Barkly West is 36km northwest of
As you approach the solid dolomite bridge traverses
the Vaal River, conveying you into the town.
early human history includes prehistoric
man, followed by iron age people and
then the Koranna tribesmen.
European Missionaries from the Berlin Society
founded a station here in 1849 and named it Pniel,
meaning the "Face of God" (one of their most famous
students was Sol Plaatje, who was a pupil in the
1880s and then a pupil/teacher in the 1890s. He went
on to be the first General Secretary of the African
This tranquil life was shattered in 1869
when prospectors discovered diamonds at Canteen
Koppie and in the Vaal
River gravel. A wave of diggers arrived and set
up camp at a settlement called Klipdrift. A turbulent clash over ownership
of this land commenced until Sir Henry
Barkly, the Governor of the Cape Colony, visited
the diggings in December 1870 and
established order. The camp was thereafter
known as Barkly West.
Another famous name associated with Barkly West
is Cecil John Rhodes who, in 1880, entered the Cape House of
Assembly as the member of parliament for the newly
created constituency of Barkly West,
a role which he kept until his death in 1902.
Barkly West still retains its prospecting town
atmosphere and diggers continue to come here every
year to search for diamonds.
In 1885 the first steel bridge to cross
the Vaal River was built at Barkly West using steel
girders imported from England. It can
still be seen today and the original Tollhouse has been restored to form a museum which
displays unique collection of geological,
archaeological and historical relics.
Canteen Koppie is now a nature reserve
with an important archaeological site where
fossil remains of extinct animal species and
numerous stone-age implements have been
Other places of interest include St
Mary's Anglican Church, built in 1871 and
the first church to be built on the diamond
fields. The old stone bridge across the Vaal
are also worth a visit.
Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavements, scoured from
lava rocks by slow-moving glaciers, exhibit
early bushmen rock engravings from 1,500 years ago.
There are three sections
of glaciated pavement with over 250
and Khoe rock engravings, including
geometric motifs, eland, giraffe, human
figures and rhinoceros.