Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back
Eastern Cape
Arts
Entertainment
Attractions
Museums
Culture
History
Cultural Discoveries
Multiple experiences
Small town charm

SSouth African English culture has been one of the defining elements in shaping our Rainbow Nation. The first immigrants arrived in 1820 and established Eastern Cape towns like Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown (since renamed Makhanda). 

South African English culture began with the second British occupation of the Cape in 1806, and especially with the start of mass immigration from Britain in 1820. 

The Great Fish River of Eastern Cape, in the early 19th century, was the turbulent eastern frontier of the Cape Colony. Beyond it were the Xhosa peoples, resentful of having to compete for space. 

In 1812, to stop incursions across the river, Lieutenant Colonel John Graham was instructed to establish a camp. He chose a spot in a valley of the Dwarsberg mountains in the Albany District. 

The tented military camp there soon attracted frontier people keen for protection. But troubles intensified, culminating in the attack on what had come to be known as Grahamstown by the mystic Makhanda on 22 April 1819. 

Cape Governor Lord Charles Somerset decided to call for Britain to send emigrants to bolster the defences of the colony. Farms and transport were offered for the nearly 4 000 people selected, who arrived during April 1820 and became known as the 1820 Settlers. These people introduced English culture to South Africa, spreading it to the rest of the country as they dispersed. 

TThey also brought with them their English beliefs, mainly rooted in the Anglican Church. With them came missionaries who worked among many of the indigenous peoples of South Africa, often siding with their plight. This led to upheavals, among these the Great Trek exodus from the Cape. 

The British introduced the first newspapers and played a role in the country's development into an economic powerhouse. English is now spoken throughout the country, and some of South Africa's finest literature − including the novels written by Nobel Prize winners Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee − is written in English. 

The most cataclysmic series of events involving the British in South Africa was when the Boer Republics went to war against Britain in 1899 in what was to be known as the South African (Anglo-Boer) War. There was great loss of life, not only of Boer and British, but also among the ranks of the indigenous Africans who supported either side. 

After three years of bitter fighting, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed. The Boer forces capitulated. 

To commemorate the arrival of the English, a living memorial, the 1820 Settlers Monument, was built overlooking Makhanda in 1974. The annual National Arts Festival in the city, which initially celebrated the English language almost exclusively, has now become all-inclusive. 

Did You Know?

TTravel tips & Planning  info 

Who to contact 

National English Literary Museum (Makhanda) 
Tel +27 (0)46 622 7042 

Grahamstown Foundation 
Tel: +27 (0)46-6031100  
Email: admin@foundation.org.za 

Related Links 

PPlanning a trip to South Africa? Meet Your South Africa guides, the people that know the country best! Read the Meet Your South Africa magazine here

__________________________________________________________________________________

For inspiration and insider tips, follow us on InstagramFacebook, or Twitter. Tag #MeetSouthAfrica to share your pics with us, or subscribe to our newsletter for latest information, great holiday offers, prizes and consumer events across South Africa.

Travel Deals

Gauteng
GBP 481

Fly to Jo'burg from £481 with British Airways

Gauteng
GBP 481
Fly to Jo'burg from £481 with British Airways

There’s a lot more to South Africa than Lions and Springboks, and it’s all here ready and waiting. With its rugged, unspoiled landscapes, sunny climate and bucket-list wildlife.

Western Cape
GBP 585

Fly to Cape Town from £585 with British Airways

Western Cape
GBP 585
Fly to Cape Town from £585 with British Airways

There’s a lot more to South Africa than Lions and Springboks, and it’s all here ready and waiting. With its rugged, unspoiled landscapes, sunny climate and bucket-list wildlife.

Related articles

South Africa has ten World Heritage Sites proclaimed by UNESCO

South Africa has ten World Heritage Sites proclaimed by UNESCO

South Africa boasts a remarkable number of World Heritage Sites. There are ten Sites in total as declared by Unesco given their significance in evolution and historical importance.

Feast your eyes, feed your soul and be inspired by South Africa in full bloom

Feast your eyes, feed your soul and be inspired by South Africa in full bloom

South Africa is unique. It is one country in the world where one can weave a vibrant tapestry of culture and heritage from the many and varied attractions, experiences and influences that permeate daily living.

How do you enjoy a South African-style 'staycation' in the UK?

How do you enjoy a South African-style 'staycation' in the UK?

How do you enjoy a South African-style 'staycation' in the UK?

Welcome to Vilakazi Street

Welcome to Vilakazi Street

The township of Soweto to the south-west of Johannesburg has transformed from a legacy of the apartheid era to a vibrant, energetic hub that will ignite your senses and immerse you in true South African culture. The thriving heart of Soweto is one of the most well-known streets in South Africa, Vilakazi Street.

Bunny Chow 101

Bunny Chow 101

Discover the traditional South African curry dish - bunny chow

Discover the newly launched Brew Route

Discover the newly launched Brew Route

Attention beer lovers! 🍻 Discover the newly launched Brew Route on our story today, catering to all of your local craft desires.

Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of Gauteng

Road tripping for the hops: Craft breweries of Gauteng

Explore the craft breweries in and around Gauteng.

World-class food and award-winning wines

World-class food and award-winning wines

The country offers excellent wines and superb dining options, especially home-grown cuisine. The Cape Winelands are renowned for their many wine estates, often with award-winning restaurants on site.

South Africa on social media

Copyright © 2021 South African Tourism
|Terms and conditions|Disclaimer|Privacy policy