Barkly West boasts a number of firsts in South Africa, including the first Anglican church north on the Vaal River (1871), the first bridge built over the Vaal river, and the first alluvial diamond discovery.
The site of the first diamond diggings in Africa is now a national monument.
Barkly West stands on the Vaal River close to the fording place called Klip Drift. It is over-looked by Canteen Koppie, a hillock that has signs of occupation going back to prehistoric times. Numerous artifacts left by early inhabitants have been found here.
Barkly West was the site of the first major diamond rush, in 1870, on the South African Diamond Fields, and was initially known as Klip Drift. This Dutch name means “stony ford” and is a direct translation from a much older !Kora or Korana name, Ka-aub (or !a |aub) – “stony (place along a) river”.
Briefly the Klipdrift Diggers’ Republic was declared (the town assuming the name Parkerton after President Stafford Parker), before colonial rule was extended here. It became, with Kimberley, one of the main towns in the Crown Colony of Griqualand West and was renamed Barkly West (see the article on New Rush). Like Barkly East, the town is named after Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of Cape Colony and High Commissioner for Southern Africa from 1870 to 1877. During the Anglo-Boer War the town was occupied by Boer forces and temporarily went by the name Nieuw Boshof.
Barkly West is sometimes erroneously spelled as “Barkley-West” (even in road signage). In Afrikaans the town is known as Barkly-Wes. The local municipality, post-1994, is called Dikgatlong, part of the Frances Baard District Municipality.
The towns found in the Green Kalahari are:
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