20 September 1888, Five sisters of the Poor Sisters of Nazareth leave London for Kimberley.
20 September 1899, The Town Hall on Market Square opens.
New Town Hall opens on the Market Square
The Kimberley Town 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 that year 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, Carstairs-Rogers winning the design competition from nine finalists, pocketing the £100 prize money.
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 £26 000.00, and 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.
Many dignitaries over the years have been feted at the Hall, including Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener, Cecil Rhodes, General JPD French, Joseph Chamberlain, Sol Plaatje, Field Marshal Smuts, among so many others too numerous to name.
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 among others. The coloured population were permitted to vote, and it was their vote that saved the Hall. Note the original Kimberley coat of arms on the parapet, as well as the motto “Spero Meliora” – “We hope for better things”.
The Kimberley coat of arms had figured on the council’s seal since 1878. The fleur-de-lys and annulets on the shield are taken from the Arms of the Cape Colony; the diamond is there for obvious reasons; the Lion Rampant is emblematic of Kimberley’s original recognition of British supremacy and allegiance to British aims and ideals.
Declared a National Monument on 18 February 1977.