Hankey is the oldest and probably best known because of its claim to the largest sundial in Africa (18m high and weighs a ton) as well as the burial place of Sarah Baartman – now an icon for human rights.
Her life story is one of abysmal treatment during which she was cajoled into leaving her place of birth to be exhibited as a ‘freak’ in the UK and Europe. Years of negotiation with the French government, spearheaded by Nelson Mandela, finally culminated in her remains being returned to a burial place just outside Hankey, her final resting place – something of a victory for humanity and a symbol of freedom.
The town of Hankey lies surrounded by beautiful hills and fertile farming land. The London Missionary Society (LMS) founded a mission station in 1822 on the site where the town of Hankey was established in 1826, making it the oldest town in the Gamtoos Valley. It was named after the Rev William Alers Hankey (1771-1859), an ex-banker and the secretary of the LMS. They terminated the mission station in 1875 and in 1876 it became independent from the LMS, and the Congregational Church as it is today. The first trustees of the LMS were Dr John Philip and the Rev. William Alers Hankey.
The purpose of village was to grow corn and other vegetables for the LMS’s main station at Bethelsdorp and also to carry out evangelistic work. The first property was “Wagondrift” owned by the Damant Brothers. Although the town was planned for 250 families, it started with 25 families. Some of the residents were Windvogel, Diederich, Abraham, Stuurman, Dragoonder, Armoed, Scheepers, Mahtjies, Gerts, Matroos, Konstabel and Kettledas. The first white farmers were Messrs, Wait, Salmon Ferreira, Stefanus Ferreira and the Damant Brothers. However, prior to this, the first inhabitants consisted of a large number of Khoi, a few Mfengos, a few farmers and mixed “Gamtouer” (1700) descendants.