The charming well preserved mid 19th village of McGregor lies at the foot of the Riviersonderend mountains, 20 km from Robertson on a good tarred road. A dirt road does connect the village with the N2 via the Stormsvlei Pass, but the tar peters out a little way beyond the village towards the famous McGregor to Greyton walk via the Bushmanskloof Pass. It is this physical sense of isolation which has helped to preserve some of the most attractive 19th century architecture in the Western Cape.
McGregor offers quaint, thatched cottages, outdoor activities, art and crafts, tranquility and relaxation. Surrounded by mountain trails, fruit orchards, olive groves and the vineyards which supply McGregor winery, the village has maintained a rural peaceful ambience inspirational to its artists.
The Early Settlers
The village shares the climate of the Little Karoo: hot in summer and cool to cold in winter, when the rain falls and occasionally snow shimmers in the sunshine on the encircling hills. It is good farming country, and although the !Xan travelled through the area en route to the sea, it was the soil which drew the first farmers to settle in the late 1700s. A few scattered houses were built in the early 1800s. Some were used for nagmaal (such as a terrace of three known as 'Die Trein' in Voortrekker Street), some housed labourers and some were built by people such as the miller and the whipstock maker. The village was officially proclaimed only in 1862 and divided into 2½ha. Plots. By 1905, all the land had been bought by 19 smallholders and farmers, and their names are recorded on a contemporary map now in the McGregor Museum.
When the plots were auctioned, an advertising poster apparently claimed that the main road to Cape Town from the north would probably pass through the village. This never happened, and neither did the planned road over the mountains through the Boesmanskloof Pass to Greyton.
As a result, the village has retained its friendliness and peaceful feel, with thatch-roofed cottages, vines, apricot trees and olive groves adding a special beauty. The local Heritage Society aims to maintain its historical significance, in architectural and social terms, to promote conservation awareness and continue the development of the surrounding Nature Reserve.
The growing settlement was originally called Lady Grey, the wife of a governor of the Cape.
Confusingly for the authorities of the day and the post office, the village shared this name with another in the Eastern Cape. But in 1904 the congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church decided to call their parish and new church in Voortrekker Street after their much-loved pastor, the Rev. Andrew McGregor, who had just retired after 40 years of dedicated service in Robertson. Two years later, in April 1906, the relieved authorities followed suit and gazetted an official name change to McGregor.
There is a copy of a decree, it may be seen in our museum and which was signed on 9th April, 1906 by the Honorable Walter Hely-Hutchinson when the change of name was formalized.
Yes, on the 9th, April 2006 McGregor celebrated its name for the 100th year!