Kimberley is the
provincial capital of the
Northern Cape. It is in
the Sol Plaatje Municipality of the Frances Baard
District and has a population of just over 210,000
is a prosperous, thriving city, worthy of the title
‘Diamond Capital of the world’. Lacking the furious
pace of South Africa’s larger urban giants, the
Victorian grandeur of stately buildings complement
the modern buildings towering over them.
1871, five years after the finding of a diamond
further south on
the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown, the De
Beers brothers gave Dutch diamond-prospectors
permission to dig on their small farm. An 83.5
carat diamond was found on the slopes of the small Colesberg Kopje
(hill), which led to the
biggest diamond rush into the area.
As miners arrived in their thousands, the digger camp
of "New Rush" rose from the dust. In 1873 it was
re-named Kimberley after John Wodehouse, 1st Earl Of
Kimberley and British secretary of state for the
Colesberg Kopje became an
indentation and then a large crater - this is the
Kimberley diamond mine "Big
Hole", which closed to diamond mining in
1914, and which now forms part of a recently
upgraded (2006) and exciting
Galeshewe, the satellite township that adjoins
Kimberley, was originally built under the apartheid
laws to house the area's African population and is
still largely populated by African people. The
township's existence dates from 1871 and for many
years it was known as Number Two Location, until
1952 when it was named after Chief Galeshewe of the
Batlhaping tribe. He was an important figure to the
local African population and spent many years in
jail after he rebelled against the Cape Colony
Government several times to protect his people.
A town of great innovation
The Kimberley Club on Du Toitspan Road
was established in August 1881. Among its
more illustrious past members, it counts
Leander Starr Jameson, Charles Dunnell Rudd,
Barney Barnato, Sir Ernest
Oppenheimer and Harry Oppenheimer.
Kimberley was the home of South Africa's
first stock exchange. Situated in Ebden Street, it
was officially opened on 2 February 1881 by mayor
Moses Cornwall. The exchange quickly became too
small for all the business which was being conducted
In December 1882 the exchange was gutted by
fire and the offices moved to the Craven Hotel as a
temporary solution. The architect Robert Day
designed a new exchange which opened on the corner
of Christian and Church Streets. The boom was
short-lived and by the time the building was
completed very few transactions were taking place.
The exchange finally ceased operations in March 1894
and the company was liquidated in 1903. The building
was used as a town hall in 1898, during the siege it
housed displaced persons, later it was used by the Ohlsson’s Brewery until it was demolished in the
In September 1882 Kimberley was renowned as the first
town in the southern hemisphere to install electric
The rising importance of Kimberley in the late
1800s led to one of
the earliest International Exhibitions in the
southern hemisphere to be staged here in 1892. Opened
on the 8th of September by Sir Henry Loch, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope,
it presented exhibits of art, including paintings from the royal collection of
Queen Victoria, as well as mining machinery and other implements.
South Africa's first School of Mines opened
in Kimberley in 1896, later relocating to Johannesburg.
General van der Spuy Drive is the location of South
Africa’s first Flying School. Started in 1913,
pilots of the South African Aviation Corps, later
the South African Air Force, were trained here. A
replica of the Compton Paterson trainer biplane is
elegant cream and white City Hall is built
in Roman Corinthian style. Situated on the
corner of Old Main Street and Transvaal Road
in the city centre, it dates from 1899, just
before the the Siege of Kimberley at the
start of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).
This combination of elegance and superior
workmanship was designed by architect,
Fergus Carstairs Rogers (1864-1927) who was
educated at Dollar Academy and George
Watson's School (Edinburgh, Scotland). He
went to London before emigrating to
Kimberley where he commenced independent
14 October 1899, Kimberley was besieged at the
beginning of the Anglo-Boer War. The siege was only
lifted on 15 February 1900, but the war continued
until May 1902. By that time the British had built
one of the first concentration camps at Kimberley to
house Boer women and children.
Magersfontein Battlefield museum is about
30km south of Kimberley. Its original gun
positions, trenches and other defences
intact, it is the site of General Piet
Cronje’s crushing defeat of Lieutenant-General Lord
Methuen, leading a British relief column to the
besieged Kimberley. Today the museum displays uniforms,
equipment, weapons, documents and
photographs from both armies, together with
an intense audio-visual experience, bringing one
of the Anglo-Boer War’s most important and
decisive battles back to life.
Honoured Dead Memorial at the crossroads of
Dalham & Oliver Roads was designed by
Herbert Baker and built at the behest
Cecil Rhodes to honour those who died
defending Kimberley during the siege.
Cecil’, the field gun made and used during
the siege of Kimberley, is mounted on the stylobate
surrounded by shells from the Boer ‘Long
Tom’. Built of Zimbabwean sandstone, it
bears an inscription by
Rudyard Kipling and
bronze plaques by Kipling’s father.
famous McGregor Museum is housed in the Sanatorium
on Atlas Street. The Sanatorium was built in 1897 at
Cecil Rhodes’ instigation as a hotel and health resort,
becoming his home during the four-month siege.
Displays include natural history, the Siege of
Kimberley, a Hall of Religions and the acclaimed
Ancestors Gallery, depicting 3 million years of
human history in the Northern Cape.
in the Kimberley suburb of Belgravia is one
of the city's most elegant houses.
Designed by the architect DW Greatbatch and
built at the end of the 19th century, it was
the residence of the merchant John Orr,
whose family stayed there until 1975. The
house was then bought by the McGregor
Museum, with all its furniture, kitchen
utensils, linen, books and photographs -
some dating back to 1902 when the Orr family
moved into the house.
The Alexander McGregor Memorial Museum
in Chapel Street is the original Museum
built in 1907 in memory of the former mayor.
Today, as a satellite of the McGregor
Museum, it houses displays on Kimberley’s
suburban and township development.
The Africana Library in Du Toitspan Road
Robert Moffat’s personal
copy of his Setswana translation of the
Bible. This library is a rich repository of
books, manuscripts and photographs
portraying life in the
Sol Plaatje, a founding member of the
African National Congress and its first
Secretary General, lived in a house in the
former Malay Camp area (now
Kimberley’s Civic Centre). His house in
Angel Street is now a museum.
Duggan-Cronin Gallery in Egerton Road
depicts indigenous African people before the
Western influence could drastically change
their own traditional lifestyles. It houses
some 8,000 photographs taken by Irishman
Alfred Duggan-Cronin between 1919 and 1939.
The last resting place of Robert
Mangaliso Sobukwe, founder and first
president of the Pan Africanist Congress
(PAC), is in Naledi Street, Galeshewe,
Kimberley. He was arrested after the 1960
Sharpeville massacre and sentenced to
imprisonment on Robben Island. After nine
years he was released and lived under a
house arrest in Kimberley until his death in
Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens on Jan Smuts Boulevard is a
memorial to Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, mining
magnate and former mayor of Kimberley. Surrounded by a rose garden, the Miners
Memorial or Diggers Fountain, comprising a
fountain and statue of five miners holding
up a sieve, was erected to honour diamond
diggers, past and present.
Spoornet Museum at Kimberley railway station
documents the development of the railway and
transport systems of the region.
The William Humphreys Art Gallery at the
Civic Centre on Jan Smuts Boulevard is one
of the most important galleries in the
country. It houses a range of South African
works, as well as 16th and 17th century
British, Flemish and Dutch Old Masters.
Legislature building in Kimberley was opened
in 2003. It is a truly inspiring work of art
in terms of the creativity that has been
unleashed in its construction and is a
must-see for locals and tourists alike
For the bird watcher, Kamfersdam just outside Kimberley on
the Transvaal Road, is home to one of
Africa's largest flamingo colonies.