Somerset East, Eastern Cape

somerset east
Somerset East, a short inland drive from Port Elizabeth, has heritage and history in full supply.

The town also comes well stocked with its share of eccentrics and legends, both heroic and villainous.

This is where explorer-bird lover Francois le Vaillant came wandering in the late 1700s. Somewhere around here he met a ‘fair Gonaqua maid’ called Narina – and she seems to have taken his fancy. Heard of a bird called the Narina Trogon?

The lands around present-day Somerset East were tilled and farmed to supply the 1820 Settlers with fresh produce. It was also in this area that five Cape dissidents began the infamous Slagtersnek Rebellion, which eventually led to their executions and was one of the drivers of the Great Trek of Boers to the hinterland.

In later years, a vagabond called John Kepe had the town up in arms with a series of mountainside muggings on the locals, culminating in the killing of a shepherd. He lived in a secret cave up in the Boschberg and stashed all his ill-gotten gains in another cave nearby. He was eventually tried, convicted and hanged.

Nowadays, however, Somerset East has a slightly more sedate pace of life. Early morning trout fishing in one of the nearby dams or watercourses has become a big draw card, the museum complex is another and for townies looking for that perfect country life, a number of developments have been set up.

8 thoughts on “Somerset East, Eastern Cape

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  5. Mike Miller says:

    Spent every December holiday in Somerset East through the 60’s and 70’s with the family who back then owned the Somerset Hotel. All the uncles, aunts and cousins would flock from around the country to spend Christmas with our grandparents, George and Engelina Jefferys. Our biggest treat was being able to stay in the hotel for 3 weeks and having breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining room. I miss those holidays.

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  7. Desiré Falconi says:

    I attended the Assumption Convent there when I was in Sub B, just before it closed down like most of the Convents did eventually. There were a handful of full time boarders and we had a wonderful experience there. Hot chocolate in bed, a choice of breakfast foods,
    etc. This was not every day, but most days!

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