The fledgling community was on the very edge of civilisation as they were the only white people in the area, and they were troubled by Bushmen who came down from the Drakensberg to steal cattle and horses. Raiding parties consisted of between four to fourteen men, some mounted on horses, some with firearms or poisoned arrows.
By 1853 the desperate farmers wrote to the Acting Governor of Natal, requesting protection from the raids. The government decided to create a ‘buffer zone’ by establishing a small military outpost in addition to a “pensioners’ village”, west of the existing settlement, and 13 000 acres of commonage was allocated for the village of Fort Nottingham, which was proclaimed in 1856. Thomas Fannin of the Dargle laid out the village with twenty-two acre plots the same year, but forgot to include road access in his plans, and in 1863 the village was re-surveyed by a Dr Sutherland.
The military force which was supposed to protect the farmers and their property comprised a small detachment of troopers from the Cape Mounted Riflemen, who set up a temporary tented camp, but presumably their boredom (apparently they didn’t see a single Bushmen during their stay), led to lack of discipline, and they were replaced by another small detachment, this time from the Natal Mounted Rifles. They in turn were replaced by a permanent force from the 45th Foot, the Sherwood Foresters from Nottingham in England, who were instructed to set up a permanent fort. Their fort and some of the early buildings can be seen today at the Fort Nottingham Museum.