1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kimberley

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KIMBERLEY, a town of the Cape province, South Africa, the centre of the Griqualand West diamond industry, 647 m. N.E. of Cape Town and 310 m. S.W. of Johannesburg by rail. Pop. (1904), 34,331, of whom 13,556 were whites. The town is built on the bare veld midway between the Modder and Vaal Rivers and is 4012 ft. above the sea. Having grown out of camps formed round the diamond mines, its plan is very irregular and in striking contrast with the rectangular outline common to South African towns. Grouped round market square are the law courts, with a fine clock tower, the post and telegraph offices and the town-hall. The public library and the hospital are in Du Toits Pan Road. In the district of Newton, laid out during the siege of 1899–1900, a monument to those who fell during the operations has been erected where four roads meet. Siege Avenue, in the suburb of Kenilworth, 250 ft. wide, a mile and a quarter long, and planted with 16 rows of trees, was also laid out during the siege. In the public gardens are statues of Queen Victoria and Cecil Rhodes. The diamond mines form, however, the chief attraction of the town (see Diamond). Of these the Kimberley is within a few minutes’ walk of market square. The De Beers mine is one mile east of the Kimberley mine. The other principal mines, Bultfontein, Du Toits Pan and Wesselton, are still farther distant from the town. Barbed wire fencing surrounds the mines, which cover about 180 acres.

The Kaffirs who work in the mines are housed in large compounds. Wire netting is spread over these enclosures, and every precaution taken to prevent the illicit disposal of diamonds. Ample provision is made for the comfort of the inmates, who in addition to food and lodging earn from 17s. to 24s. a week. Most of the white workmen employed live at Kenilworth, laid out by the De Beers company as a “model village.” Beaconsfield, near Du Toits Pan Mine, is also dependent on the diamond industry.

Kimberley was founded in 1870 by diggers who discovered diamonds on the farms of Du Toits Pan and Bultfontein. In 1871 richer diamonds were found on the neighbouring farm of Vooruitzight at places named De Beers and Colesberg Kopje. There were at first three distinct mining camps, one at Du Toits Pan, another at De Beers (called De Beers Rush or Old De Beers) and the third at the Colesberg Kopje (called De Beers New Rush, or New Rush simply). The Colesberg Kopje mine was in July 1873 renamed Kimberley in honour of the then secretary of state for the colonies, the 1st earl of Kimberley, by whose direction the mines were—in 1871—taken under the protection of Great Britain. Kimberley was also chosen as the name of the town into which the mining camps developed. Doubt having arisen as to the rights of the crown to the minerals on Vooruitzight farm, litigation ensued, ending in the purchase of the farm by the state for £100,000 in 1875. In 1880 the town was incorporated in Cape Colony (see Griqualand). In 1874 a great part of the population left for the newly discovered gold diggings in the Lydenburg district of the Transvaal, but others took their place. Among those early attracted to Kimberley were Cecil Rhodes and “Barney” Barnato, who in time came to represent two groups of financiers controlling the mines. The amalgamation of their interests in 1889—when the De Beers group purchased the Kimberley mine for £5,338,650—put the whole diamond production of the Kimberley fields in the hands of one company, the De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., so named after the former owners of the farms on which are situated the chief mines. Kimberley in consequence became largely dependent on the good-will of the De Beers corporation, the town having practically no industries other than diamond mining. Horse-breeding is carried on to a limited extent. The value of the annual output of diamonds averages about £4,500,000. The importance of the industry led to the building of a railway from Cape Town, opened in 1885. On the outbreak of war between the British and the Boers in 1899 Kimberley was invested by a Boer force. The siege began on the 12th of October and lasted until the 15th of February 1900, when the town was relieved by General Sir John French. Among the besieged was Cecil Rhodes, who placed the resources of the De Beers company at the disposal of the defenders. In 1906 the town was put in direct railway communication with Johannesburg, and in 1908 the completion of the line from Bloemfontein gave Natal direct access to Kimberley, which thus became an important railway centre.