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Kimberley Club after 1895 fire

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 11 OCTOBER

11 October 1895, The second fire to destroy the Kimberley Club.
11 October 1899, The Anglo-Boer War commences at 17:00.

(Pictured is the Club after the 1895 fire).

DID YOU KNOW

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.

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

DID YOU KNOW

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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