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Kimberley City Hall


4 November 1899, General C.J. Wessels demands immediate surrender of Kimberley.
4 November 1927, City Hall architect Fergus Carstairs-Rogers MBE, dies.
(Pictured is Fergus and Lucy Carstairs-Rogers, and the City Hall he designed.)

The death of Fergus Carstairs-Rogers

Fergus Carstairs-Rogers was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1864 and educated at the Dollar Academy, Edinburgh, and at the George Watson School. He studied in Belgium and at the South Kensington Schools in London, and was articled to J McVicar Anderson, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in London. He noted in his LRIBA (Licentiate of the Royal Institute of British Architects) nomination papers (1925) that he had worked for five years in the office of a president of the Royal Institute of British Architects whom he did not identify.

PT-Fergus_and_Lucy Carstairs-Rogers-1900

Fergus & Lucy Carstairs-Rogers

Rogers came to South Africa in 1889, and was employed by the Public Works Department in Kimberley for two years before setting up independent practice in 1892 under the style of Carstairs Rogers. In 1898 he won the competition for the second Kimberley Town Hall, the first having been destroyed by fire. In around 1905 he entered into partnership with JG Ross (Rogers & Ross) and later, with GF Wright (Rogers & Wright). As a well-known Kimberley architect, he had been responsible for designing the Kimberley City Hall on Market Square, the Newton NGK, as well as many other buildings. He served as a Lieutenant at Mostert’s Redoubt on Transvaal Road during the siege with Section I, F Company, Kimberley Town Guard, and was one of the very few Town Guardsmen wounded during the siege. He was the Honorary Secretary to the local Recruiting Committee in World War I, for which he was awarded the MBE. He had also been the Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the secretary of the Union Automobile Club. A keen sportsman, he had been a leading tennis player and was a member of the Kimberley Town Bowling Club.

He married Lucy Sidney (nee Bennette) on 9 August 1893 at St Cyprian’s Church Kimberley. Their daughter was a well-known South African tennis player, Dolly Rogers, later Harvey. Their son was also named Fergus.

It was at about 15h00 on 8 February 1900, the second day of the Long Tom bombardment that one of the twenty five shells fired into Kimberley that day, passed through the Middlebrooks photographic studios (now Kimco) and exploded on Dutoitspan Road, spreading shrapnel and shell casing fragments indiscriminately in the immediate vicinity. A 13½ pound fragment crashed into the verandah of the Kimberley Club badly splintering the woodwork, while yet another fragment hit the architect Fergus Carstairs-Rogers in the leg. A Club member, he had been at the entrance and was leaving the Club. So tremendous was the shock of the explosion that those in the Club at the time believed that the building had been hit.

Dolly Harvey stated that her father had been in the Club for a meeting with Major BEA O’Meara, and was leaving when the shell exploded. He had served in the 16th Queen’s Hussars and been a topographer at Aldershot, so had been asked by O’Meara to draw a proposed route to assist Lord Roberts and General French in their plan to relieve Kimberley and had been at the Club to hand the map to O’Meara.

In his early days at the family home on Hillside Crescent in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Carstairs-Rogers family were visited frequently by intimate friend Sir James Simpson, who at the time was testing the efficiency of chloroform as a drug. So when the Long Tom splinter injured Fergus, he knew all about the effects of chloroform and refused to take it for the extraction of the splinter. Although he was in great pain at the time he rather preferred to take a tot of whisky and it was under the influence of alcohol that he directed some medical friends in the extraction of the splinter, this operation being conducted in primitive conditions on some tables in the Club dining room.

This Long Tom splinter, after being cleaned, was later set into a souvenir brooch and was presented to Lucy Sidney Carstairs-Rogers, Fergus’ wife.

This unique brooch was donated to the Kimberley Club by the family, in 2009, as a memento of the role both the Club and Carstairs-Rogers had played in those interesting and terrifying days of the Siege of Kimberley of 1899-1900.

Rogers had been a member of the Club since 1896.

He died at 1a Lanyon Terrace, Kimberley on 4 November 1927, being buried in the first grave on the left as you enter Gladstone cemetery. At the time of his death in Kimberley he was working on the plans for a diamond cutting factory for De Beers.

His wife Lucy, son Fergus, and daughter Dolly survived him.

4 November 1899, General C.J. Wessels (pictured) demands immediate surrender of Kimberley.
4 November 1927, City Hall architect Fergus Carstairs-Rogers MBE, dies.


Cornelis (Kerneels) Janse Wessels (11 June 1842 – 10 October 1914)

He was a farmer in the Hoopstad region and represented the region as a Member of Parliament of the Republic of the Orange Free State for 20 years. He was a Veldkornet in the second and third Basotho wars and rose to command the Hoopstad Commando. At the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in 1899 he was Hoof Kommandant of the OFS forces and was in command of the Boer forces that besieged Kimberley from 14 October 1899. He retired from the position on 31 December 1899 and was replaced by General Naas Ferreira.


CJ Wessels Gravestone

Deported as a Prisoner of War to India he returned in 1902 to South Africa and his farm “Witpan” in the Wesselsbron region.

The town of Wesselsbron in the Free State is named after him.

“On the morning of 4th November, it was reported from the Premier Mine that a flag of truce, accompanied by a large party of the enemy, was approaching the redoubt there; instructions were sought. It was at first thought that an attack was about to be made on the post, but, if this had been the original intention, the Boers changed their minds; before the party had come within range of our guns, the main escort halted and the flag of truce came forward with a small staff. Instructions were sent to the O.C. (O’Brien) that the parlementaire should be taken, with the usual precautions, to the military Headquarters (in Lennox Street). This was done. The parlementaire was the bearer of a communication (in Dutch) from Head Commandant Wessels, of the Orange Free State, to Kekewich, who was called upon to surrender Kimberley unconditionally. Wessels, in his ultimatum, which expired at 6 a.m. on Monday, 6th November, requested Kekewich, should he not accede to the request therein contained, to remove all women and children from Kimberley. It was further intimated that the Boer Head Commandant was willing to receive into his camp Afrikander families, who might desire to leave Kimberley.


Cornelis (Kerneels) Janse Wessels

“Kekewich had from the earliest days of the siege recognized that Rhodes occupied an exceptional position, not only by virtue of his rank as a Privy Councillor, but also by reason of the high offices he had held under the Crown; he had, therefore, ever been willing and ready to consult him on all matters which affected the defence of Kimberley on the civil, as distinct from the strictly military, side. Consequently, after the notice (which it was intended to publish in the local newspaper) announcing that a demand for the surrender of Kimberley had been received from the Head Commandant of the Boer Forces had been drafted, Kekewich sent a staff officer to the Sanatorium Hotel, with instructions that the draft was to be shown to Rhodes. An officer accordingly went off there and placed the draft notice before Rhodes; the latter, after reading the document, stated that he did not approve the terms of the notice as drafted. Rhodes thought that it would be unwise to make the announcement that the ultimatum contained a request for the removal of all women and children from Kimberley, such an announcement might, he said, cause unnecessary alarm; he agreed, however, that the special invitation to the Afrikander families should be published, expressing, at the same time, strong views on the subject of the differentiation in the treatment offered to the two classes of the white population. The draft was accordingly at once modified in such a way as to conform with the views on the subject expressed by Rhodes’ who signified his approval of the alterations made and of the final draft. This was taken back to the Kimberley Club, where Kekewich was at the moment; he approved of the alterations made at Rhodes’ suggestion. The Editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser, as was his wont, called at the Press Censor’s office (in the Kimberley Club) during the afternoon, and he was shown the draft notice approved by Rhodes, and also the translation of the ultimatum and, indeed, the original document too. Authority was given for an announcement to appear in the paper that a “flag of truce” had come into the besieged town from the Boer headquarters; the announcement appeared in the issue for 6th November. Next day, a fair copy of the notice relating to the “ultimatum was sent to the Diamond Fields Advertiser in normal course; it was published, together with a “leader” on the subject, in the issue of the 8th. So it will be seen that Kekewich made neither a secret nor a mystery of the communication received by him from Head Commandant Wessels at the time. Three weeks later, the Kimberley troops, during one of their sorties, found a copy of the Volkstem, a Dutch newspaper, in the enemy’s trenches and brought it into the town with them. The paper was sent to the Intelligence Office and was found to contain the full text of the correspondence between Wessels and Kekewich. By this time the public had grown accustomed to the Boer shelling, and, the military authorities having reason to believe that the actual text of Wessels’ ultimatum had become widely known in the town, Kekewich decided that nothing was to be gained by keeping from the public the actual terms of Wessels’ ultimatum and his reply thereto. In these circumstances, the copy of the Volkstem in question was sent to the Editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser and he was given authority to reproduce the correspondence, should he so desire; he took advantage of the offer and the copies of the letters in question were published in the issue of the paper for 28th November.”

From the publication: Kekewich in Kimberley by WAJ O’Meara.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

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