Although Mossel Bay is well known for it’s beautiful long sandy beaches - a fair amount of our coastline actually constitutes rugged rocky areas - dangerous for ships. The harbour town thus erected a square, white tower lighthouse on the incredible cliffs of St Blaize that stands 20,5 metres high above a cliff face, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1862 by visiting Governor (of the Cape Colony) Edmond Wodehouse.
It was thus suggested that the lighthouse, completed in 1864, be called the Wodehouse Lighthouse, but this was never adopted.
In fact, the name that was given – Saint Blaise – was actually Mossel Bay’s first recorded name. When Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias first landed here on 3 Feb 1488 – in co-incided with the Catholic day of St Blaise and he named it Aguada de São Brás, the Watering Place of St Blaize.
Saint Blaize was well known as a protector of wild animals and healer of throat ailments.
The Cape St Blaize lighthouse was, until recently, one of only two lighthouses along the South African coast that maintained a 24-hour watch. It is also, obviously, one lighthouse that lighthouse keeper's wives were grateful to receive as their husband's post, mainly due to its proximity to a town, to schools for their children, and the chance to work themselves.
You will remember that I told you the lighthouse was completed in 1864, and the historic Ochre barn was completed 15 years before that. The Swellendam-based Barry & Nephews company, the region’s leading trading company of that era, bought the land in Mossel Bay at a public auction in August 1847 for the amount of ₤26.16/8 (approximately R600 in today’s money) and erected the building c 1849.
Because of its location on top of the hill, the building also served as a beacon for ships coming into Mossel Bay. In 1941 the building was bought by the African Golden Ochre company to process ochre mined at Albertinia. It then became known as the Ochre Barn. The present owner of the building, Mr JJ Moorcroft, bought a part of the complex in 1988 and the rest in 2005.