Caledon’s History: From Struggling Farming Community to Cape Colony Breadbasket

Posted by The Cape Country Meander on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 with No comments
Driving along the N2 national route through the Caledon district in summer, you can’t help but notice carpets of wheat, barley and canola. Caledon is well known as an agricultural region, mainly grain production and some stock farming. It’s also where you’ll find the mineral-rich springs, first discovered by the Khoi-Khoi, the area’s original human inhabitants.

Bath behind the mountain

Caledon wasn’t always a prosperous agricultural region. In fact it started as a cattle post. At one point it was known as Bad Agter de Berg (Dutch for Bath Behind the Mountain). A bathhouse was built in 1797 and a village called Swartberg sprang up. Formally proclaimed in 1813, the village was renamed Caledon after the 2nd Earl of Caledon. He was one of the earliest British Governors of the Cape (1806-1811), after the Cape Colony changed over from Dutch to British rule.

Agricultural revolution

Caledon developed sluggishly and served a struggling farming community. Water in the village was scarce and its limited sources came from the natural mineral springs and the Drinkwaterskloof in the Swartberg Mountains. In time, Caledon and much of the Overberg region converted to more lucrative Merino sheep farming. Soon it was one of the most successful farming districts in the Cape Colony. In fact, owing to the growing wool exports and significant agricultural growth Caledon doubled in size between 1840 and 1860. It had also become a critical grain supplier to the rest of the Colony.

Caledon Today

Home to Southern Associated Malsters, nowadays Caledon is the South African beer industry’s largest barley producer and provides many job opportunities for locals. As for natural mineral springs, you’ll need to come to the Caledon Casino Hotel & Spa, which incorporates the mineral baths, without which Caledon might never have existed in the first place.