History and Overview of Philippolis
Philippolis/Poding-tse-Rolo serves a general agricultural service centre within the Kopanong Municipality and is situated approximately 53 km southwest of Trompsburg. Access to the town is gained from the R48 route between Koffiefontein and De Aar.
Social and economic functions
The main social and economic function of the town is to serve as (a) key regional tourist destination, (b) secondary agricultural service centre, and (c) social functions such as residence, education and medical services.
Phillipolis is the oldest town in the Free State. Philippolis was first established in 1823 as a mission station of the London Missionary Society for San/Khoi-Khoi (later to be known as Griquas) people. It is the oldest settlement in the Free State. Adam Kok, the famous Griqua leader, and his people settled in the area in 1826 and he was subsequently appointed protector of the mission. When the government of the Orange Free State bought the land, Adam Kok and his people left to start a new life in Griqualand East. Dr. John Philip was the London Missionary Society’s representative, hence the name of the town that was later established here. The renowned author, Laurens van der Post, who grew up in this town, described the area with its vast open spaces as “puritanical hills guarding secret water, so that it appears totally unpeopled.”
ARCHAEOLOGY AND PALAEONTOLOGY
The Phillippolis area is renowned for its rich fossil finds. The recent discoveries of a fossilised fish thought to have become extinct 240 million years ago, a fossilised fish bed, reptile fossils and various fossilised footprints again prove that, impossible as it may seem, this area was once located at the bottom of a large lake.
There are various San rock paintings in the area.
HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE
Adam Kok House
Adam Kok House, sometimes referred to as Griqua House, was once the home of the famous Griqua leader, Adam Kok.
Dutch Reformed Church
The Dutch Reformed Church, situated in Voortrekker Street, has been declared a national monument. The historic pulpit is carved out of wild olive wood.
Emily Hobhouse Spinning and Weaving School
Emily Hobhouse, the famous British humanitarian, choose Phillippolis as the location of a spinning and weaving school to help impoverished Boer women after the Anglo-Boer War. Exhibits from the school are on view at the TransXhariep Museum.
The old jail, built in 1872, has been lovingly restored and turned into a guest house. Enjoy a voluntary stay in one of the individual 2 x 3 m cells safely ensconced behind the jail’s 45 cm thick inner walls and 60 cm thick outer walls, secure in the knowledge that you may leave in the morning. Several married couples have started their marriage in an unconventional way by staying in the honeymoon suite at the jail. For those scared of small spaces, more conventional facilities are also available.
There are several historic buildings in and around the town, such as the Van der Post and Van Rensburg houses, as well as some typical flat-roofed Karoo houses.
The TransXhariep Museum in Voortrekker Street depicts the history of the town and its people. Two historic cannons used by the Griquas can be viewed on a hillock behind the museum.
Van der Post House and Memorial Garden
The ashes of Sir Laurens Jan van der Post, world-renowned South African author, war hero and naturalist, are kept in the Van der Post Memorial Garden. The garden, created by design architect, Alida Stewart, has as its central theme “life as a journey”; the philosophy heralded by Van der Post all through his life. The Sir Laurens van der Post Artist Retreat Centre is also located here and is a retreat where artists, writers, photographers and other creative people can unwind and seek new inspiration. The small museum, also part of the complex, keeps copies of his 25 books and the desk at which he used to write.
John Varty (JV) is a South African conservationist and filmmaker who specializes in Big Cats. JV established Tiger Canyons near the town of Philippolis on the Van der Kloof Lake in the Karoo of South Africa as an experiment to create a free-ranging, self-sustaining tiger population outside Asia. From this population, third and fourth generations of tigers can be returned to Asia into parks that meet a set of criteria which give the tigers a chance of surviving in Asia. He successfully introduced a lion cub into a tiger litter to test if a tigress would adopt a cub which is not their own. This way genetic diversity can be increased in populations of wild tigers where inbreeding is occurring.