Norval’s Pont, Northern Cape

Plonk a Scotsman in the middle of the Karoo and he’ll turn his hand to almost anything.

Here’s John Norval in the mid-1800s, fresh from Glasgow and presently residing in the frontier town of Colesberg.

What’s Colesberg got a lot of, thinks John. Tortoises, comes the answer from somewhere. And what are fancy ladies’ combs best made from? You guessed it.

So John Norval begins collecting tortoises and, luckily for the local padloper population, no one in the rough ’n ready settlement really cares for a tortoise shell comb.

What do folks around here really need, thinks John. Again, the Universe or at least someone in the bar obliges: hats. To protect the head from the Karoo sun.

John Norval proceeds to make some of the finest woollen hats South Africa has ever seen. Even buys a farm on the Orange River and sheep for a constant supply of wool.

But he doesn’t stop there. Norval gazes longingly across the river at a potential market he can’t readily reach.

A pont. I’ll build a pont, muses John Norval. Then my hats can travel freely to markets anywhere in the country. And I can charge others to cross here.

The Smoking Crocodile in the bar of the Glasgow Pont Hotel.

Norval’s Pont was established. It was a wonderful boon to both the Great Trekkers, the diamond-fielders and just about everyone during the Anglo-Boer War.

Of course, one crosses the Orange here by bridge these days. But don’t forget to fall in for a drink at the Glasgow Pont Hotel and see if that crocodile is still smoking his cigarette under the old-time telephone.

Karoo Roads – Tales from South Africa’s Heartland by Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit will be available as a First Edition Author-signed Print Book from November 2020 at R350 including taxes and counter-to-counter Postnet service.

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7 thoughts on “Norval’s Pont, Northern Cape

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  3. Janet Bytheway says:

    Hello Karoo Space. I have just returned from a trip to Norvalspont. John Norval was my great great great grandfather, so it was a pilgrimage of sorts. I was sad to find the hotel non-operational apart from the bar which has been stripped of the paraphernalia referred to in the article. Allegedly the last proprietors absconded and two young women are now undertaking renovations and hope to open the hotel again. The hotel is looking sad and run down.

    • Sandy Kay says:

      My great-grandparents owned and ran the Glasgow Pont Hotel and bar for many years from around 1912 to 1960s. I have never visited but would love to learn more about its history. My mother spent a wonderful childhood growing up in the hotel. Please let me know if you have any more information.

  4. Jennifer Norvall says:

    I am Jennifer Norvall, widow of John Norvall whose grandparents were BOTH Norvalls but not related.
    He was from England and she was from Norvals Pont.
    He always said “getting married didnt make an L of a difference’!
    They emigrated to Rhodesia in the early 1900s where he mined and then went farming.
    Other single l Norvals also moved to Rhodesia and went farming.

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