Communities of Xhosa moved up to the Orange River as early as 1795. One group subsequently settled at Schietfontein, which was served by a Rhenish mission, and a village named Harmsfontein was established in 1860.
In 1874, it changed its name to honour the British Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. The district is well known for its corbelled houses, built between 1811 and 1815. Carnarvon is set among flat-topped hills and is one of the region’s busiest farming centres.