Sutherland's History

Sutherland was found in 1723 as a church and market town to serve the area’s sheep farmers. By 1872 the town had a population of 138 registered citizens living in 19 houses.

The large Dutch Reformed church in the centre of Sutherland was built in 1899.

The first Europeans to settle in the area were sheep farmers who got there via the Forgotten Highway (the road between Ceres and the Karoo), so called because it was the main highway to the north before the N1.

During the Anglo Boer War, the church was used as a fort by garrisoned British soldiers. The ruins of a fort can still be found on the outskirts of town on the hill called Rebelskop. As one enters the town from the Matjiesfontein side, the Anglo Boer War cemetery are on the left-hand side of the road.

The Sutherland region continues to be a strong livestock farming area as well as an astronomer’s delight. While you are here to experience the wonders of the stars, don’t forget to tuck into some of the classic Karoo dinners or feel what it’s like to be in one of the coldest places in South Africa on a crisp winter’s day.

Did you know that some farmers in the Sutherland area still “trek” with their sheep from winter grazing to the lowlands (Tankwa area) to summer grazing at more elevated altitudes?

Another claim to fame this town has is that it’s the most southern place where diamonds were discovered in South Africa, and the old diamond diggings can still be seen in the area.

Let’s also not forget that Sutherland is the birthplace of two celebrated South African writers and poets, NP van Wyk Louw and WEG Louw.

Notable residents of Sutherland:
NP Van Wyk Louw (Poet and Writer)
WEG Louw (Poet and writer)
Dr Henry Olivier, chief engineer of the Kariba Dam project
Adriaan Vlok, national government minister of Law and Order from 1986 – 1991
Andre van der Merwe – Famous South African Urologist

Another interesting fact about Sutherland is that the growing of tulips in South Africa was pioneered by Rev M B Brink right here in Sutherland. Rev Brink arrived in Sutherland during a snowstorm, and having studied in Holland for several years, he immediately realised the climate in Sutherland was similar to Holland and therefore ideal for growing tulips.