Travel to Kimberley – Famous Diamond Centre and ‘Black Hole’
Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape, located near the Orange River. The city’s history dates back to 1866, when Erasmus Jacobs found a small white pebble on the banks of the Orange River, on the farm De Kalk leased from local Griquas, near Hopetown. The pebble turned out to be a 21.25 carat diamond!
In 1871, an even larger 83.50 carat diamond was found on the slopes of Colesberg Kopje by Esau Damoense, the cook for prospector Fleetwood Rawstone’s “Red Cap Party,” who was sent to dig on the hill as a punishment for being drunk. This find led to the first diamond rush into the area.
As miners arrived in their thousands, the hill disappeared, and became known as the Big Hole. A town, New Rush, was formed in the area, and was renamed to Kimberley on 5 June 1873, after the British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time, John Wodehouse, 1st Earl of Kimberley.
The British, who had control of much of South Africa, were quick to annex the area of the diamond mine, which became the British colony of Griqualand West. The Boers were upset by this, because they wanted it to be a part of the Orange Free State as it lay inside the natural borders created by Orange and Vaal Rivers.
The largest company to operate a diamond mine in South Africa was the De Beers Company, owned by Cecil Rhodes. 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 as the De Beers company was in search of cheap labour to help run the mines.
Five big holes were dug into the earth, which followed the kimberlite pipes, which are named after the town. The largest, The Kimberley mine or “Big Hole” covering 170,000 square metres, reached a depth of 240 metres 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 city housed South Africa’s first stock exchange, the Kimberley Royal Stock Exchange, which opened on 2 February 1881. On 2 September 1882, Kimberley became the first town in the southern hemisphere 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.
Kimberley’s major landmarks are the Kimberley Mine Museum, the McGregor Museum, Kamfers Dam, and the Big Hole.