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Kimberley Club after 1895 fire


UPDATED: 11/10/2022

11 October 1895, The second fire to destroy the Kimberley Club.
11 October 1899, The Anglo-Boer War starts at 5pm.
11 October 1912, St Cyprian’s church elevated to that of a Cathedral.

(Pictured is the Club after the 1895 fire).

Kimberley Club destroyed

The Kimberley Club has twice been destroyed by fire since its inception in 1881, the second fire on 11 October 1895 being most destructive with the Club virtually destroyed in its entirety. Only the kitchen, the storeroom and the wine cellar with its contents, were undamaged. The saving of the wine cellar was no doubt a highlight of conversation for a few weeks.

It was in the early hours of Friday 11 October that the fire started in the upstairs billiard room of the Club, one of the chains holding the overhead oil lamps had broken and fallen on to the linoleum covered floor. The linoleum floor, washed regularly with paraffin, had immediately caught fire and the flames spread rapidly.

The residents living in the cottage behind the Club were roused at 05h00 and the fire brigade were notified at 05h30. The best the fire brigade could do was to ensure that the fire did not spread to the Catholic Church on the one side and a wood and iron shack on the other. Kimberley’s inadequate water supply and the fire brigade’s recently purchased fire engine could not save the building.

Despite the loss of irreplaceable and historic furniture and fittings including paintings and antelope horns, saved or salvaged from the fire were the entire contents from Secretary Tim Tyson’s office and the Jockey’s Weighing Chair donated by Lord Randolph Churchill (father of Sir Winston). Also saved were the Hall clock, Hall barometer, Hall letter-box, and the furniture from the hall.

The Club cat, “Thomas”, also survived.

Within 24 hours the Club was operating from temporary premises and within five days the dining room, cleaned up sufficiently, was back in use.

Daniel Greatbatch would be the architect for the new proposed building, the insurers having paid out some £10 650 to the members.

UPDATED: 11/10/2019

11 October 1895, The second fire to destroy the Kimberley Club.
11 October 1899, The Anglo-Boer War starts at 5pm.
11 October 1912, St Cyprian’s church elevated to that of a Cathedral.

(Pictured are three statues from the Oorlogsmuseum in Bloemfontein depicting an agterryer, wife saying goodbye to her husband, and a scene from a concentration camp)


Today, 120 years ago at 17h00, the worst conflict in southern Africa’s history began, repercussions of which are still felt throughout South Africa. Tens of thousands would die, both military and civilian, black and white, from combat, internment and disease. Hundreds of thousands would be affected in one way or another. A minimum of some 1648 blacks would die in Kimberley during the siege alone.


Herewith the Transvaal Ultimatum of 9 October 1899, and Great Britain’s reply of the following day – 10 October 1899.

“This Government … in the interest not only of this Republic, but also of all South Africa,…feels itself called upon and obliged … to request Her Majesty’s Government to give it the assurance:

“(a) That all points of mutual difference shall be regulated by the friendly course of arbitration, or by whatever amicable way may be agreed upon by this Government with Her Majesty’s Government.

“(b) That the troops on the borders of this Republic shall be instantly withdrawn.

“(c) That all reinforcements of troops which have arrived in South Africa since June 1st, 1899, shall be removed from South Africa within a reasonable time, to be agreed upon with this Government, and with a mutual assurance and guarantee upon the part of this Government that no attack upon or hostilities against any portion of the possessions of the British Government shall be made by the Republic during further negotiations within a period of time to be subsequently agreed upon between the Governments, and this Government will, on compliance therewith, be prepared to withdraw the armed burghers of this Republic from the borders.

“(d) That Her Majesty’s troops which are now on the high seas shall not be landed in any part of South Africa.

Wife saying goodbye to husband.

“This Government must press for an immediate and affirmative answer to these four questions, and earnestly requests Her Majesty’s Government to return such an answer before or upon Wednesday, October 11th, 1899, not later than five o’clock p.m., and it desires further to add that, in the event of unexpectedly no satisfactory answer being received by it within that interval, it will with great regret be compelled to regard the action of Her Majesty’s Government as a formal declaration of war, and will not hold itself responsible for the consequences thereof, and that in the event of any further movements of troops taking place within the above-mentioned time in the nearer directions of our borders, the Government will be compelled to regard that also as a formal declaration of war.

“I have, etc.,

“F. W. REITZ, State Secretary.”

Scene from Concentration Camp.

The text of the British reply to the Boer ultimatum: Chamberlain to Milner, High Commissioner, sent 10.45 pm, 10 October, 1899:

Her Majesty’s government has received with great regret the peremptory demands of the South African Republic, conveyed in your telegram of October 9. You will inform the government of the South African Republic in reply that the conditions demanded by the government of the South African Republic are such as Her Majesty’s government deems it impossible to discuss.”

11 October 1895, The second fire to destroy the Kimberley Club.
11 October 1899, The Anglo-Boer War starts at 5pm.


In the Kimberley region before the Anglo-Boer war began on 11 October 1899, Boer commandoes had been gathering at Boshof and on the border of the OFS and the Cape Colony since September 1899.

Likewise the British had also been planning since middle 1899. The senior British specialist sent to Kimberley was Major Henry Scott-Turner of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), who had been stationed as Rhodes’ representative in Umtali, Rhodesia, then in the process of being developed as a town.

Employed with the BSA Company, Scott-Turner was not only a friend of Rhodes but also the son-in-law of Sir Lewis Michell, general manager of Standard Bank SA who was destined to take Rhodes’ seat on the Board of De Beers upon the latter’s death in 1902. Major Scott-Turner was subsequently placed in charge of the Kimberley Mounted Corps and was responsible for raising the Kimberley Light Horse (known as Rhodes’ Own, or Rhodes’ Horse).

Kimberley proved an easy place to plan a defence with the many various mine dumps (tailings) around its perimeters, and with the power and expertise of the De Beers Company, by the time war began many of the dumps were already fortified, the view from these natural defensive positions stretching for many kilometres in all directions.

War began on 11 October 1899.

On 12 October Commandant Wessels crossed the OFS border into the Cape Colony with the Boshof, Jacobsdal and Kroonstad commandoes, taking up positions along the line from Olifantsfontein to Alexandersfontein. His HQ was positioned at Olifantsfontein. The total Boers at that time amounted to some 1400 burghers with 3 guns. In Kimberley were some 600 regular British soldiers plus 4800 volunteers.

Pictured is one of the five searchlights used by the defenders of Kimberley – most of which were already in place by 11 October 1899.

One of the five searchlights used by the defenders of Kimberley

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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