Round here folk like to think that two memorable events occurred in 1912.
The first was the establishment of Clarens – the second was the launching of the “unsinkable” Titanic. Tragically, the Titanic did sink and as the news flashed around the stunned world, people in Clarens could talk of nothing else. An unknown resident looked toward the “nek”, saw the prominent jutting rock and said, “It looks like the Titanic”, and that’s what the rock formation has been called ever since. The Titanic stands like a sentry to welcome all who visit the village and invites them to come and experience the warm-hearted hospitality of the inhabitants.
You may wonder how the name of “Clarens” came into being: In 1910 the farm “Leliehoek” (near the Kloof) was purchased from Mr Hermanus Steyn, and in 1911 Mr Piet de Villiers sold his farm “Naauwpoort” (situated near the Titanic) to a company wanting to establish a village here in the mountains. These two farms were divided evenly and sold for the sum of fifty pounds each. In 1912 a commission was appointed to finalise negotiations, and a decision was made to name the village “Clarens” in honour of President Paul Kruger’s influence in the area. This came about in the following ways – During the Basotho war of 1865 – 1866, five “burghers” from the Transvaal were murdered in the Eastern Free State; a direct consequence was the official declaration of war by the Transvaal against the Basotho leader Moshoeshoe. Paul Kruger together with a commando of burghers defeated the Basotho at the Battle of Naauwpoortnek. President Paul Kruger spent his last days as a voluntary exile in the attractive village of Clarens in Switzerland and Clarens was thus a very apt name for the mountainous village here in the Eastern Free State. A monument in honour of the five burghers murdered by the Basotho on the 29th September 1865, during the siege of Naauwpoort, was originally erected on the farm Ararat just outside Clarens. This monument was later moved to Clarens and re-sited on the central square.
Clarens is part of the scenic Highlands Route and is surrounded by mountainous splendour. The Rooiberge is the range encompassing the village, whilst further on towards the southeast, the mighty Maluti’s stand proud in shades of purple and blue. All around are the sandstone cliffs with their multi-coloured layers – this horizontal strata is a unique geological feature of the area, and is known as the Clarens formation. Many homes in the Clarens Valley are made from Clarens Sandstone.
The village has become know as the “Jewel of the Free State” – rich in beauty, with an aura of peace and tranquillity. Clarens is endowed with more trees than most other Free State towns – the fresh, light green willows and colourful blossoms of the many fruit trees are an unforgettable sight in spring time; whilst the magnificent autumn shades of the lombard poplars attract artists, photographers and nature lovers. The town is known for the many Art and Craft shops which offer the visitor a wide range of curios and original artwork. Another feature which adds to the picturesque atmosphere of the village is the many sandstone buildings. The popular Golden Gate National Park is located in the near vicinity of Clarens, and the area attracts many visitors.