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Driven to desperation by poverty in 1820s England, people of the lowest classes chose to brave three months (or more) journey by ship to a fledgling colony on the shores of an unknown land. The village of Bathurst is what is known as a frontier town, established by these 1820 settlers on the edge of the newly founded Cape Colony as they tried to find a place to eke out a living in the completely foreign territory of the Eastern Cape.

The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn was built by one such settler. Thomas Hartley settled in Cumber in 1820 and put down roots in Bathurst, where he built a forge and a house in the early 1820s. By 1832, he had also opened an inn, which he built next to his forge.

Bathurst was well situated geographically as a waypoint for wagon travellers. There was a smithy, farrier, shops and, of course, the inn, then known as the Bathurst Inn. In 1832 surgeon Ambrose Campbell began to travel to Bathurst from Grahamstown on the first Saturday of every month for consultations.

The inn was highly regarded and, despite neighbouring a forge, the inn's rooms were billed as "Subscription Rooms for Gentlemen". High profile guests included Lord Charles Somerset, the Governor of the Cape, and Sir Benjamin D'Urban.

Following Thomas Hartley's death in 1840, his widow, Sarah, took over the inn. Her gift for hospitality allowed the inn to flourish, and it became the accommodation of choice for travelling dignitaries and government officials. 

In 1847 the Governor General of the Cape Colony, Sir Henry Pottinger, stayed at the Inn where he was visited by the Chaplain, the Magistrate and the Post Commander. The following year the next Governor General, Sir Harry Smith, also stayed at Widow Hartley's Inn (as it was then known).

In 1849, the inn was painted in oils by famous English explorer and artist Thomas Baines. Sarah Hartley died later that year, leaving the inn she had made renowned in the colony to her son, Thomas Hartley Junior. In 1852 Jeremiah Goldswain bought the inn from Hartley Junior.

The inn acquired its current name about 100 years later, when soldiers from the Royal Air Force were stationed nearby. They decided to name their new pub after their local pub in England, thus the Bathurst Inn became the Pig and Whistle.