Kimberley Mine Museum and Big Hole
Do you want to retrace the lives of the rough-and-ready diggers who made it all happen? Or experience life in Kimberley as it must have been during the diamond-rush days when races, lotteries, pubs and ballrooms made the town a very bright place indeed?
Then visit the Kimberley Mine Museum. Consisting of original and carefully reconstructed buildings this open-air museum has preserved a great deal of the city’s past.
The first officially recorded diamond discovered in the country, the Eureka, can be viewed here. Or you can sift through diamond-bearing grave, looking for your won treasure. Wander past one of Kimberley’s oldest houses, a prefabricated construction imported from England in 1877, or the delightful old pub, Digger’s Rest, one of the many us which flourished in those early days. The tobacconist shop where Perilly produced his famous hand-made cigarettes, Barney Barnato’s Boxing Academy, a reconstruction of farmer De Beers’ homestead – they are all there.
The Big hole itself is an astonishing sight. Mined to a depth of 215 meters, and with a surface area of +/- 17 hectares and a perimeter of +/- 1.6 km, it is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. On 14 August 1914 work on the mine was suspended, By that time 22.5 million tons of earth had been excavated, yielding 2 722 kg of diamonds.
A trip on the tram
For those who would like to travel to the Kimberley Mine Museum in grand old style, a ride on the Kimberley Tram is a must.
Tram services were introduced to Kimberley in 1887, and ultimately came to a halt in 1947. Revived in 1985, the tram service now operates daily between 09:00 and 16:30 carrying visitors between De Beers and the Star of the West.
En route visitors are treated to some of the city’s historical and noteworthy sites, while the tram also stops outside the Star of the West, the oldest pub in Kimberley, for those who would like to pay a visit.
The Honoured Dead Memorial
Instigated by Cecil John Rhodes and designed by sir Herbert Baker, this memorial commemorates those who lost their lives during the 124 day siege of Kimberley at the start of the 1899 – 1902 Anglo-Boer War.
“Long Cecil”, the gun named after Rhodes and built in the De Beers workshops during the siege, stands at the base of the monument surrounded by Boer “Long Tom” shells. The monument is built of sandstone quarried near the Metapos in Zimbabwe and bears an inscription by Rudyard Kipling and bronze plaques by Kipling’s father.
Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens and Diggers Fountain
The Gardens are a memorial to the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, diamond magnate and the first elected mayor of the municipality of the city of Kimberley when Beaconsfield and Kimberley were combined into a city in 1912.
The Miners Memorial, or Diggers Fountain, was erected in honour of past and present diggers. It portrays five life-sized diggers, holding a diamond sieve on high, and was designed by Herman Wald.
A bust of Sir Ernest gazes out over the fountain and rose garden.
The Market Square
The Market Square, adjacent to the City Hall and now a national monument, was the trading hub of the dry diggings. The memorial of balancing rocks from the Matopos commemorates the departure from Kimberley in 1890 of the Pioneer Column, which effectively opened Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to white settlement.
Square Hill Memorial
This memorial was erected in memory of the members of the Kimberley Cape Coloured Corps who died in the Battle of Square Hill during the First World War.
What used to be the Malay Camp before its inhabitants were removed, today serves as a backdrop to the home of Sol Plaatje, one of South Africa’s most famous black persons. Plaatje, a founder member of the ANC (African National Congress) and its first General Secretary, also made outstanding contributions in the fields of journalism and literature, and was the first black South African to write a novel in English. Plaatje for many years lived in this house, which has been declared a notional monument.
Newton Dutch Reformed Church
A national monument, the city’s Dutch Reformed mother church dates from 1872. In front of the church stands the Concentration Camp Memorial, erected in memory of those who died in the Newton Concentration Camp during the Anglo-Boer War.
Memorial to Sister Henrietta Stockdale
Henrietta Stockdale, an Anglican nun of the Order of Saint Michael and All Angels, became the first matron of the new Kimberley hospital. The nurses she trained were much sought after to establish new hospitals throughout the country. In 1891 Sister Henrietta secured legal recognition for the profession when, through her efforts, an Act was passed by the Cape Parliament which made South Africa the first country in the world to institute compulsory sate registration of nurses. The statue of Sister Henrietta in front of the St Cyprian’s Cathedral is reputed to be the only portrait statue of a nun in the world.
Memorial to the Pioneers of Aviation
Kimberley can truly be called the nursery of flying in Southern Africa. This national monument is located on the site of the continent’s first flying school, which was established in 1912/13, and which was the birthplace of the South African Air Force. It is a reconstruction of the hangar, containing a replica of the Compton Paterson biplane use in flight training by the first pupil pilots.
School of Mines
Southern Africa’s first School of Mines was established in Kimberley in 1896, and was transferred to Johannesburg early this century where it became the foundation of the University of the Witwatersrand. The building, in Hull street, a national monument, now houses an arts workshop.
Seventh Day Adventist Church
Strange as it may sound, Kimberley’s diamonds also provided money for religion. A small corrugated-iron church built in Kimberley was regarded as the mother church of all Seventh Day Adventists in South Africa and Australia. It was built by Pieter Wessels, an Afrikaner whose religious beliefs conflicted fiercely with those of his own church, the Dutch Reformed Church. He established his own denomination in 1885 with the money he received from the sale of his farm Benaauwheidsfontein, upon which the Wesselton diamond mine was developed in 1890.