From evidence of early human behaviour to the origins of South Africa’s timber industry, and from the country first modern-era gold rush to the establishment of its first unfenced national park (the Garden Route National Park) the greater Knysna area has a rich and colourful history.
To explore our fascinating past, please visit the Knysna Municipality’s Knysna Museum, which occupies five historic buildings in Queen Street in the CBD: the Old Gaol, Millwood House, Parkes Cottage, Parkes Shop, and the Pitt Street House.
The Old Gaol
The Old Gaol was the first building erected by the Colonial Government in Knysna. It was built in 1859. Amongst others, it was used to hold convicts en route to work on the the construction of Prince Alfred’s Pass (between Knysna and Uniondale). It was declared a National Monument in 1992. Today the Old Gaol, on the corner of Main Road and Queen Street, houses the following displays and collections:
- Maritime collection: artefacts from ships of the Thesen Line which operated out of Knysna; stories of some of the best-known ships that visited the Port of Knysna.
- Maps & models room: Maps of the Knysna Lagoon (Knysna Estuary); ships models, including a model of the first ship built here – the brig, ‘Knysna.’
- Angling collection: rods, reels, lines, lures, and other accessories – some from the earliest days of fishing.
- Coelacanth display: the story of how Knysna’s Prof. JLB Smith identified a fish that was thought to have disappeared with the dinosaurs.
- Knysna Elephants: information about the elephants that still roam free in the Knysna forests.
- The Infirmary: restored prison hospital cell with an exhibition about prison life, prison gangs, etc.
- Portraits of past Mayors of Knysna from 1882 to the present day.
- >Knysna Art Gallery: the Knysna Art Society presents regular exhibitions. Please watch the press for details and opening times.
- Middle Stone Age archaeology of Knysna: please go here for a short discussion about the latest discoveries from the Middle Stone Age in Knysna. (We’re working on this exhibit and haven’t installed it yet. Sorry!)
Originally built at Millwood Goldfield in the 1880s and later moved to Knysna, this decorative, yellowwood building now houses our local history collection, with local history publications on sale. Corner Queen & Clyde Streets.
Wood-and-corrugated-iron general dealer’s building erected in the early 1900s. Displays about the the early history of the Knysna forests and the timber industry. Corner Queen & Clyde Streets – enter via Millwood House.
Yellowwood cottage originally erected at the Millwood Goldfields in the 1880s. Houses displays of Millwood History and the story of Knysna’s most famous, early 19th century settler, George Rex. Corner Queen & Clyde Streets – enter via Millwood House.
Wood and corrugated-iron labourer’s cottage originally erected in Pitt Street for Parkes Sawmill employees. Now houses a display about the South African War (Anglo-Boer War, 1899 – 1902). Corner Queen & Clyde Streets – enter via Millwood House.
For more information on museums in the area, interesting stories and photographs, please visit www.knysnamuseums.co.za
Knysna Museum hours:
Mondays to Fridays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Millwood House, Pitt Street House, Parkes Cottage and Parkes shop:
Mondays to Fridays 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Saturdays 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Contact Knysna Museum:
Telephone: +27(0)44 302 6320