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Ladysmith

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An Historical Introduction

For thousands of years the rolling grasslands and dependable rivers made the open plains of the area we now know as Ladysmith the ideal environment for its first inhabitants, the san people (Bushmen). They were hunter gatherers, living off the land and hunting freely on the quiet flood plains. From the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the rising Zulu Nation spread its wings slowly towards the Drakensberg Mountains, claiming land and driving away other tribes in their path. After a visit by the great King Shaka, he promptly named the area “Emnambithi”. In Zulu the word for something tasty is “namibitheka” and this is how he described the sweet water of the Klip River.

In 1836 the first Voortrekkers crossed the Drakensberg Mountains and feasted their eyes on the green grasslands of KwaZulu-Natal. After negotiations, Dingane’s successor; Mpande, permitted members of the famous “Wen” (Winning) Commando to settle in the area for a brief while the area was referred to as the Klip River Republic. On 31st May 1844 the British annexed Natal as a district of the Cape Colony, resulting in the early death of the new republic. Many of the Trekkers, refusing to accept British rule, left Natal and headed for the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Harry Smith, visited Natal in 1846 and was particularly interested in the area around the Klip River. A surveyor Mr John Bird, was appointed to find a suitable location to establish a town. Bird began early in 1848 and on Mr van Tonder’s farm found a tenable spot in a loop of the river between high banks.

In 1849 the town was described as “a well adapted village” consisting of only four houses and known locally as Windsor. On 20th June 1850, Lt Governor Benjamin Pine proclaimed it a township and three months later, in October, the town was officially named Ladysmith, after Juana Maria de los Delores de Leon, the beautiful Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith. By 1851 Mr George Winder had opened a shop and several new buildings were erected. British settlers moved into the district and soon Ladysmith was thriving. Within a few years the town had developed into an important stop over for transport wagons and travellers going to and from the Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal.

With the outbreak of the Anglo Zulu War in 1879, residents hastily strengthened the fort in fear of being attacked, this however never materialised. The local Board was established on 5th May 1882. The first Chairman was Mr G. King. On 9th June 1882 the town received Borough status and the first Town Clerk was Mr G.W. Lines.

In 1886 diamonds were discovered in Kimberley and gold in Barberton and the Witwatersrand. Traffic through Ladysmith increased tremendously with between two and three thousand wagons passing through Ladysmith some months. Trade from this passing traffic greatly boosted local businesses. With the establishment of the railway lines first to the Transvaal and later to the Orange Free State, Ladysmith was firmly established as the main stop over and trading centre for the surrounding district.

The impressive Town Hall was built in 1893. Ladysmith prospered and grew. The first Mayor was elected in 1899 – Mr Joseph Farquhar. On the 11th October 1899 the Anglo Boer/South African War broke out between the Boer Republics and Britain. Ladysmith was catapulted into world fame when the Boer Forces laid siege to the town on 2nd November 1899. For the next 118 days Ladysmith made headlines worldwide until its relief on 28th February 1900. Despite the devastation caused by the constant bombardment, the town endured. Many farmers had to start all over again and the perennial floods and drought made matters difficult.

With the outbreak of the World Wars in 1914 and 1938 many able bodied men were sent away to fight. After the World Wars, the town enjoyed a period of peace and tranquillity. The worst ever snow storm was recorded in 1924 with the main street covered in half a metre of snow. By the late 1920’s the town was providing mostly for the needs of the farming community. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s many people flocked to the town to make a living. Once again the railways proved to be a sturdy crutch to help the town get back on its feet. The large railway staff added to the prosperity of the town by providing a constant spending power. The 1940’s and 1950’s saw unprecedented growth and expansion. The effects of the Apartheid government through its group areas act in the 1960’s hit the town hard as the Indian businessmen were forced out of the central business area. Shops remained empty for years to come.

Since the early 1980’s the town has boomed with industrial investment. The first Democratic Local Government came into place during 1994, combining Ladysmith with its two townships of Steadville and Ezakheni. In 1996 the Qedusizi Dam was completed, effectively ending the Klip River’s reign of terror and regular flooding. During 1999 new municipal demarcations saw the villages of Colenso and van Reenen being added into the Ladysmith fold.

Welcome to Siegetown

Prepared by the Ladysmith Siege Museum Trust 2005

For more about the history of Ladysmith visit www.ladysmithhistory.com

Places of Interest

Ladysmith Tourism Information Office

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151 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

00L | LADYSMITH/EMNAMBITHI TOURISM INFORMATION OFFICE The foyer of the Siege Museum houses the Tourism Information Office where brochures and information Read More →

Mbulwana

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Mbulwana, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

01L | "Umbulwana (Bulwana) is a very high hill feature to the South East of Ladysmith. General Piet Joubert established Read More →

Ladysmith ABW Cemetery

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Ladysmith ABW Cemetery, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

02L | "As you enter the cemetery on your right hand side you will find signs marking the way to Read More →

Kings’ Post

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Kings’ Post, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

03L | "Opposite the entrance to the Ladysmith Military base. King's Post was one of the positions on the outer Read More →

All Saints Anglican Church

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61 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

04L | "The original church was built in 1882 with cut flagstone quarried from the town lands. Referred to as Read More →

The Old Toll House

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The Old Toll House, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

05L | "Built during the late 1800s, it shows the stone construction method used by the first settlers in Ladysmith. Read More →

Dutch Reform Church

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103 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

06L | Founded in 1854. The second oldest congregation in Kwazulu-Natal.

Devonshire Post

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Devonshire Post, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

07L |

Col Dick Cunyngham VC Monument

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Dick Cunyngham VC Monument, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

08L | "Here he was struck in the side by a bullet which, fired from the far side of the Read More →

Intombi ABW Cemetery

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Intombi ABW Cemetery, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

09L | "Intombi Cemetery was the last resting place of around 700 British Soldiers. Sewn in blankets these men were Read More →

Tunnel Hill Liverpool Regt Monument

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Tunnel Hill Liverpool Regt Monument, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

10L |

Rifleman’s Post

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Rifleman’s Post, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

11L | "The 2nd Battalion Kings Royal Rifles began building Rifleman’s Post on 1st November 1899. Sited on the Read More →

Soofi Mosque

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Soofi Mosque, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

12L | "The first Muslim traders came to Ladysmith in 1885. Showing honesty and courtesy as businessmen they were firm Read More →

Rifle Brigade Monument at Surprise Hill

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Rifle Brigade Monument at Surprise Hill, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

13L | "On the night of 10/11 December 1899 Digby-Jones RE VC blew up a Boer 4.7 inch Howitzer during Read More →

Blockhouse Museum

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Blockhouse Museum, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

14L | "Based on a blockhouse at Bergville, the only one remaining in KwaZulu-Natal. The McMaster’s replica contains a remarkable Read More →

Ladysmith Town Hall

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151 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

16L | "In 1891 the Ladysmith Town Council requested proposals for a new town hall. The selected design by Robert Read More →

Convent Hill

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1 Convent Road, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

17L | LOOKOUT POINT FROM CONVENT HILL Convent Hill now La Verna Hospital. This position in the hospital car park offers Read More →

Clydesdale

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Clydesdale, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

18L |

Cove Redoubt

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Cove Redoubt, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

19L | A fairly concealed position some way back along the flat crest of a hill 500 ft high, from Read More →

Gordons’ Hill

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Gordons’ Hill, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

20L | This was the main Naval position: "A piece of high ground in the centre of the Northern line Read More →

Fly Kraal

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Fly Kraal, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

21L | "At the Commissariat Godown, an Indian "Coolie" armed with a large umbrella constituted himself the special watcher for Read More →

Hans Dons

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Hans Dons, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

22L | Johannes Hendrick De Lange was a well-known figure in Natal, having been an early Voortrekker scout into Natal Read More →

Naval Gun Shield

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Naval Gun Shield, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

23L | Lt Egerton was the first person to die in the Siege of Ladysmith. He was mortally wounded on Read More →

Red Hill Royal Irish Fusiliers

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Red Hill Royal Irish Fusiliers, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

24L | Erected in memory of the men of the Battalion who died during the Siege of Ladysmith.

Observation Hill Leicestershire Regt Monument

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Observation Hill Leicestershire Regt Monument, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

25L | "A long ridge where the rifle fire hardly ever ceased. Held by 3 Companies of the Kings Royal Read More →

Taunton

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Taunton, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

26L | Major Charles Edmund Taunton, Natal Carabiniers, was killed in action on Nov. 3rd, 1899, in a reconnaissance from Read More →

Van Riebeek Park Cemetery

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Van Riebeek Park Cemetery, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

27L | "A fenced Cemetery with three graves each with steel crosses. Two soldiers Pte's Dowsett and Andrews of the Read More →

Gandhi

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Gandhi, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

28L | STATUE OF GANDHI AT THE THIRUKOOTAM AND SHREE GANASER TEMPLE This is the oldest temple in Ladysmith. The Read More →

The Royal Hotel

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140 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

29L | "The Royal", built circa 1878 before the Anglo-Zulu War, and a request for a liquor licence was made Read More →

Old Fort

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1 Kerk Ln, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

30L | "A section of the old walls can be seen where it has been incorporated into the current South Read More →

Tchrengula

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Tchrengula, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

31L | At daybreak on Monday 30th October 1899 Col. Carelton's column, supposedly on their way to Nicholson's Nek, found Read More →

Roosboom

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Roosboom, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

32L | This Cemetery was used by the Boers during the Siege of Ladysmith. 15 Burghers of the Harrismith Commando Read More →

Rietfontein

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Rietfontein, Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal

33L | RIETFONTEIN MONDAY 23RD OCTOBER 1899 Gen White aware that Gen. Yule and his army were in full retreat from Read More →

Ladysmith Siege Museum

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151 Murchison Street, Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal

703 | Acclaimed as one of the best Anglo Boer War museums in South Africa, its displays on the famous Read More →

Platrand

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Platrand, Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal

705 | "The Platrand is a long hill on the south side of the town. It was a critical Read More →

Spion Kop Battlefield

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Spioenkop/Spion Kop Battlefield, Bergville Area, KwaZulu-Natal

713 | 24 January 1900 Certainly the most futile and bloodiest of five battles fought in an effort to relieve Ladysmith. Read More →

Battle of uThukela (Tugela) Heights

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Battle of Thukela Heights, Colenso/Ladysmith Area, KwaZulu-Natal

717 | 12-28 February 1900 In a massive combined operation General Buller's troops fought numerous battles on the south bank of Read More →
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