Early History


In the 1700s the rather sinister name Galgenbosch (Dutch for ‘Gallow’s Wood) referred to the greater Thornhill area of the Eastern Cape, including the Galgenbosch Hoogte that is now the Van Stadens Berg.
Army ensign August Beutler camped at Galgenbosch in 1752, so named because some travellers had cut their names on a tree and someone added an engraving of a gallows
The grassy flats and steep mountains of that name were much admired by early travellers from as early as 1773 when the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg wrote, ‘In the environs of Van Stade’s river, were the finest woods I had seen in the whole country.
Many other famous early explorers like Sparrman in 1775, Lichtenstein in 1804, La Trobe in 1816, Moodie in 1820, Backhouse in 1838 and Krauss in 1839 mention Van Stadens River and the Van Stadens Berg in their writings.
In 1838 Sir Charles Bunbury, who collected plants at the Cape of Good Hope in 1838 and 1839, noted ‘The deep and narrow valley.. .is quite a gem… and really puts one in mind of some of the smaller valleys of Switzerland. It is beautifully verdant, partly cultivated, partly pasture… hemmed in by mountains, not indeed of great height… but excessively steep and richly clothed with thick evergreen woods.’


In 1782 The Muller-Holtshausen expedition, en route to search for survivors of the wrecked Grosvenor in Pondoland, noted the place name ‘Boterfontein on the Galgenbosch Hoogte’, probably the Van Stadensberg.

Discovery of the Sterculia alexandri tree

This species was discovered in a narrow valley near Uitenhage in the Van Stadens Mountains in 1848 by Dr Richard Chandler Prior (1809-1902), an English medical doctor and amateur botanist. He was born Richard Alexander and changed his surname to Prior in 1859.
In 1846 he spent 13 months in Cape Town and travelled to George and Uitenhage in 1847, where he collected many plant specimens including Sterculia alexandri. He also travelled in the Karoo and returned to England in May 1848. This species is named in his honour.


In the book “Historical incidence of the larger land mammals in the broader Eastern Cape” by CJ Skead he mentions that the following animals would have been around van Stadens area : Elephants , Black Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus , Buffalo ,Kudu , Eland , Red Hartebeest , Cape Mountain Zebra , Quagga , Common Duiker , Southern Reedbuck , Mountain Reedbuck , Oribi , Cape Grysbok , Klipspringer , Bushbuck , Blue Duiker , Bushpig , Hyaena , Leopard , Lion , Porcupine , Baboon , Monkey , Aardwolf.