Knysna Historical Society

The town of Knysna is situated in the heart of the Southern Cape Garden Route, with its history and character influenced by the vast indigenous timber forests, gold bearing mountains in the area and the shipping activity. When a harbour was established in the Knysna River Estuary by the British Navy in 1825, and the difficult access to the area by land until the coming of rail in 1928.

The Knysna Historical Society has its roots in the Friends of Millwood House, an association founded in the early 1970’s to preserve and protect historical records and artefacts of old Knysna. The Society was formally established in 2002, some years after the Millwood House Museum was handed over into the care of the Knysna Municipality

Whilst retaining its close association with the Museums of Knysna, the aims of the Society have been widened to include the protection of the heritage buildings and historic sites of Knysna.

The society also hosts historical presentations by experts on matters of historical interest and member group outings to places of historical and heritage interest, (typically 6 events per annum), and also encourages and assists local historical research amongst its over 150 members.

Current annual membership costs are:
Family Membership: R50.
Single Membership: R40.
Student membership: R10

Further details may be obtained from the Membership Secretary:

Helen Levin on +27 (0)76 913 2998     e-mail:


The  Woodcutter Settlements of Knysna 1882 -1890

This is a message to those wishing to learn more about the early woodcutters in the Southern Cape.

A new book The Woodcutter Settlements of Knysna, which explains the efforts of the Cape authorities to uplift the living conditions of the woodcutters of the Knysna and Tsitsikamma Forests, has recently been released. It will also be of great interest to those doing family research as it contains information that has not been made easily available before.

Knysna based readers can obtain a copy of the book from: Dejavu Antiques & Books in Woodmill Lane, Knysna (contact Tony O’Hagan on 044 382 1259)

Readers distant from Knysna can obtain the book directly from the author, delivered by the South African Post Office or by Postnet.  e-mail: for further information.



Past events and activities held during 2018

uesday 18 September 2018

Willowmore during the Anglo Boer War

 A talk by Allen Duff, Chair of the Outeniqua Historical Society 

A talk about a small group of men of the 2nd Western Australian Contingent who were despatched to the eastern Klein Karoo In in December 1900 when the Boers re-entered the Cape Colony. They helped defend Willowmore when it was attacked in 1901  & then came briefly south to George & Knysna. They then returned to Willowmore & shortly thereafter got involved in an all-day fight with Kritzinger’s commando. It was during this period that the Thesen Hill House (today's Falcon's View) was commendeered by the local Knysna militia.


All talks will be held at the Cearn Hall on Leisure Island, starting at 17h30. To minimise overcrowding all talks and outings will be restricted to members and invited guests only; maximum one guest per member. (i.e. family membership = 2 guests , single membership = 1 guest)  Speakers may bring guests  Admission is free for members, guests R30 each.  

Outings may be restricted in numbers on a first-come first-serve basis, for logistical reasons.

2018 activities complete

Monday 22 January:  In search of forester Knut Alexander Carlson . An illustrated talk by the Wastfelt-Carlson Family Foundation of Sweden 

 Tuesday 20 February: The Geology and Landscape of the Greater Knysna Region. An illustrated talk by Professor Emeritus Morris Viljoen 

Tuesday 20 March:  Hentie’s Botel and other Hentie Stories An illustrated talk by Martin Hatchuel 

Tuesday 17 April:  Annual General Meeting, followed by Places of interest along the Zitzikamma Gorges Road.  An interactive computer presentation Philip Caveney 

Saturday 5 May:  

All day outing to Storms River following the road and passes built by Thomas Bain in the 1880s, led by Philip Caveney. Stops and historical talks at the Salt River crossing, Keurboom’s River Pass, Groot River Pass, Storms River Pass, Lottering Forest Station. 41 participants in 14 off-road vehicles will take part.. Bring-along picnic lunch at Storms River.   

 Tuesday  22 May: 

Westford Farm & the Edward Bibbey Story. An illustrated talk by Erick and Louise Fourie. 

Tuesday 19 June

Knysna during the World War years: A talk by historian Ian Uys


The Zitzikamma Gorges Road

Plettenberg Bay to Storms River on 5 May 2018.

We had a very successful outing to Storms River following old roads seldom used but not forgotten built by Thomas BainThe members participating were thrilled to travel down roads and paths of which they were unaware. 42 participants travelled in 15 Off-Road vehicles as guests of SANParks. A grateful thanks to SANParks and the GRNP team. Some photographs taken on the trip are shown below.


Visit the Knysna Archives Section on this website for research papers relating to this activity




Farewell to Melanie Groenewald, Curator of the Knysna Museums.

Current and recent past Committee Members of the Society bid Melanie Groenewald farewell at a cocktail function on 5 December 2017. Melanie was recruited by the Knysna Municipality in 1993 as Curator of the Millwood House Museum and has served historians, both professional and amateur, as well as the general public, including the school children of our little town, well during this period . She is now retiring after 23 years 'in the saddle'. We wish her a long, healthy and happy well-earned retirement.
Best wishes
The Committee



Seven Passes Road outing - 5 November 20175 November 2017

A very interesting drive down Thomas Bain's Seven Passes Road, with talks by Murray Douglas. Thank you Murray!

For a copy of the illustrated tour document go to the ARCHIVES section on this website and follow the path: 

Archives, Archives Documents, Events, Events in Knysna



Heritage Week walk down Knysna's

Main Road 

 30 September 2017Group_shot_LR.jpg  


The Society hosted a group of history buffs down Knysna's Main Street stopping to talk about the history of the about 20 buildings as we strolled along. A great time enjoyed by all.

Thanks Judy for the photographs.



Tues. 21 November    

Virtual Tour’ of Knysna’s Main Street. 

       An illustrated talk by Cathie Garner.            


All talks will be held at the Cearn Hall on Leisure Island, starting at 17h30.To minimise overcrowding all talks and outings will be restricted to members and invited guests only; maximum one guest per member. (i.e. family membership = 2 guests , single membership = 1 guest). Speakers may bring guests. Admission is free for members, guests R30 each. 


___ _                                      Bridges_book_image_LR.JPG

New book on the Knysna River Bridges now available written by Murray Douglas.

On sale now at the Millwood House Museum in Knysna.




This was an all-day outing to the Goudveld Forests, which is about 15 km north-east of Knysna.  

Most enjoyable.




Wednesday 4 May 2016

The Concrete Bridge centenary and plaque unveiling celebration was very successful and well attended with the Executive Mayor Georlene Wolmarans present and also the Municipal Manager Grant Easton, Christopher Bezuidenhoudt and Melanie Groenewald of the Municipality, members of the Knysna Historical Society and the Westford Bridge Estate Homeowners Association, about 30 in all.

Murray Douglas gave a short talk, which was well received and the Executive Mayor unveiled the heritage plaque. A good social gathering and a chance to talk to the Mayor.




Photographs from the talk


___________________________________________________________________________________  Outing, following the South Western Railway

Bracken Hill views on the SWR rail bed from the plantation area out to sea 

View_to_the_sea_from_the_SWR_rail_bed_VLR_2.JPG    View_to_the_sea_from_the_SWR_rail_bed_VLR_1.jpg


1 March 2015





William John Burchell Memorial 2014  



 Members attend the society’s activities of their own volition and that they accept any risk which may be associated with the outing.

Vrywaring: Lede van die Knysna Geskiedenis Vereniging  is herinner dat die vereniging nie verantwoordelik gehou kan word vir enige gebeurtenis of toeval nie. Lede se teenwoordigheid is op eie risiko

Photo SvdS