Hankey was started as a mission station on behalf of the London Missionary Society by Dr John Phillip. The main purpose was to grow corn and mielies for the mission station at Bethelsdorp as well as to carry out evangelistic work in the valley. Dr Philip's son, William Philip, came to the mission station in 1841 and during his time there the area experienced a serious water shortage. The best way to get water from the Gamtoos River to the settlement's farmland was to dig a tunnel through the cliff that stood in-between the two. A formidable task indeed but not one that put William off in any way. In 1843 he started the project with the help of Khoi labourers and in just more than a year they completed the 228 meter tunnel. William drowned in the nearby river just after the official opening of the tunnel which was used for over a century. These days the tunnel is no longer in use because of irrigation canals criss crossing the valley but has been declared a national monument as the Phillips Tunnel is the oldest irrigation tunnel in South Africa.
There is a sign on the road through town that indicates the spot to turn off. The road passes the town's township, over the Gamtoos River and a couple of farmlands. The turnoff from the dirt road takes one up to the picnic area by the tunnel.
Photos and content courtesy of The Firefly Photo Files