Without being chocolate-boxy, Piketberg certainly holds its own in the appeal department – from arresting scenery to architectural gems.
The Piketberg mountain hovers like a sentinel above the town and wheat-rich farmlands stretch into the yonder. Higher up on Versveld pass, the sweet solitude of apple, pear, peach and orange orchards meets the eye; the air a blast of ripe scent.
Throughout the town, marvellous historic buildings – dominated by the 1835-built neo-Gothic Dutch Reformed church, designed by Carl Otto Hager – play their part as reminders of Piketberg’s heyday. Other remarkable antique buildings are the first boarding house in town, Katzeff House at 16 Main Street, dating back to 1844; the ornate high school – built in 1914; the 94-year-old Jewish synagogue – now home to the Piketberg Tourism Bureau and museum; the beloved Bio-scope building originating from the late 1920s; and Feathers Inn – the erstwhile swanky Commercial Hotel.
Also, a trip to the historic graveyard tells the tale of the once-robust Jewish community who raised themselves out of poverty by selling wares from farmstead to farmstead.
Looking back, Piketberg’s turbulent history began in 1672 when Cape governor Isbrand Goske placed military outposts below the mountain against marauding Khoekhoen (Cochoqua) under Gonnema. Hence the name Piquet Berg for the mountain, renamed Piketberg, according to HSRC onomastics head P E Raper. Piquet or piket refers to the posting of military guards.
The Holtzhausen, Reyneke, Joubert, Van Rooyen, Niewoudt and Visagie families were among the earliest settler-pioneers of 1705-06. But the town was only founded in 1836 when Cape governor Sir Benjamin D’Urban donated Grotefontein farm to the area’s church council for a kerkplaats (church farm). In 1841 the first plots were sold and 65 years later Willem Liebenberg handed over the church-owned development to the municipality.
Between the historic core, the many hiking and MTB opportunities, colourful farmlands and the arresting mountain, Piketberg is a place that often takes hold of travellers for far longer than they’d initially expected.