About Us

Our new board was elected at the recent Clanwilliam Museum Annual General Meeting.
Pictured from left to right: Flip Lochner, Ilse Lochner, Stephnie Murray, Wilna Nieuwoudt, Daleen Schoombee, Marelize Boshoff, Ilse Saaiman, Johan van Heerden, Rika Potgieter, Yola Bergh, Gerda de Wet and Cecily Muller. Thank you for your willingness to serve on the committee and ensure that we preserve the history of the seventh oldest town in South Africa for posterity.

OUR HISTORY: clanwilliam and the old gaol

As one of the 10 oldest towns in South Africa, Clanwilliam’s history dates back to 1732. Originally known as Jan Disselvlei, the area was part of the district of Stellenbosch. In 1808 it was declared a sub-district in its own right. On 1 January 1814, Sir John Cradock renamed the town after his father-in-law, the Earl of Clanwilliam. This date is seen as the official birth of the town.

In 1820, four groups of mainly Irish immigrants were granted land in the vicinity of Clanwilliam. After a brief period, the Settlers requested a transfer and left for the Eastern Cape, but a small group chose to stay. They played a leading role in the area up to the first half of the 1900s. The town received municipal status in 1901, with Mr. Charles Fryer, a descendant of the 1820 Irish Settlers, as the first mayor.

In 1924, the Bulshoek dam was built on the Olifants River, about 23 miles (37 km) north of the town, and in 1935 the Clanwilliam dam was completed.

The Clanwilliam Museum is known as the OuTronk as it used to house the old gaol. The year 1808, which can be seen on the front of the building, refers to the year in which the town became a sub-district. The original building was erected long before then.

The first goal was a small thatched outbuilding adjoining the frosty house; of the four rooms, two were used as a prison. The gaol had no airing yard, and in good weather, the prisoners were handcuffed outside in the street “to preserve their health” and to allow the rooms to be aired. The first gaoler was appointed in 1827.


In 1874, a plan for a new gaol was drawn up. It was recommended that the site of the existing structure be used, with the building facing Main Street. In March 1875, work was started and finally completed in 1877.


Work began in 1987 to transform the building into a museum. Today the museum houses many historical artifacts providing a glimpse into the rich history of the area, the frontier town, and the remarkable people that settled here. Each room presents a unique story, from the archeological history of the region to some of the unique industries that put Clanwilliam on the map – such as Rooibos tea and “Velskoen” shoes.


Visit our museum and take a journey back in time and see how our forefathers lived and worked to build the future we inherited. 




Our Team

The management and operational team at Clanwilliam Museum
Ilse Lochner
Museum Guide
Harriët April
Assistant Guide

Take a journey back in time

Find out more about the history of Clanwilliam

Discover the history of the Old Gaol

Learn more about Tolla van der Merwe

Take a journey through the rich history of Rooibos

Come and explore Clanwilliam's colourful heritage at the old gaol​

Learn more about C. Louis Leipoldt

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