Every now and again there will be nothing to report on today in Kimberley’s history. While matters of historical interest assuredly happened in Kimberley on this very day, they have not yet been “found” and research is on-going…….
DID YOU KNOW
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the discovery of diamonds brought all the various cultures currently in this country to the diamond fields in search of wealth. The black man worked hand in hand with the white man, and lived in the same mining camps with each other. Later, as the claims became incorporated into mining companies, the blacks lived in “compounds” close to the open pits and to the living quarters of the white workers. There were many compounds, some with few residents, and others with many. The very first large and closed compound for black mineworkers was opened in January 1885 by the French Company who were based at the Kimberley Mine.
The white diggers died in their hundreds. It can be safely assumed that the black diggers died as well, and also probably in their hundreds, if not more. Thus far, there are at least three known black cemeteries that date back to the early 1870s. A Malay cemetery and a Black cemetery are next to each other in Bultfontein/Greenpoint, and the vacant land adjacent to the White Pioneers cemetery off Phakamile Mabija road is an Black cemetery. Gladstone cemetery, which “opened” in 1883, also has a large Black cemetery. There are other cemeteries, and they will surface. By the end of 1871 there were at least 50 000 whites and blacks in what is now the main Kimberley area. In 1876 there were at least 15 000 blacks working in Kimberley, with another few thousand in Beaconsfield.
Houses or huts were built by Africans arriving from all over Southern Africa on the fringes of the towns of Kimberley and what is now Beaconsfield, and this is where the “locations” became consolidated. The Malay Camp was to the east of the Kimberley mine but in the 1870s was in an open area. Likewise the other sprouting villages were all outside the main residential areas, barring the mining companies and their compounds.
In 1899 the blacks employed by De Beers Consolidated Mines were housed in several mine compounds close to all five mines (12 out of 17 were owned by De Beers), while the balance resided in several areas, or “locations” dotted in and around Kimberley itself.
The inhabitants of the locations either lived in a Koranna type hut with metal door and frame, or they lived in a hut with a wooden framework, the sides covered by sacking, and the roof with iron sheets. Many had wooden fences or brick walls surrounding the house. The hut owners had laboured for years to erect such a building.
Pictured is an African family in and around a Cape cart. In the background can be seen some of their housing at the time. Photograph taken by William Leonard Hunt on his 1885 expedition to the Kalahari.
Nothing to report on this day in Kimberley’s history. Research is ongoing…
DID YOU KNOW
The telephone in what was Sir Ernest Oppenheimer’s office/study at 7 Lodge Road in Belgravia. Now a private residence, the house was designed by Daniel Greatbatch for Sir Ernest and registered on 1 October 1906. Harry Oppenheimer was born here on 28 October 1908, the family leaving Kimberley in 1915. The house was then sold to E.E.B Ronaldson on 21 August 1916.
When I accompanied Harry Oppenheimer on what may be called a pilgrimage a short few months before his death on 19 August 2000, he paid a visit to the house he called home from his birth in 1907 until the family left Kimberley in 1915 – No 7 Lodge Road. It was in his father’s study where he was recalling his father doing his diamond evaluations in that very room when he suddenly saw the telephone. Breaking off from his original commentary he expressed his delight in seeing his father’s telephone and said how he could remember his father (Sir Ernest) talking on this self-same telephone. One can only but imagine what words passed through this telephone on business and politics between Sir Ernest and other important personages of the era.
The other photographs show the study with the telephone hidden in the corner and a frontal view of the house when it was still a guest house. The guest house closed in 2015.
Nothing yet found that happened this very day in Kimberley’s history. The search continues…
DID YOU KNOW
The Belgravia Walkabout was originally arranged as one of the attractions for Museum week in September 1978, linking in time and space the four historic properties of The Sanatorium, The Lodge, Dunluce, and Rudd House, all owned by the McGregor Museum.
Dr Richard Liversidge and Jill Adams, both of whom were concerned that the character of Belgravia was changing and might soon be lost, inspired the project. In the 1970s Belgravia, more than any other suburb, reflected the style of old Kimberley, yet buildings were being demolished and fine homes were increasingly neglected. Steps had to be taken to raise awareness, fight apathy, and save the situation.
The whole concept started as a romp. Jill Adams, who recaptured memories of past events, was joined by Duncan Ross Watt who supplied architectural details; Herma Gous, who gave historic time frames; Glynda Michie, who commented on gardens and every other feature that caught her eye; and Ms R.M. Tietz as scribe – noting all points of interest, often in the words of the speaker. As the group walked and talked, so residents emerged from their houses to add their tuppence worth, and in time, many took a great interest and actively participated. Among them was Olive McIntyre, whose vivid memories of lanes, lemons and Lodge Road parties, brought the tours to life. Muriel Macey and the staff of the Africana Library were drawn in to verify the facts but inevitably added more spicy observations of their own.
Subsequent to Museum week, interest in Belgravia mounted and there were frequent requests for tours and when advertised brought in groups of more than 50 persons. Apart from prompting many homeowners in Belgravia to spruce up their homes, Dr Liversidge was fully supported in his move to have Belgravia declared an area worthy of conservation, and by the mid 1980s at least nine properties were declared National Monuments.
In 1992 the then Director of the McGregor Museum, Ms Elizabeth Voigt, suggested that the tour be photocopied and made available for those visitors who wished to do the tour themselves, and in 1994 the lamp posts were painted with the museum logo to make the tour more easily followed.
Belgravia means “Fine Grove”. Kimberley‘s first exclusively residential suburb was probably named after London’s posh district that lies just behind Buckingham Palace. Belgravia is situated on the farm Bultfontein that was owned by the London and South African Exploration Company, reputed to be unreasonable and hostile landlords.
The earliest reference to Belgravia is by M.M. Steytler, a merchant who came to the Diamond Fields in 1873-74. “When I started the nearest house was 100 yards distant and there were not five houses within 500 yards, only C.D. Rudd to my north, Litkie on my south, and Mr Vigne, the Kimberley Market master on my right.” By 1878 there were 23 residents in Belgravia and the voters list for 1883 records professional men, engineers, advocates, attorneys and a judge.
From the 1880’s most houses were constructed of Kimberley bricks – deep orange-red (the natural earth colour of this area.) These were hand made and pressed. Corrugated iron roofs and fences were the order of the day, while the houses were mostly single storied, essentially Victorian, with high-pitched roofs and wide verandahs on at least three sides. The degree of affluence of the owner was determined by the amount of decoration – parapets, gables, turrets, vents, bargeboard, pilasters as well as cast iron or wooden fences.
(From the original booklet “The Belgravia Walk”).