14 March 1887, Executioner King hangs murderer Michael King at the Kimberley gaol, 1887
14 March 1891, Movement of earth closes the Harvey Shaft at the Kimberley Mine, 1891
14 March 1920, Herbert Wright killed by love triangle rival Hubert ‘Mad’ Fisher on Egerton Road, 1920
14 March 1947, Michael John “Doc” Doherty, Cricketer of the Year 1972, born, 1947
DID YOU KNOW
The well-known journalist and writer, Vere Stent, wrote that in 1898 in Beaconsfield there were 3396 whites, 6650 blacks, and Indians and coloureds totalled 1532, a sum of 10478 inhabitants. He stated that there were the usual number of tradesmen and civil servants, but that the majority of inhabitants worked as debris workers or on the mines.
“The Beaconsfield Club”, he wrote, “is an institution with a history, and has been transplanted bodily from Dutoitspan village to the main road of this town.” Besides the Club, there were social, dramatic and literary societies. There were not many public amenities, the Public Library being an exception, subscribers paying £1 per annum to be a member. The parish Church of All Saints (pictured), wrote Stent, “…is now almost too large for the town, but it is an ornament to the Market Square of which it may be proud.”
The truly magnificent Beaconsfield Town Hall, demolished in 1968, was opened on 11 June 1888 as a memorial to the volunteer military forces of the Diamond Fields who died in the 1878-1879 colonial uprisings. In 1897 a Jubilee wing was added to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee while in1902 a clock tower was added to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII.
That same year – 1888 – saw Barney Barnato being elected in November to the Cape Legislative Assembly as the parliamentarian representing Beaconsfield, a post that would become the long time parliament seat of his cousin many years later – Sir David Harris. The amalgamation of the mines in 1888-1889 saw both Dutoitspan and Bultfontein mines cease production in order to reduce output and the town suffered as a result of massive unemployment. By 1891 the population of Kimberley had halved and in Beaconsfield it had been trimmed by a third. Many miners had gone north to the gold fields.
Government buildings in the town included the Post Office (demolished), the Magistrates Court (a National Monument which became the Post office and now a curio centre), and the Police Barracks (demolished). The former offices of the London and South African Exploration Company are now used as the Beaconsfield Library (the Gardner Williams Hall). Of the other buildings worth noting are the Phoenix Hotel, a large double storied building on Market Square (established in 1885), what is left of the Pages Bioscope close to the Phoenix, as well as the Masonic Temple, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Wesleyan church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church (the first in the southern hemisphere).
The last Mayor of Beaconsfield was Thomas Pratley who was in the chair from 1904 until formal amalgamation with Kimberley on 2 December 1912 when Ernest Oppenheimer became the first Mayor of a combined city. The first combined council meeting was on 4 December 1912.
Beaconsfield, often called the Cinderella suburb of Kimberley, is actually the elder sister and should be respected as such. Historically, apart from the diamond discovery, Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo railroad passed through Beaconsfield before reaching Kimberley in 1885; it was through Beaconsfield that General French rode after relieving the besieged town on 15 February 1900; and it was at the Beaconsfield station that the British soldiers arrived en masse after the relief of Kimberley. Beaconsfield was the rail junction to Bloemfontein once the line had opened in 1908, and it was here that a large marshalling yard was established.
(Photograph of All Saints Church from the Noordkaap newspaper).