VAN PLETTENBERG’S BEACON IN THE KAROO
Dr Roger Stewart, businessman & historian
In 1788 Governor Joachim Van Plettenberg erected a small, engraved stone on the banks of the Seekoei River, near Colesberg in the Karoo. The stone was a memorial in honour of the governor at his hunting camp, where more than twenty hippopotamuses were shot. The site was the northern-eastern terminus of his journey with Colonel Robert Gordon to the frontier of the Cape Colony. The stone memorial became a difficult-to-see, much mapped beacon along a temporary colonial boundary. It was a symbol of resistance by the indigenous inhabitants to colonial encroachment – arguably the oldest such relic. In 1892 local farmers found most of the fragments of the now partly destroyed beacon and, in 1905, sent the fragments to the Cape Town Museum by train. These were recently displayed at the British Museum. The historically important site of the beacon’s original position has a National monument’s plaque but has yet to be proclaimed a provincial heritage site.
Stewart, R. ‘n Nederlandse reliek in die Suid-Afrikaanse bodem: van Plettenberg se Baken in die Karoo (A Netherlands’ relic in the South African interior: Van Plettenberg’s Beacon in the Karoo. Published in the Netherlands, in Afrikaans, summary in English). Caert Thresoor 2012, 31 (1), 16–22.