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Fort Murray


Fort Murray was named after Colonel George Murray of the 42nd Regiment who was at the time Master-General of Ordnance in England. He would later become the Governor of Canada.

There were in fact two forts by that name. The "Old Fort Murray" was very near Mount Coke. It was constructed in 1835 at the conclusion of the Sixth Frontier War and upon orders from Sir Benjamin D'Urban. It was a simple earthwork structure, as were most of the forts dating to that period.

After the Province of Queen Adelaide was abandoned in December 1836, however, the fort was vacated and was never re-occupied. Today even its ruins have vanished.

The second Fort Murray -- situated some 8 kilometres from the original fort -- was constructed soon after the establishment of British Kaffraria. It would serve as a combined barracks and fort, and became the headquarters of Lieutenant Colonel John Maclean, Chief Commissioner for the Crown Colony.

Its construction was apparently authorised by Sir Harry Smith either in December 1847 when he visited King William's Town at the conclusion of the War of the Axe, or in January 1848 when the Governor visited the region for a second time.

The fort was built by the Royal Engineers, using stone that was quarried on the banks of the nearby Buffalo River. It was a square structure, with loop-holed stone walls each measuring approximately 67 metres in length and 3 metres in height.

All doors and windows opened onto an inner barrack square, in the centre of which stood the guard house and the powder magazine. The rooms were probably roofed over with slate.

After the British German Legion had landed at East London early in 1857 to become military settlers in the colony, they spent two months encamped outside the walls of the fort. They spoke about being given access to Colonel Maclean's wonderful garden nearby.

By 1877, when the Gcaleka War erupted, Fort Murray had already fallen into a state of disrepair. Nevertheless, it was used during that war as the training centre for the Frontier Armed Mounted Police, the last unit to occupy the fort.

Since that time the place has been badly neglected and large quantities of stone have been removed from the buildings to be used elsewhere.

The ruins of this fort was proclaimed a national monument in 1938.

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