Queenstown, named after Queen Victoria, is a town in the middle of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, roughly half way between the smaller towns of Cathcart and Sterkstroom.
It is currently the commercial, administrative, and educational centre of the prosperous surrounding farming district. The nickname of the town, ‘Rose Capital of South Africa’, comes from the large gardens and open places for flowers (especially roses) in and around town.
The town was founded in early 1853 under the direction of Sir George Cathcart, who named the settlement, and then fort, after Queen Victoria. Work on its railway connection to East London on the coast was begun by the Cape government of John Molteno in 1876, and the line was officially opened on 19 May 1880. The town prospered from its founding up to the world wide depression of the 1930s, and again thereafter. In the 1960s, the majority of the Black population were moved east to the township of Ezibeleni, as part of the attempt to move African people to so-called “homelands”. The area has in the past had very severe weather problems, luckily, often only affecting the surrounding areas. In 2002, heavy snowfall around Queenstown caused a severe disaster, especially since the area was not funded or ready for such a disaster. Then, in 2004, the surrounding areas of the Eastern Cape were affected by strong winds and heavy rainfall, although Queenstown once again escaped much flooding and some wind damage, power shortages soon followed. Other natural disasters include droughts and veld fires (wild fires).
Queen’s College, Get Ahead College ,Queenstown Girls’ High School, Hangklip High School, Kwa Komani Comprehensive, Maria Louw High School are among well-known secondary schools in Queenstown. The former has produced many fine sportsmen, including Tony Greig, Daryll Cullinan, Kenny McEwan, Kaya Malotana, Lionel Cronje, Justin Kemp, Robbie Kempson, Dick Muir and Lwazi Mvovo.
Excellent Afrikaans schools, namely Hangklip Primary and Senior set high standards academically and on the sport field. Balmoral Girls’ Primary School and Queens College Primary are two renowned primary schools in the town.
Queenstown lies on the Komani River which forms part of the Great Kei system of rivers and has a refreshing climate and plentiful water supply from the surrounding rugged mountains. The water is collected in Bonkolo (named changed from Bongolo recently) Dam, set in the hills, used extensively for recreation and watersports. Each year, around the beginning of June, the town holds an art exhibition with the emphasis on paintings and sculpture. Perhaps inspired by some of the most interesting Bushman paintings in nearby caves, which are accessible to the visitor.
Close to Queenstown is a nature reserve (Lawrence de Lange Game Reserve) with numerous antelope, white rhinoceros and spectacular flowering plants together with panoramic views from the mountain summit.
The layout of Queenstown reflects its original objective as a defensive stronghold for the frontier area and has a most unusual design. There is a central hexagonal area where canon or rifle fire could be directed down six thoroughfares radiating from the centre. The canon sites have now been replaced with gardens and a central fountain was the dominant feature. A striking abstract sculpture replaced the fountain as part of the town’s 150th anniversary. The Hexagon still exists, with the outer road surrounding it namedRobinson Road, which encircles it. Surrounding the Hexagon to the east and west lies more commercial and administrative facilities.
Like all South African towns the city is heavily segregated, and although non-white citizens are now free to travel, work, live and shop in the commercial sectors and housing areas, there is some integration. The vast majority of the black population do not earn enough money to live in the more wealthy suburbs. Currently, formerly ‘white suburbs’ surround the Hexagon to the north, east and west, however, one of the city’s great townships (and squatter camps) lies to the south. It is a collection of black and coloured townships named Mlungisi, Aloevale and many others, but due to continued expansions, a new township, Victoria Park has been built to the south-east of the city. As for the actual city of Queenstown, it includes the suburbs of Sandringham, Kingsway, Windsor, Bergsig, Blue rise, Balmoral, Madeira Park and a new fast-growing suburb of Komani Park. In recent years growth has been slow in this part of the city, with the only real expansion being in a few small gated communities in Komani Park and in the north of the town.
East of the town lies the much larger Ezibeleni township, which although roughly the same surface area as Queenstown, has by far a larger population.
Snow that fell in Queenstown in 26 July 2011:
The Queenstown area is in the Burgersdorp formation of the Tarkastad sub group, in the upper Beaufort Group Triassic in age in the karoo super group. The lithology is red mudstone 1 to 10 m rich layers and sub-ordinate 1 to 2 m rich sandstone layers deposited by meandering rivers in the flood plain in an oxidising environment gradually filling the Karoo basin. The formation reaches thickness of 600 m in the Queenstown and Lady Frere area (S.gcobo). Numerous dolerite dykes and ring structures intruded the area creating good localities for ground water exploration.
Community media also forms an integral part of Queenstown. The town has a newspaper called The Representative, fondly known as the Rep, as well as a community radio station, Lukhanji fm. The Eastern Cape newspaper, Daily Dispatch, is widely read in the area.