INFO ON OUR TASTING ROOM
We are open every Saturday 10:00 – 15:00 or by appointment during the week.
For more information please contact us at 021 880 1398 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swellendam Tourism: www.swellendamtourism.co.za
HISTORY OF THE AREA
Extract from the book “The Overberg, Inland from the tip of Africa”
Bejamin Moodie initially built a store and set up the shipping route between Port Beaufort and Cape Town, but the farmers of the area were wary because of the economic risk involved. Goods lost at sea were their financial responsibility and it wasn’t a chance many of them were prepared to take.
In 1822 the people of the Swellendam district were left destitute by drought and blight, and the government undertook to supply them with rice and grain to tide them over. When the authorities in Cape Town called for transport tenders, the entrepreneur Joseph Barry confounded his competitors by chartering a boat as far as Port Beaufort, and then transporting the food by horse and cart from there to Swellendam. He also took along other much-needed goods, which settlers in the area quickly snapped up. Barry soon found an untapped market and his business began to flourish. In 1823 he opened a small trading store in Port Beaufort and started transporting grain and wool from the area back to the Cape. He began buying produce from the farmers – which he then exported himself – and also had the government contract to deliver the mail to the area.
For a time, there seemed no stopping this innovative businessman and his partners and they put up buildings at Port Beaufort and Swellendam to manage the goods they handled. Because the Barrys were related to the big sheep farmers of the area, the also needed to find a quick way of exporting the wool that was being grown in the area and so, 35km up the river at Malgas, they built warehouses, a wool store, a hotel and canteen. There was even a church and a pont.
Central to their success was the Kadie, the steamer Barry & Nephews had especially built to cope with the hazards of the Breede River. This little port was inaccessible to bigger steamers and so the Kadie’s fate and the history of Malgas and Port Beaufort are integrally interwoven. When the Kadie ran aground on a sandbar in the Breede River in 1865, it was one of the two bruising blows in that year for the Barry empire – the other being a fire that had swept though their stores in Swellendam. The loss of the Kadie didn’t only have serious consequences for the Barrys, but also had a profound effect on the whole area.
The Cape Argus reported at the time: “The brave little Kadie has at last laid her bones on the South African shores. We have been so accustomed to see the plucky little craft with her red cutwater come in and out of the bay, that it is difficult to believe that she will not appear again. “
Over the years, the roads inland had improved enormously and the desperate need for sea travel as a way of accessing the outside world had gradually fallen away. But, sadly, when Barry & Nephews crumbled, the company still took the fortunes of many Overberg farmers with it.
Although Port Beaufort only flourished as a port until the late 1860s when the Barry empire tragically collapsed, today it is a great place to escape on holiday. The mouth of the Breede River is South Africa’s richest fishing estuary and the area also offers people exceptional watching and birding opportunities. The old customs house is now an inn and the Barry Church, which was completed by Thomas Barry in 1849, is a National Monument.