Portland Manor is lucky enough to own one of the old ox-wagons which were beautifully restored by Prof Erik Holm many years ago and it now stands proudly in front of The Last Stance at Portland Arms. The professor, who died in 2009 at the age of 81, was a renowned entomologist who also became known for his work restoring and preserving wood-spoke carriages and wagons and the establishment of the Houtspeek Klub. He was singularly responsible for rekindling the interest in historic carriages and wagons in South Africa in the late 20th century and reviving the wagon culture.
Ox-wagons were used in South Africa from the days of Jan Van Riebeeck when the kakebeenwa (jaw-bone wagon, which resembles the lower jaw of an ox), was developed by the early settlers who used it in the Groot Trek to the interior. Pulled by teams of horses, mules or oxen, they were different from two-wheeled carts and lighter four-wheeled vehicles used to carry people, and were used for transporting freight – commodities, agricultural materials, and supplies. They were not built for comfort and had no seats, so the driver would ride or walk alongside the wagon. A unique feature called a “lazy board” consisted of a plank that could be pulled out if the driver needed a rest.
The wagon at Portland Manor is a type of ox-wagon or ossewa known as a quarter tented bokwa or buck wagon. These wagons were manufactured after the discovery of diamonds in 1867 when numerous manufacturing companies sprang up across the country, including Merryweather in Natal. Merryweather was known for its quality wagons, made with wood from the platkroondoringboom (flat-crown tree) which was widely available in Natal, and won numerous international awards for its wagons. The Portland Manor wagon was manufactured by Merryweather and may have been brought to Knysna for the Millwood gold rush which started in 1876.