Norvalspont named after ferry across the Orange River

Norvalspont is a small town in the Pixley Ka Seme District in the Northern Cape Proving, South Africa. The town derived its name from John Norval’s Ferry across the Orange River.


The Norval’s were comb makers when they arrived in South Africa in 1817. John Norval (snr) purchased the farm ‘Dapperfontein’ from Petrus Brits around 1840. The farm was on the bank of the Orange River. There was an abundance of tortoises in the area. The tortoise shells made the finest combs.

He also started farming with sheep and used the wool to produce broad brimmed hats. The Norval felt hats became sought after at the time.

John Norval sold the felt hats in the Cape Province and in the Orange Free State. He wondered how he could cross the Orange River more easily and considered a Ferry across the river.

In 1848 a brief but bitter war broke out between the British and Boer Republics to the North of the river. Sir Harry Smith’s British army need to cross the river to fight the Boers.

The British army crossed the river at the farm Dapperfontein using inflatable rubber rafts as the river was flowing strongly.

After the battle John Norval took the opportunity and used these rubber rafts to set up a Ferry Service. Unfortunately the rubber boats soon perished in the hot Karoo sun. A sturdy wooden pont or ferry was built and the business turned profitable.

He named the ferry “Glasgow”.

In the 1840’s the Norval’s began construction on a hotel and called it the Glasgow Pont Hotel which is still open to this day.

Glasgow Pont Hotel in Norvalspont

On the 17th December 1890 the Pont was replaced by a new railway bridge when the railway line from Noupoort to Bloemfontein was opened. Norvalspont now became Norvalspont Bridge Station.

The bridge was 500 meters long and constructed on 11 columns of concrete. The steel sections were manufactured in Britain and shipped to South Africa and assembled on site at Norvalspont.

needless to say the Ferry business declined and John Norval went back to farming and managing the hotel.

The Anglo Boer War and Norvalspont

The second Boer War began on 11 October 1899. One of the first actions of the war began when Koos De La Rey and Christiaan De Wet launched an attack on the British across the railway bridge.

Dapperfontein farm was occupied by the Boers and declared a new addition to the Orange Free State. But with the advancing British Troops the Boer forces retreated across the bridge and blew up 3 of its central columns on 5 March 1900.

A few days after the destruction of the bridge, the British constructed a pontoon bridge so that the soldiers could cross the Orange River. The area around the bridge was fortified by the British. Remains are still visible today of the fortifications and the blockhouse.

By the end of March 1900 a temporary railway bridge was constructed and this was used through the remainder of the war. When the war ended the original railway bridge was converted into a road bridge.