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Kimberley City Hall in 1976


UPDATED: 18/06/2021

18 June 1900, Lyddite shell from Magersfontein explodes in Dutoitspan Road, kills one.
18 June 1976, City Hall officially re-opens after massive restoration and renovations.
(Pictured is the Hall in 1976).

City Hall re-opens after renovations

The Kimberley City Hall, an outstanding piece of Victorian architecture (in Roman Corinthian style), was designed by the well-known Kimberley architect Fergus Carstairs-Rogers and opened on 20 September 1899, a mere few weeks before the siege of Kimberley commenced. Kimberley’s previous Town Hall had been destroyed by fire on 29 March 1898, and on 13 April it was decided to build a new hall to meet the requirements of a growing town. The Directors of De Beers donated a sizable sum of money towards the building costs. Fergus Carstairs-Rogers won the design competition from nine finalists, pocketing the £100 prize money.


Kimberley City Hall

On 16 November 1898 the foundation stone was laid by Moses Cornwall, then Mayor of Kimberley, the plans for the building consisting of a main hall and council chamber, a supper room, a Mayor’s parlour, a committee room, the Town Clerk’s office, and several administrative offices. The Hall was built by local firm, Grant and Downie, and completed at a cost of £26000, and was officially opened by the Mayor of Kimberley, Robert H. Henderson. The Hall would be the administrative and executive centre of Kimberley up until 1962 when the municipality moved to the current Civic Centre.

During the siege – 14 October 1899 to 15 February 1900 – the Hall was used as the pivotal point for the issuing and rationing of food and for a time was a haven for refugees.

A public poll to save the City Hall from demolition was held in 1971, and was successful due to the effort by former Mayor Lawrie Shuttleworth. The so-called coloured population were permitted to vote, and it was their vote that saved the Hall.

It was officially re-opened on 18 June 1976.

18 June 1900, A 4.7 inch Naval gun Lyddite shell from Magersfontein explodes in a room in Dutoitspan Road, killing one person. The man, who had found the “souvenir” shell at Magersfontein, was busy dismantling it to “make it safe.”


British explosive shells filled with Lyddite were initially designated “Common Lyddite” and beginning in 1896 were the first British generation of modern “high explosive” shells. Lyddite is picric acid fused at 280 °F and allowed to solidify, producing a much denser dark-yellow form which is not affected by moisture and is easier to detonate than the liquid form. Common Lyddite shells “detonated” and fragmented into small pieces in all directions, with no incendiary effect. For maximum destructive effect the explosion needed to be delayed until the shell had penetrated its target.

The 4.7 inch and 6 inch British Naval guns used in the Anglo-Boer War all used Lyddite shells. A 4.7 inch naval gun fired on the Boers at Magersfontein from 9 December 1899 until 15 February 1900.

Early shells had walls of the same thickness for the whole length, later shells had walls thicker at the base and thinning towards the nose. This was found to give greater strength and provide more space for explosive.

Proper detonation of a Lyddite shell would show black to grey smoke, or white from the steam of a water detonation. Yellow smoke indicated simple explosion rather than detonation, and failure to reliably detonate was a problem with Lyddite, especially in its earlier usage. To improve the detonation “exploders” with a small quantity of picric powder or even of TNT was loaded between the fuze and the main Lyddite filling or in a thin tube running through most of the shell’s length.

(From the Internet as well as personal archives).

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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