltd (now Barloworld).
1974 - A larger hospital was built on the same site as the public hospital. 59 patients were transferred from the old building to the current Knysna Provincial Hospital.
1975 - Ron Etter, a retired Mechanical Engineer who had moved from Johannesburg, formed the Knysna Society of Model Engineers.. The miniature railway has since been rebuilt at Totties Farm Kitchen in Rheenendal.
1975 - The Loerie Park Sports Complex was established.
1976 - NSRI Station 12’s most famous rescue craft was the 8-metre wooden Alex Blaikie. She was built in the Thesen’s Boatyard and was in service until 2008. During that time, she had a direct hand in the saving of 74 lives. The boat is now displayed in the Alex Blaikie Museum at Thesen Harbour Town.
1982 - To celebrate the Centenary of the Knysna Municipality, the Rotary Club of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay published a Commemorative Envelope. A limited number (25) were also signed by the Mayor and the President of the Rotary Club.
1982 - Sinclair Nature Reserve, the 1,900 hectares on the east bank of the Noetzie River, was gazetted as a Forest Nature Reserve.
1983 - the skeleton of a bull elephant was discovered by fern-harvesters in the Harkerville Forest near the Garden of Eden. Although the skull had some old bullet wounds, it was believed to have died of old age some years previously. The skeleton was restored and mounted and originally displayed in the front window of the Knysna Publicity Association’s office. The skeleton was then relocated to the SANParks office in the Royal Hotel complex and can now be found in the Forest Legends Museum in Diepwalle.
1983 - Lex Mitchell opened South Africa’s first commercial microbrewery in Thesen House in Knysna. Mitchell’s first craft beer was Forester’s Lager, followed by Bosun’s Bitter. The beers were completely natural, made with 100% barley, water, hops, yeast, and contained no artificial preservatives or chemicals. They could be bought in litre plastic bottles.
1984 - For the Christmas season, a new tourist steam train journey was introduced between Mossel Bay and Knysna. Tootsie made its first journey full of VIPs, including Prime Minister Pieter Willem Botha, who boarded the train at Wilderness station.
1984 - The inaugural meeting of the Knysna Marathon Club was held. One of the founding members and the first Chairman was Malcolm Spence, a former South African and World 400m record holder (and 1960 Olympic bronze medallist).
1984 - The first edition of the Knysna-Plett Herald was published.
1984 - The Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, opened the first Knysna Winter Festival (since renamed as the Knysna Oyster Festival). After sponsorship in 1991 from the Knysna Oyster Company, the Winter Festival was renamed as the Knysna Oyster Sports Festival. Today, branded the 10 Best Days of Winter, the annual Knysna Oyster Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the town.
1984 - South African author Dalene Matthee published the award winning Kringe in 'n bos (Circles in a Forest), the first of her four forest novels based on the Knysna forests. The others being Fiela se kind (Fiela’s Child) in 1985, Moerbeibos (The Mulberry Forest) in 1987, and Droombos (Dreamforest) in 2003.
1985 - Timber Village in Welbedacht started life as Belvidere Timbers (at that time, mainly just the sale of timber). It was bought in 2000 by Alistair (Jock) McConnachie and, over the years, became known for the manufacture and retail of custom-made indigenous hardwood furniture.
1985 - Featherbed Nature Reserve was proclaimed as a private Nature Reserve.
1985 - Due to their involvement with the Winter Festival, the Freedom of Entry into Knysna was conferred upon the South African Navy.
1985 - The Knysna Canoe Club was formed by Hubby Sandberg.
1988 - The Knysna Sedgefield Hospice was formed by Sue Brukman, a nurse from Sedgefield, and Joan Louwrens, a local doctor.
1986 - Julie Gosling and Hanlie van Niekerk started Action Ads, "a weekly community knock-and-drop paper...".
1989 - Gerhard Beyleveld, who had previously farmed sugarcane, sheep, chickens, and hops, bought a part of the original Leeuwenbosch Farm. With a single cow called Amen, he started Leeuwenbosch Dairy Products.
1989 - The Training Ship Knysna (Naval Cadet unit) was established.
1990 - Due to the increased demand from tourism, South African Railways & Harbours (which became Transnet in 1990) provided special steam train excursions (which became known as the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe).
1990 - Woodmill Lane Shopping Centre was officially opened. The shopping complex was built on the derelict site of the old Geo Parkes & Sons sawmill.
1991 - Hubby Sandberg formed the Knysna Racing Paddles company, to supply paddles to the local canoeists. Now known as Knysna Racing, the company’s kayaks, surfskis, canoes, paddles, and accessories are supplied to many of the world’s top paddlers.
1991 - The 10-hectare Pledge Nature Reserve was declared a Local Nature Reserve.
1992 - The independent Oakhill School was formed by a group of parents who wanted a unique, all-round education for their children.
1993 - The Knysna Municipality granted requests from the local Rastafari for their own area to live in. Judah Square was established in a small valley in the Khayalethu township. The House of Judah was registered as a co-operative for those that lived there under the name of One Love Rastafari Tourism & Projects.
Each year the community hosts the Rastafari Earth Festival to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Haile Selassie I and the Day of Emancipation (when slavery was abolished).
1993 - The Knysna Education Trust was formed, to provide services and support to informal care groups, and crèches in previously disadvantaged communities along the Garden Route from Sedgefield to Plettenberg Bay.
1993 - The Old Gaol Museum Complex was officially opened.
1993 - The Knysna Angling Museum (the only one in South Africa) was officially opened.
1994 - Lisette and Ian Withers founded the Knysna Elephant Park. It was the first facility in South Africa to house and care for orphaned African elephants. The first two elephant calves, Harry and Sally (named after the film), were rescued from a cull in the Kruger National Park.
1995 - The Knysna Basin Project was initiated by Professor Brian Allanson, to research and monitor the ecological health of the Knysna Estuary.
1997 - Steenbok Nature Park, which used to be the site of an airstrip and then a 9-hole golf course, was established. Steenbok Park and Kingfisher Creek, on the northern shore of Leisure Isle, now form the 17-hectare (42-acre) Steenbok Nature Reserve.
1997 - The Knysna Waterfront opened as part of the Knysna Quays Marina Development.
1997 - The Knysna Seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) was featured on limited edition coins produced by the South African Mint Company. 3,000 sterling silver R2 coins and 5,000 sterling silver 2½c (Tickey) coins were produced.
1998 - A helicopter crashed into the ocean near the beach at Noetzie due to losing its rear rotor. On board was renowned photographer Gerald Hoberman who was doing a shoot of the Heads and the Noetzie castles for a book on South Africa.
1998 - The Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve came into being after the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism had expropriated the land from developers.
1998 - The first edition of CXpress, a free community newspaper, was published.
1998 - Bomber and Kelly Webb bought the Sedgefield Advertiser & Wilderness Ways (which was mainly just ten pages of local advertisements). After a competition to find a new name, the first edition of the new local community newspaper, The EDGE, was printed.
1999 - Noetzie was registered as a Conservancy by Cape Nature Conservation (now just Cape Nature).
1999 - McDonalds S.A. bought 51 Main Street (at the time Knysna Cars and BP Service Station). The fast-food outlet was not very well supported by the local people and, in 2002, McDonalds closed down.
1999 - The Wild Oats Community Farmers’ Market in Sedgefield was started by local residents Rose Brettel and Susan Garner.
2000 - The Knysna Seahorse (Hippocampus capensis) became the first seahorse species to be classified by the IUCN Red List as Endangered. The Knysna Seahorse is the only known estuarine seahorse and can only be found in three locations in the world: Knysna, Swartvlei, and Keurbooms estuaries.
2000 - Sparrebosch Golf Course (now known as the Pezula Championship Golf Course) was officially opened.
2000 - The current Knysna Municipality was established in terms of Section 12 of the Municipal Structures Act, 117 of 1998.
2000 - Local historian Margaret Parkes received the Cape Tercentenary Foundation’s Molteno Medal for her lifetime of services to conservation (for the preservation of the history of Knysna).
2001 - Knysna was voted South Africa’s favourite town in a competition run by the petroleum company Engen.
2001 - The weekly Friday Market, held in the grounds of the Montessori School, was established as the school’s main fundraiser.
2001 - Initially started by local businessmen to entice tourists to the town during the quiet month of May, Knysna’s first Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival™ was launched.
2001 - The Knysna University of the Third Age (U3A) was formed.
2002 - One of the world’s rarest whales, a True’s Beaked Whale, washed up on a beach near Knysna. A cast was made, and a replica is now displayed outside Ocean Odyssey.
2002 - The Knysna Yacht Company (the world’s finest boutique yacht builders) was founded.
2002 - The Friends of the Museum society proposed to change its name to the Knysna Historical Society.
2003 - Thandi became the first elephant to be born at the Knysna Elephant Park.
2003 - The Featherbed Co. introduced their newest boat, the Paddle Cruiser.
2003 - The Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve was proclaimed as South Africa’s first and only Special Nature Reserve (the highest category of protection).
2003 - Howard James (Jim) Parkes (Managing Director of Geo Parkes & Sons) was awarded The South African Cadet Corps’ Diamond Commendation: “in recognition of Special Interest in and Outstanding Support of The Cadets and Officers of the Sea Cadet Corps”.
2003 - The first annual Leisure Isle Festival was held. It has grown to such an extent that it is now second only to the Knysna Oyster Festival in terms of monies raised for local charities.
2005 - Professor Vic Cockcroft, a well-known and respected marine biologist, established Ocean Odyssey, Knysna’s only close encounter whale and dolphin watching permit holder.
2005 - Jack Nicklaus opened his second signature golf course in South Africa at the Simola Golf & Country Estate
2005 - The Rotary Mileage Pole (although the distances are in kilometres) at the Waterfront was unveiled, to commemorate the global Rotary Centennial.
2006 - During excavation work at Noetzie Castle, the skeleton of a teenage boy was discovered. Radiocarbon dating indicated that the boy died around 2150 BC. A second skeleton was found nearby. This was of a middle-aged woman who had died around 1400 BC.
2006 - The Knysna Mall, offering more than 60 upmarket stores, restaurants and specialist outlets, spread throughout the multi-storey centre, was opened. It was the first building in Knysna to have an escalator.
2008 - A memorial to Dalene Matthee was erected, and an 800+ year old yellowwood was named after her (the Dalene Matthee Big Tree). The hiking trail was also renamed to the Circles in a Forest Trail.
2008 - 22-year-old Harry (from the Knysna Elephant Park) made history as the first elephant to be used in the wine-making industry, crushing the grapes for Boplaas Wine Cellar’s limited edition Elephant Rosé.
2008 - The Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, the world’s only scheduled passenger steam train, which carried around 115,000 passengers a year, ceased operating between Knysna and George. The railway line was closed after heavy rains and flooding caused, amongst other damage, a landslide at Dolphins Point on the Kaaimans Pass and the erosion of earth abutments either side of the bridge at the Swartvlei River, which left some of the track just hanging in the air.
2008 - The American multi-award winning playwright and director Terence Shank opened the Knysna Playhouse.
2008 - Knysna already had a group of informal pipers when a group of four decided to form the Knysna Pipe Band. As the band grew, with piping enthusiasts from other areas, the name was changed to the Knysna & Districts Pipe Band.
2009 - Founded by Knysna residents Ian Shrosbree, Francis Cusens, and Chick Ramsey, the first Knysna Hillclimb, up the Old Cape Road to Simola, took place with around 1,500 spectators in attendance.
2009 - The Knysna Historical Society commenced its Heritage Plaque project (historical markers on buildings and landmarks throughout Knysna). It is now part of the Open Plaques project.
2009 - The African Elephant Research Unit (AERU) was established at the Knysna Elephant Park, becoming the first elephant research unit dedicated to optimizing the welfare of captive elephants in South Africa.
2009 - The Garden Route National Park was proclaimed. Under the control of SANParks, it included the Knysna National Lake Area and 41,538 hectares of state owned land that had been under the control of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.
2010 - Kenyan artist Davina Dobie became the first known person to water ski naked through the Heads. She did it to celebrate her 69th exit and re-entry through the Knysna Heads.
2010 - Founded by Ling Dobson (of Pam Golding Properties Knysna), the first annual Knysna Literary Festival took place.
2010 - In his autobiography, Conversations with Myself, former South African President, Nelson Mandela wrote: "Ja, Knysna ... I sincerely thought that if God came back to earth he would settle there, you know?"
2010 - The FIFA World Cup was hosted by South Africa, and two of the competing nations made their base camps in Knysna: Denmark stayed at Simola Golf & Country Estate and used Loerie Park as their training ground - France stayed at Pezula Resort & Spa.
2010 - As a result of efforts by local businessman André Gauché, Sedgefield became Africa’s first (and only) Cittaslow (Slow Town).
2010 - The first annual Sedgefield Slow Festival was held.
2010 - Six people were charged with drug smuggling when police found 1,716kg (1.7 tons) of pure cocaine aboard the Toledo fishing boat moored at the Knysna Waterfront. The cocaine had an estimated street value of R2 billion.
2011 - Four years after the initial application was made, Knysna received a Low Power Transmission Commercial Sound Broadcasting Licence to operate a radio station (Knysna 97.0FM) from the Woodmill Lane Shopping Centre.
2011 - The Forest Legends Museum at Diepwalle was opened. As well as housing the skeleton of the elephant found in 1983, it also records the history of the elephants, the woodcutters, and the forests.
2011 - The national census recorded the total population of the Knysna Municipality as 68,659 and that of the town of Knysna as 51,078 (74% of the Municipality total).
2011 - Knysna Canoe Club chairperson, Michèle Eray, became the Oceanpaddler World Series women’s champion.
2012 - Knysna’s last cinema, the Knysna Movie House in Pledge Square, closed down.
2012 - The first Oakhill Waterfront Chukka Festivals took place. They now attract up to 1,000 participants annually, and are the only school water polo events in Africa (if not the world) that take place in open water.
2012 - The beaches at Brenton on Sea and Buffalo Bay were both awarded Blue Flag status for the season starting 1st November.
2012 - The first Knysna Rotary Lagoon SPLASH Festival was held to help raise funds for charity. Over the years, different events have been included, e.g., Mud Run, Canoe Races, Dragon Boat Races, but recently the festival has consisted of the Lagoon Mile Swim and the Quack Attack Duck Race.
2013 - At the annual Black Jar Honey contest hosted by the Center for Honeybee Research in Asheville, North Carolina, USA, Hart’s Honey won the award for the World's Best Tasting Honey. Produced by Belvidere beekeeper Eddie Hart, Hart’s Honey beat hundreds of entries from all over the world.
2013 - Michèle Eray won the inaugural International Canoe Federation (ICF) Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in Vila Do Conde, Portugal.
2014 - Knysna Yacht Club hosted the RS Tera World Championships (for sailors aged between 8 and 18) at Pine Lake Marina, Swartvlei.
2014 - Visionary artist and passionate environmentalist, Charl Frank's attempt to create the world's largest underwater sculpture was successfully completed when professional divers, a team of SANParks rangers, and willing volunteers lifted the sculpture of a Knysna Seahorse out of the Turbine Hotel's swimming pool.
2014 - Knysna (the Knysna Estuary and Goukamma Lagoon) was proclaimed an International Hope Spot (an internationally proclaimed Marine Environment and Estuary Conservation Area) by legendary oceanographer and Mission Blue's founder, Dr Sylvia Earle, at a special event at the Turbine Hotel. The Knysna Hope Spot includes the Knysna Estuary, marine coastline, and offshore waters from Buffalo Bay to Sparrebosch and is the world's only estuarine Hope Spot.
2015 - Whilst playing on a Knysna beach in 2015, 11-year-old Ben Ingel found what he believed was a dinosaur tooth embedded in a small crumbling rock. He showed it to his family, but no one believed it was real. Experts confirmed that the tooth did indeed belong to a massive meat-eating, 800-1,000 kg dinosaur, probably belonging to the Allosaurus family, and was around 120-140 million years old (which was the Cretaceous period just before dinosaurs became extinct).
2015 - Initiated by local veteran runner Kenny Wilson, the first Knysna parkrun took place.
2015 - Knysna hosted the 7th Mr Gay World (after Cape Town pulled out as co-hosts), with the Grand Finale taking place during the town’s annual Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival.
2016 - The 16th Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival hosted the first-ever mass same-sex wedding in Africa when 15 couples tied the knot at Villa Castollini.
2016 - Expedition Africa, the 4th race of the Adventure Racing World Series, was held in the Knysna area. 54 teams from 19 countries competed. The 500-kilometre event started with a paddle across the Knysna estuary. The race was won by a local team, Featherbed Painted Wolf, which consisted of Darren Berry, Jeannie Bomford, John Collins, and Mike Collins.
2016 - Dr Charles Helm, with his wife, Linda, and fellow explorer, Guy Thesen, discovered 40 tracks in fossilised rock in a cave on the shoreline near Buffalo Bay. Experts have determined that they were probably made by Homo sapiens approximately 90,000 years ago.
2017 - Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics, written by Catherine Barnhoorn, was awarded the prestigious Gourmand Best in the World Cookbook Award in the First Book category at the ceremony held in Yantai in China.
2017 - Two main fires and a number of spot fires, known collectively as the Knysna Fire, devastated Knysna and the surrounding area. The fires jumped the N2 on both sides of Knysna, cutting off access in and out of town, jumped the Knysna River, and spread along the ridges of both Heads and the Knysna Heights areas to form almost a complete circle of fire around the town. Over 8,000 Knysna residents were evacuated from their homes as well as patients in the Provincial Hospital. Residents in Belvidere were ferried across the estuary, and those in Brenton rescued by a convoy of 4x4s along the beach to Buffalo Bay. The Knysna Fire was the first Type 1 Incident declared in South Africa and resulted in the biggest disaster mobilisation in South Africa's history. Unfortunately, the fires claimed the lives of eight people (plus an unborn baby). Over 1,000 properties were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged.
2017 - The Landmark Foundation’s Leopard and Predator project was started in 2014. For 18 months, camera traps were spread across the Western and Eastern Cape. On a number of occasions, an elephant was photographed. However, it turned out to be the same old cow elephant in each picture, leading to the conclusion that, once again, there was only one Knysna elephant left.
2017 - Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters was crowned Miss Universe at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
2018 - Mitchell's production was moved to the Devil’s Peak brewing facility just outside Cape Town, and in 2019, the Tap Room was also closed.
2018 - Brunch Across 11 Countries: Recipes of a Private Chef, written by Knysna chef Alix Verrips, won a Gourmand Best in the World Cookbook Award in the Breakfast Book category.
2018 - Senzeni Zokwana (Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), dedicated the Knysna and Tsitsikamma Forests as South Africa’s contribution to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project.
2018 - A number of memorials for the Knysna Fire were unveiled:
A memorial sculpture for the Knysna Fire was unveiled in front of the municipal offices in Queen Street.
The Wall of Remembrance at Timber Village was unveiled during the annual Timber Festival.
The Reflection Seed Pod in Steenbok Nature Reserve on Leisure Isle was officially opened. The two benches and nine husks each symbolise a specific aspect of remembrance, reflection, or gratitude.
2018 - Knysna hosted the 10th Mr Gay World.
2018 - Rion, Kay, and Bob Merryweather launched their craft Knysna Gin Distillery.
2019 - Another elephant survey, led by SANParks scientist Lizette Moolman, was carried out from July 2016 to October 2017. When the report, And Then There was One: A Camera Trap Survey of the Declining Population of African Elephants in Knysna, South Africa, was released, SANParks again stated that there was only the one Knysna elephant remaining.
2019 - Knysna Gin won a silver medal at the annual International Wine & Spirit Competition in London with 91 points (out of 100).
2019 - Gareth Patterson released Beyond the Secret Elephants, his follow-up book to The Secret Elephants. In this new book, Patterson wrote not only about the Knysna elephants but also about his research and the numerous encounters (both his own and those of other people) of mysterious, hairy, bipedal, human-like, forest creatures (relict hominoids), known locally as Otang.
2019 - William Charlton-Perkins, Clinton Marius, and Riaan Timson, all from Copy Dog (a multi award winning public relations and production company specialising in the performing arts), moved to Knysna and opened the Knysna Theatre.
2019 - Warrick Gelant became a World Cup winner when South Africa beat England in the final of the 9th Rugby World Cup in Japan. Gelant played twice during the competition and scored two tries.
2020 - During the annual Knysna Timber Festival, held at Timber Village, a new world record was successfully completed. The world record was set when 48 Chainsaw Operators started their machines and cut 200mm+ logs simultaneously.
2020 - The first reported positive cases of COVID-19 in Knysna were a couple who had returned from a trip to Switzerland and Austria in March. By the end of the year, 4,199 people had tested positive, of which 86% had recovered. Unfortunately, 124 people had died.
As at 11th May 2021, 4,903 people had tested positive, of which 96% had recovered, but 159 had died.
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