Help to preserve the history of Plettenberg Bay 

Timber Shed a part of history in Plett
Published: October 21st, 2021
by Lesley Mallows

Help the local historical society to preserve the history of Plettenberg Bay

The Van Plettenberg Historical Society is appealing to the Plett community to contact them at info@pletthistory.org.

They are keen to receive anecdotes and digital photographs for inclusion and preservation on their website and will gladly arrange to scan your photographs, maps and anecdotes for this purpose. The website is frequently accessed and we receive and respond to a steady flow of requests for information about Plett.

Many people in Plett are unaware of the existence of the Van Plettenberg Historical Society and the important role it’s played in exploring and preserving the history of Plettenberg Bay.  It was established over 40 years ago in 1980 by a group of interested residents. The commitment of the members of the society, and formalised in the constitution, includes: the collection and collation of information about Plett and the area; collection and preservation of documents; preservation of buildings and artefacts of historical interest; distribution to the wider public of the information and knowledge gathered; and identification of places of interest by means of plaques.

Patricia Storrar was writing her wonderful books at the time and addressed the society in its early days, as did Margaret Parks, the Duminy family, the Jerling family and many others.

A non-profit organization, the Van Plettenberg Historical Society has hosted some 200 talks over the last 40 years. Subjects have ranged from the local history, and pre-history, from the last Ice Age to the comparatively recent past and include historical events with links to South Africa, which took place further afield.  

The society is still in existence.

For a small annual subscription that covers administration, members receive notification of forthcoming talks. Our talks are open to members, their guests and the wider public with a modest entrance fee to cover the hiring of a venue and sound equipment. Talks are held in various locations in Plettenberg Bay.

A few of the recent topics covered are listed below and can be read on our website, www.pletthistory.org.

  • Palaeontology, Pinnacle point and hunter gatherer archeology : Professor Curtis Marean
  • The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi: Brenda Shepherd.
  • The mysterious disappearance of Rosiland Ballingall: Paul Scheepers
  • The fishing industry of Plettenberg Bay: Karin Kastern
  • Guy Butler – South African poet, academic and playwright: David Butler
  • The failed silkworm industry of Gouna: Rayno Sciocatti
  • Who planted the beacon on Beacon Island: Andrew Duminy
  • New ideas about old caves: Prof Judith Sealey
  • Approaches to preservation of the Timber Shed:  Len Raymond
  • Conservation of our Tsitsikamma Rivers: Geoff McIlleron
  • Fisticuffs – a short history of the boxing glove: Dr Clive Noble
  • Sophy Gray – remarkable self-taught 19th century architect and wife of Bishop Robert Gray .

She designed and supervised the building of a number of stone churches throughout the Cape and surrounding areas including St Peters in Plettenberg Bay: Natie de Swardt.

In addition to holding these talks, the Historical Society has been directly involved in the preservation of the Timber Shed, the Harker graves and the navigation beacons. They were directly involved in the saving of the buildings which now house The Old House Shop and Nguni Restaurant. The old Post Office remains in its original position and The Old Rectory was transformed into a beautiful boutique hotel whilst retaining many of the original features of one of our oldest buildings.

The society erected a series of display cabinets along Main Road containing historical photographs of Plettenberg Bay. Unfortunately only a few remain. Though empty plinths remain in place, several of the display boxes have unfortunately been vandalised and destroyed.

More recently, in collaboration with Rotary, the society undertook an ambitious project to identify our historical sites by means of informative plaques. Unfortunately, the printing material selected is not withstanding our climate and we need to revisit this project and upgrade our plaques.

There are many people in Plett with a wealth of local knowledge, photographs and anecdotes about the history and development of our beautiful town. Sadly time passes and without a concerted effort, these stories and resources will be lost to future generations.

The Van Plettenberg Historical Society wishes to embark on a very ambitious project to digitally capture as much material as possible and store this precious archive on our website. Please help them preserve this valuable archive by emailing info@pletthistory.org. We would welcome assistance from volunteers and interested parties.

Should you wish to become a member of our society,  our annual subscription remains at  R100 per person per annum. For further information please email info@pletthistory.org.

Banking details:

Bank: FNB Plettenberg Bay
Account name: VPHS Cur Biz Ac
Account number: 62487292262
Branch code: 210514
Ref:  your name