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Kimberley is a city in South Africa, and the capital of the Northern Cape. It is located near the confluence of the Vaalmarker and Orange Riversmarker. The town has considerable historical significance due its diamond mining past and siegemarker during the Second Boer War. Notable personalities such as Cecil Rhodesmarker, made their fortune here, and the roots of the De Beers corporation can also be traced to the early days of the mining town.


Discovery of diamonds

In 1866, Erasmus Jacobs found a small brilliant pebble on the banks of the Orange Rivermarker, on the farm De Kalk leased from local Griquas, near Hopetownmarker. The pebble was purchased from Jacobs by Schalk van Nierkerk, who later sold it, and turned out to be a 21.25 carat (4.25 g) diamond, known as the Eureka. Three years later van Nierkerk sold another diamond also found in the De Kalk vicinity, the Star of South Africa for £11,200. The second diamond was promptly resold in the London markets for £25,000.

Fleetwood Rawstone's "Red Cap Party" of prospectors on Colesberg Kopje
In 1871, an even larger 83.50 carat (16.7 g) diamond was found on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers. Henry Richard Giddy recounted how Esau Damoense (or Damon), the cook for prospector Fleetwood Rawstone's "Red Cap Party", made the discovery on Colesberg Kopje after he was sent there to dig as punishment. Rawstorne took the news to the nearby diggings of the De Beer brothers — his arrival there sparking off the famous "New Rush" which, as Roberts puts it, was practically a stampede. Within a month 800 claims were cut into the hillock which were worked frenetically by two to three thousand men. As the land was lowered so the hillock became a mine – in time, the world renowned Kimberley Minemarker.

The Cape Colony, Transvaalmarker, Orange Free Statemarker and the Griqua leader Nikolaas Waterboer all laid claim to the diamond fields. The Free State Boers in particular wanted the area as it lay inside the natural borders created by Orangemarker and Vaal Riversmarker. Following the mediation that was overseen by the governor of Natal, the Keate Award went in favour of Waterboer, who placed himself under British protection. Consequently, the territory known as Griqualand West was proclaimed on 27 October 1871.

Naming the place: from Vooruitzigt to New Rush to Kimberley

Colonial Commissioners arrived in New Rush on 17 November 1871, to exercise authority over the territory on behalf of the Cape Governor. Digger objections and minor riots led to Governor Barkly’s visit to New Rush in September the following year, when he revealed a plan instead to have Griqualand West proclaimed a Crown Colony. Richard Southey would arrive as Lieutenant-Governor of the intended Crown Colony in January 1873. Months passed however without any sign of the proclamation or of the promised new constitution and provision for representative government. The delay was in Londonmarker where Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Kimberley, insisted that before electoral divisions could be defined, the places had to receive “decent and intelligible names.” His Lordship declined to be in any way connected with such a vulgarism as New Rush and as for the Dutch name, Vooruitzigt … he could neither spell nor pronounce it.” The matter was passed to Southey who gave it to his Colonial Secretary J.B. Currey. Roberts writes that “when it came to renaming New Rush, [Currey] proved himself a worthy diplomat. He made quite sure that Lord Kimberley would be able both to spell and pronounce the name of the main electoral division by, as he says, calling it ‘after His Lordship’.” New Rush became Kimberley, by Proclamation dated 5 July 1873. Digger sentiment was expressed in an editorial in the Diamond Field newspaper when it stated “we went to sleep in New Rush and waked up in Kimberley, and so our dream was gone.”

(In the twenty first century the tyranny of the computer spell-checker is resulting in the distortion of local place names - such that Kimberley features in carelessly edited contexts as "Kimberly". Nearby Barkly West is often rendered as "Barkley-West" - now even in road signage. Official name changes, post-1994, are as follows: The erstwhile Kimberley Municipality is now known as the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality, while the former Diamantveld District Council is the Frances Baard District Municipality).

Griqualand West was annexed to the Cape Colony by the Griqualand West Annexation Act on 27 July 1877.

The Big Hole

As miners arrived in their thousands, the hill disappeared, and became known as the Big Holemarker. From mid-July 1871 to 1914, 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 m, but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 m; since then it has accumulated water to a depth of 40 m leaving 175 m visible. Beneath the surface, the Kimberly Mine underneath the Big Hole was mined to a depth of 1097 metres. A popular local myth claims that it is the largest hand-dug hole on the world, however Jagersfontein Minemarker appears to hold that record. There is currently an effort in progress to register the Big Hole as a World Heritage Site.

By 1873, Kimberley was the second largest town in South Africa; it had a total population of 13,000 whites and 30,000 blacks.

Under control of De Beers

The various smaller mining companies were algamated by Barney Barnato into De Beers, and The Kimberley under Cecil Rhodesmarker and Charles Rudd. In 1888, the two companies merged to form De Beers Consolidated Mines, which to this day today still retains a monopoly over the world's diamond market.

Very quickly, Kimberley became the largest city in the area, mostly due to a massive African migration to the area from all over the continent. The immigrants were accepted with open arms, because the De Beers company was in search of cheap labour to help run the mines. Another group drawn to the city for money was prostitutes, from a wide variety of ethnicities who could be found in bars and saloons. It was praised as a city of limitless opportunity.

Five big holes were dug into the earth, which followed the kimberlite pipes, which are named after the town. Kimberlite is a diamond-bearing blue ground that sits below a yellow colored soil. The largest, The Kimberley mine or "Big Hole" covering 170 000 m², reached a depth of 240 m and yielded 3 tons of diamonds. The mine was closed in 1914, while three of the holes Du Toitspan, Wesselton and Bultfontein closed down in 2005.

The Second Boer War

On 14 October 1899, Kimberley was besieged at the beginning of the Second Boer War. The Britishmarker forces trying to relieve the siege suffered heavy losses. The siege was only lifted on 15 February 1900, but the war continued until May 1902. By that time, the British had built a concentration camp at Kimberley to house Boer women and children.

Kimberley under Apartheid

Robert Sobukwe, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress was bannished (placed under house arrest) in Kimberley after his release from Robben Island in 1969.

Post Apartheid

The Kimberley Comprehensive Urban Plan (1998) estimates that Kimberley has 210,800 people representing 46,207 households living in the city.


The city housed South Africa's first stock exchange, the Kimberley Royal Stock Exchange, which opened on 2 February 1881.

Du Toit Span Road Kimberley, 1899
On 2 September 1882, Kimberley became the first town in the southern hemispheremarker to install electric street lighting.

The rising importance of Kimberley led to one of the earliest South African and International Exhibitions to be staged in Kimberley in 1892. It was opened by Sir Henry Loch, the then Governor of the Cape of Good Hope on the 8th of September. It presented exhibits of art, an exhibition of paintings from the royal collection of Queen Victoria and mining machinery and implements amongst other items. The exhibition aroused considerable interest at international level, which resulted in a competition for display space.

South Africa's first school of mines was opened here in 1896 and later relocated to Johannesburgmarker, becoming the core of the University of the Witwatersrandmarker. In fact the first two years were attended at colleges elsewhere in Cape Town, Grahamstown or Stellenbosch, the third year in Kimberley and the fourth year in Johannesburg. Buildings were constructed against a total cost of 9,000 pounds with De Beers contributing on a pound for pound basis.

In 1912, Kimberley and the neighbouring town of Beaconsfield merged as the City of Kimberley, under a single municipality.




Kimberley Airportmarker services the area, with regular scheduled flights from other parts of the country. Passenger train services to and from Kimberley are provided by Spoornet's Shosholoza Meyl, with connections south to Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and north to Johannesburg. Kimberley is located at the intersection of the N12 and N8 national roads.

Society and culture

Museums, momuments and memorials

Restored locomotive at the Kimberley Mine Museum
  • The Big Hole, previously known as the Kimberley Mine Museum, is a recreated townscape and museum, with Big Hole viewing platform and other features, situated next to the Kimberley Mine ("Big Hole"). It houses a rich collection of artefacts and information from the early days of the city. One of the exhibits is Cecil John Rhodesmarker's grand railway carriage that carried him as governor of the Cape of Good Hope to the Rhodesia that he created. Also at the mine museum is the first house built in the developing Kimberley, as well as the first church. Barney Barnato, Cecil John Rhodes's partner in the developing De Beers, had a boxing academy. This academy sits alongside the Rhodes rail carriage. On its walls is the framed original cheque signed by Cecil John Rhodes and Barney Barnato for £4,5 million pounds to establish the De Beers Consolidated mines.

  • The McGregor Museummarker, which celebrated its centenary in 2007, curates and studies major research collections and information about the history and ecology of the Northern Cape, which are reflected in displays at the museum's headquarters at the Sanatorium in Belgravia and nine branch museums.

  • Pioneers of Aviation Museum: In 1913, South Africa's first flying school opened at Kimberley and started training the pilots of the South African Aviation Corps, later to become the South African Air Forcemarker. The museum is located on the site of that flying school and houses a replica of a Compton Paterson bi-plane, one of the first aircraft to be used for flight training. The first female on the African continent to receive her pilot's license, Ann Maria Bocciarelli, was trained at this facility.

Memorials include:
  • The Miners' Memorial, also known as the Diggers' Fountain, located in the Oppenheimer Gardens and designed by Herman Wald. It was built in honour of all the miners of Kimberley. The memorial consists of five life-sized diggers lifting a diamond sieve.

World War I memorial in Kimberley

  • The Concentration Camp Memorial remembers those who were interned in the Kimberley concentration camp during the Second Boer War, and is located in front of the Dutch Reformed Mother Church.

  • The Henrietta Stockdale statue, by Jack Penn, commemorates the Anglican nun, Sister Henrietta CSM&AA (her reinterred remains are buried alongside), who petitioned the Cape Parliament to pass a law recognizing nursing as a profession and requiring compulsory state registration of nurses - a first in the world.


Notable Churches

  • Kimberley Seventh-day Adventist Church is a small L shaped corrugated-iron building and is considered the mother church of Seventh-day Adventists in South Africa. It was declared a National Monument in 1967, now a Provincial Heritage Site.
  • Dutch Reformed Mother Church Newton is a good example of Stucco architecture in Kimberley. It was declared a National Monument in 1976, now a Provincial Heritage Site.
  • St Cyprian's Anglican Cathedralmarker was designed by Arthur Lindley of the firm of Greatbatch, the building of the nave being completed in 1908. The remainder of the cathedral was completed in stages, partly under guidance of William M. Timlin (also of the firm of Greatbatch). In 1926 the Chancel was dedicated (and as a World War I memorial); in 1936 the Lady Chapel, Vestry & new organ were added; and in 1961, the tower (a World War II memorial). The cathedral contains notable stained glass windows including works by the Pretoria artist Leo Theron.


The earliest newspaper here was the Diamond Field, first published at Pniel on 15 October 1870. Other early papers with the Diamond News and the Independent. The Diamond Fields Advertiser is a daily published since 23 March 1878.The Volksblad is read by Afrikaans-speaking readers.



Kimberley has contributed to much of cricket's history having supplied several international players. There was Nipper Nickelson, Xenophon Balascas born in Kimberley to Greek parents and Ken Viljoen, Ronnie Draper and in more recent times Pat Symcox and the Proteas coach Micky Arthur.

Kimberley hosted a match from the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup.


Frank Dobbin known as Uncle Dobbin was a member of Paul Roos's original Springboks in the tour to England in 1906/1907. His memory lives in his old colonial-style home in Roper street, bearing a simple brass plaque with the name 'Dobbin'. Later Springboks to wear green and gold included Ian Kirkpatrick, Tommy Bedford and Gawie Visagie, brother of Ammosal-based Springbok flyhalf Piet Visagie. Kimberley is home to the Wildeklawer Griquas rugby team.


In 1965, Karen Muir, born in Kimberley, became the youngest person to break a world record in any sport. This age group record stands to this day. She set it in August 1965 at the junior world champions in Blackpoolmarker, England in the backstroke at the age of 12. She went on to break many more world records but was denied a role in world swimming when she lost the opportunity to represent her country at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico Citymarker as a result of South Africa being excluded due to its racial apartheid policies. Kimberley also saw a world record broken in the municipal pool which now bears Karen Muir's name. It was Johannesburgmarker's Anne Fairlie who beat Karen Muir and Frances Kikki Caron in world record breaking time.


Brian Davis, son of civic leader Edgar Davis, was part of the 4x400 metres relay which won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics.

Ester Nell and Joan Carter won gold medals at the Olympics and Empire Games in the high jump.

Cycling had Joe Billet and Steve Viljoen, while Harold Clarke ran the mile at the Empire Games at Helsinkimarker. Elsie McDonald was a Springbok bowler.



Kamfers Dammarker to the north of the town is an important wetland containing a breeding colony of Lesser Flamingos. Conservation initiatives in the area aim to bring people from the city in touch with its wildlife.


Secondary education

See also


External links

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