Matjiesfontein

Passengers aboard the African rail tour disembark the train and find themselves swept away into yesteryear as they step into the picturesque village of Matjiesfontein. Taking visitors on a visual journey to a bygone era long forgotten, 100 years later Matjiesfontein remains a perfectly preserved Victorian railway village and a National Monument.

A little history

On an unassuming day in 1890, James Logan, an official of the Cape Government Railways, arrived in Matjiesfontein to recuperate from the chest problems that ailed him. After deciding to settle in the town that so benefitted his health, James bought a farm and with the help of his wife, built a grand house and began to plant a tapestry of trees and wheat. Prosperous and by now a fairly wealthy landowner, Logan set up a small refreshment hotel and rest-stop for the passengers of the Cape Government Railways, providing weary travellers with warm hospitality and the town of Matjiesfontein with a lasting legacy that still stands today.     
 
The town

The legendary railway line and Victorian station building lie parallel to the main street, along which visitors can spot a variety of ornate buildings unified by a common wall inset and illuminated by a sweeping series of archetypal London cast-iron streetlamps. While quite unlike the luxury train accommodation aboard Rovos Rail, the unique charm and rare Victorian authenticity of the village both enchant and intrigue visitors from all corners of the globe.   
 
Stroll the atmospheric streets and keep an eye open for classic buildings such as the old courthouse which dates back to 1879 and features the Royal cypher ‘VR’ embellishment. Alongside the courthouse stands a Cape Gothic church and various examples of typically Victorian and traditional Cape Karoo architecture.

Steeped in history and political unrest, the graceful Lord Milner Hotel is named after the much-disliked British imperialist, Lord Milner. Following the declaration of the South African Anglo Boer War in 1899, Matjiesfontein went on to become the headquarters of the Cape Command, hosting an incredible 12, 000 British soldiers. The Lord Milner Hotel itself operated as a military hospital; its famed turret functioning as a lookout point.
 
Famous residents

Apart from the ghost of ‘Tommy’ , a wounded British soldier, who has been said to visit the town on occasions, Matjiesfontein’s most famous resident was writer and feminist, Olive Schreiner whose novel, Story of an African Farm, was set in the Karoo. Like the town’s first resident, James Logan, Olive Schreiner came to Matjiesfontein to find relief from her asthma, and it is here, in this gem of a town, that she introduced her advanced and at the time, controversial views on social injustice and feminism.