|Destination: South Africa|
|What To See
Western & Eastern Cape
+ Cape Town
In The Know
Did You Know?
The history of Kimberley, capital of the Northern Cape, is inseparable from the colourful story of diamond mining in South Africa. The fabulous treasure-house of diamonds, the Big Hole, was the centre from which the city of Kimberley grew. The present population is about 200,000.Named after the British Colonial Secretary of the time, the Earl of Kimberley, the city was founded in 1871. In 1878, when it was first granted municipal status, Kimberley was still a rough miners' camp of tin shanties and tents, but from then on things improved rapidly. In 1882 this was the first African city to get electric street lights, and in 1887 trams started to run.
Two men dominated early Kimberley and the diamond business. One was Barney Barnato, a former barman, boxer and music-hall artiste from the East End of London who came to South Africa in 1873. Starting out as a digger and diamond-buyer, he became a multimillionaire by the age of 25. Barnato's great rival was Cecil John Rhodes. The son of an English clergyman, Rhodes came to South Africa in 1870, at the age of 17, and quickly amassed a fortune. When Rhodes's company De Beers Consolidated Mines bought out Barnato in 1888, De Beers gained a monopoly over the trade in diamonds only recently relinquished.
During the Anglo-Boer War, the Boers besieged Kimberley for four months. Famous battles were fought near the city at Modderrivier and Magersfontein, where trenches were used for the first time in modern warfare when the Boers dug in below the hill at Magersfontein.
The diamond mines at Kimberley still produce some 4,000 carats of diamonds a day.