Norval's Pont

Norval's Pont Information

The village of Norval's Pont came into being in the 1840's when John Norval instituted a ferry service across the Orange River. He named the ferry, or pont, the "Glasgow" after his home town in Scotland.

Norval's Pont History

Recognition is hereby given to the research done by Rod McGregor Mann, owner of the 'Pont 2005-2010. More can be read in his book "Where the F*%K is Norval's Pont"

The Norval Family arrived in the Colesberg area from Scotland in the early 1840's with the aim of becoming comb makers.  Considering how hard a life the early pioneers endured one wonders and how high on their priority list a tidy hair-do was.

Actually, at that time Colesberg was close to equalling Oudtshoorn as a centre of trade.Oudtshoorn had ostrich plumes but Colesberg had tortoises.  In a time before plastic tortoise shell was used for crafting all manner of delicate items.  No one, however, wanted combs locally and exporting was not a practical proposition.

The farmers told them that hats would find a market and so the intrepid Norvals turned their hand to a new trade and prospered as a result.  Everyone wanted Norval hats.  Made from fine felt, they were in demand all over the Cape and even in the young Orange Free State from as far afield as Kroonstad.

The Norvals then considered the supply of raw material (wool) and purchased Dapperfontein Sheep Farm on the banks of the Orange.  This ensured both supply and quality.

Being an entrepreneurial sort of person, no sooner had John Norval got the farm running than cast his eye on the river and how he could cross with ease one day or might have to wait weeks for another chance to cross.  This was not merely an inconvenience, it interfered with his hat trade in the Free State.  But what to do?

Even a ferry was beyond his means. Then fate played a hand that would put this river crossing on the map forever.  In 1848 a brief but bitter war broke out between the British and the Boer Republics North of the river.  Sir Harry Smith's army needed to cross the river to fight the Boers and suddenly the cash was there for Norval to build his first pont.

Up to this time wagoneers had had to trek all the way to Hopetown to cross the river.  Now they could save up to seven weeks travelling time via the ferry which began to prosper.

It is said that when the river was really in spate, up to five hundred wagons and hundreds of teams of oxen would queue all the way back to Colesberg waiting to be ferried across. It was probably never plain sailing but, at a pound a wagon, old John Norval and his doughty sons must have smiled at the thought of where their quest for tortoises had led them.

Norval's Pont Map

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