EXPLORE SOL PLAATJE: A brief history

A brief history ...

From Diamonds to riches, how Kimberley was formed

 

diggers 1874In 1871, diamond deposits found on a hillock dubbed Colesberg Kopje on the farm Vooruitzicht, owned by the De Beer brothers, led to a mad scramble for fame and fortune and the hand digging of the colossal Kimberley Mine, now better known as The Big Hole. By 1872, the tents and shacks of more than 50 000 feverish diggers crowded what was then known as the mining town of New Rush, surrounding the hillock. Overcrowding, insufficient water, unsanitary conditions, disease, heat, dust and flies were ever present problems in the mining town’s early days. In the fledgling city’s many gambling dens, card- and loan sharks thrived on a diet of other people’s blood, sweat and tears. The stakes were high and the ruthless ruled as fortunes were made and lost in a day. Some found only despair and heartbreak, but others struck it rich.

 

de beers first officeSpacious homes began to rise from the dust and in 1873 the town was renamed Kimberley, after the Earl of Kimberley, British Secretary of State for the Colonies. Today its complex, higgledy piggledy web of roads is a topographic reminder of a chaotic past. And not one, but five big holes, and a number of smaller mines, have been gouged out of the earth. A wild shanty town born of a desperation and greed reminiscent of the American Wild West, Kimberley swiftly donned a mantle of architectural elegance, and by 1900 it was a well established town. Today, Kimberley is a prosperous, thriving metropolis with Victorian buildings that complement the more modern buildings of the CBD. Lacking the furious pace of South Africa’s larger urban giants, it is perhaps not only the country’s most authentic city but also the most innovative. Home of the first flying school, the first stock exchange and the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric street-lighting. So what are some of these ‘real’ experiences that can be enjoyed?

 

townhallKimberley’s world famous landmark, The Big Hole, has recently undergone a major multi-million Rand upgrade to the tourist facilities and is an absolute ‘must’ to go to. If you want to go way back, say some 250 million years ago, visit the Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavements on the Barkly West Road, or for a comprehensive overview starting with the origins of mankind through to the complete history of Kimberley, spend a day at the highly informative McGregor Museum. Stand in awe while looking at the many San (‘Bushmen’) rock engravings at Wildebeestkuil. Go back a little over a hundred years and follow in the footsteps of the Boer War Generals who took on the armed forces of the British empire. Take an authentic township tour in Galeshewe with its new Galeshewe Square central to the revival of one of the country’s oldest townships. But it’s not all about history - for those who enjoy the big outdoors there are fly-fishing,

 


diggers lifeWater rafting, and plenty of game-viewing opportunities at private game reserves and the recently opened Mokala National Park, while Kamfers Dam is home to thousands of flamingos. Besides these extraordinary authentic attractions that make Kimberley distinctive, it is also supported by golf clubs, vineyards, a casino, three resorts, brand new shopping malls, an incredible variety of accommodation and some very unique bars and restaurants.

 

PHOTOS:

  • The mine in 1874
  • De Beers Head Office
  • Town hall in the late 1890's
  • A diggers life

 

TIMELINE

TIMELINE OF "FIRSTS"

More than just diamonds

    • 1877 The first professional training of nurses
    • 1882 The first city in the southern hemisphere to install electric street lights; Kimberley’s lights came on before those of London
    • 1883 The first stock exchange in South Africa
    • 1904 The first electric tram in South Africa
    • 1904 The first city in South Africa to manufacture compressed bricks and terracotta ornaments
    • 1912 The first woman trained as a pilot
    • 1913 The first airplane purchased by the South African government
    • 1931 The first airport to install lighting equipment and first night landing by a pilot
    • 1940 The first female municipal traffic warden
    • 1954 The first school for physically disabled children
    • 1967 The first nation-wide direct dialling telephones
    • 1969 The first female judge, Miss Justice Leonora van den Heever
    • 1976 The first housing scheme, Ipopeng, in Galeshewe
    • 1980 The first South African to be elected to the world swimming hall of fame – Karen Muir
    • 1983 The first elected Black town council: Galeshewe
    • 1983 The first Coloured priest to become Bishop
    • 1992 The first city council to amalgamate all group areas