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Information provided by Hans Bornman from his unpublished book, Lowveld Tour Guide:


Town, at the foot of the Saddleback or Ingudu (SiSwati: Ingudvu) range of mountains, 45 km south of Nelspruit and 53 km west of Kaapmuiden. David Wilson, the Gold Commissioner, named Barberton on 24 July 1884 after the Barbers, who discovered the gold reef in 1884.

An interesting feature of Barberton, as a mining town, is that there are no mine dumps. The reason being that when the reefs petered out the Sheba Gold Mining Company bought the tailings which were bagged and transported to the Sheba for treatment.

Barberton was administered by a Health Committee until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. During the War years the management of the town was under British military rule. After hostilities ended in 1902 a Health Board was established on 25 July of the same year. This Board was replaced by a municipality on 28 January 1904 and a duly elected Town Council was appointed with T B Robinson as the first Mayor.

The township Mjindini, also known as KaMhola, situated north-west of Barberton, is named after Chief Mhola. Next to Mjindini is a squatters camp, first known as Inkhukhweni – meaning chicken-coops, but now known as Ekulindeni, which means ‘they are waiting for their homes’.

After the battle of Mogologolo (Mhuluhulu) in 1864, where the Swazi was annihilated, the indunas refused to return to Swaziland in fear of their lives as Mswati was known for his cruelty and lust for murder and especially now that they had lost the battle. Most sought asylum in Sekhukhuneland. Others found refuge between the mountains in the southern part of the present Kruger National Park, which was free of tsetse fly, and named the area Khandzalive, which means ‘they found a settlement’. Another group returned to an area west of present day Barberton and named it Mjindini, meaning ‘so far and no further’ as they were also afraid that Mswati would kill them if they returned to Swaziland. The first induna of Mjindini was Matlanja and he was succeeded by his son Ntutale.

Zimase, the brother of Mswati II, was amongst the first group when ascending the mountain Mhuluhulu and amongst the first to be killed. His wife Yoyo went to Mjindini to ‘raise up seed’ (ukuvusa or ukungena). This custom is resorted to when a deceased person has left property (such as cattle), and there is no heir to perpetuate his name. Zimase’s natural heir (his brother, Mswati II) had died shortly after the battle of Mhuluhulu and Zimase’s wife, Yoyo, then had the right to approach some one who is of kin to her late husband to ‘raise seed’ and the child thus born was regarded as the child of her late husband. A following accompanied her and she settled at Mjindini, where the Mjindini Stream joins the Mgwenyana (Queens River), on the present farm Sassenheim.

Yoyo’s son, Matsafeni Nkosi, was born c1867. LaHanyamba (only child of Yangase, wife of Mswati II), was placed in charge of Mjindini. She acted as regent for Matsafeni (who was regarded as her half brother) and handed over to him in c1886, when the first gold mines came into operation at Moodies, west of Barberton. The Diggers re-named the Mgwenyana River the Queens River in honour of his mother, Queen Yoyo, when he was invested as Chief of Mjindini.

Matsafeni reigned for a short period, died in c1892 and was succeeded by his wife Lukhambule, who acted as regent for her son Mhola, born c1889. She reigned until 1923 when Mhola took over from her.

Mhola died at Mtinganeni in 1965 (age ±76 years) and is buried on the Bakubaku mountains on the farm Sassenheim. He was succeeded by his son Funwako (1937-1994) who was officially known as Chief Mveli Philemon Nkosi.




Lewis and Marks building

This building, declared a national monument, is situated next to the Phoenix Hotel in Pilgrim Street. It was one of the first double storey buildings in the Transvaal. In 1954 the Eastern Transvaal Consolidated Mines Ltd took over the building and added a third storey.


Stock Exchange

Barberton’s fabulous boom of the 1880’s brought forth the very first stock exchange in South Africa, ‘The Transvaal Share and Claim Exchange, Trust and Agency Limited’. This was housed in a wood and iron building that was destroyed in 1887 by a fire which started in ‘The Dives’, a pub next door. Public house brawls in those days, it seems, were fiery affairs in more ways than one.

In the meantime business was booming to such an extent that a second stock exchange, ‘De Kaap Gold Exchange’, was erected in 1887, but its usefulness as an exchange was as short-lived as the boom and the brokers moved on. The building was bought in 1899 by the well-known Sammy Marks (1850-1920) financier, industrialist and agriculturist, who in 1910 sold the building to the municipality of Barberton. The Town Council established the Carnegie Library and also the first museum in this building. It was used as a library until 1958. Today sadly, only the roofless portico of the exchange in Pilgrim Street, next to the public library remains. Vaguely reminiscent of a Roman triumphal archway, it now leads nowhere other than to the long since faded history of Barberton’s brief golden heyday. It was declared a National Monument in 1965.


Fernlea House

Fernlea House, situated in Rimer’s Creek, was built in c1893, the home of Mr and Mrs Thomas Lee. Thomas Lee (1862-1934) was a photographer and Mayor of Barberton in 1913 and his wife, Emily (1837-1927), was a very colourful personality who was popularly known as the ‘Mother of Barberton’, owing to her hospitality. Owing to the historic and architectural value of Fernlea House, and its close proximity to the Barberton Museum, it was acquired in 1982 and restored to its original form.

Open Monday to Friday: 09:00 – 12:30 / 13:15 – 16:00. Admission: Free.



Belhaven is another restored house situated in Lee Street. The first residents were the Nisbet family who moved into Belhaven in 1904. Robert Nisbet came to Barberton in 1885 where he was engaged in mining at the Kimberley Sheba Mine. He later took up a trading appointment with Gordon and Beesley, where he was concerned with the branch stores on the railway construction works. In 1892 he took over the lease of the Barberton Club and in 1896 purchased it, and often received much credit for the way in which he ran it. At the same time he took an active part in public affairs and was well known in town. He married a Barberton widow, Mrs K M Simmons in Cape Town in 1900.

Mrs Simmons arrived in Barberton in 1890 as Kathleen Maud Kinneburgh and worked at the ‘American Bar’. On 8 October 1891 she married A R Simmons, a surgeon-dentist connected with the firm of D W Moses of Kimberley, who had come to Barberton in 1886. Simmons was an active man who took an interest in agriculture, horticul­ture, billiards and athletics. In 1892 he and his partner purchased the ‘Queen of Sheba Hotel’, at Avoca, 25 km east of Barberton, and in 1895 he purchased ‘The Globe’, a pub in Barberton. Simmons died on 27 October 1897, age 37, while on dental business in Delagoa Bay, leaving his wife and four children.

This late-Victorian early Edwardian home, one of the best house-museums in the country, is temporarily closed to the public and special visits can be arranged through the Curator of Barberton Museum. Tel: 013 712 4208.


Stopforth House

Stopforth, a museum house, was once the home of James Stopforth (1837-1921). It was first built in 1886, demolished and rebuilt in 1892. James was born in Grimsby, England, in 1837, and came to South Africa in 1860 and settled in Durban where he worked as a grocer for Grant and Madden for several years. In 1861 Sarah Ann Fisher came out to marry James. Their eight children were born in Durban. After several years James decided to try his luck at Pilgrim’s Rest where he conducted his own grocery and bakery for many years.

In January 1886 he and his family moved to Barberton where he opened a grocery and bakery store which was conducted on the site presently occupied by G E Sturgeon’s hardware store, on Market Square. As one of Barber­ton’s few original pioneer houses still in existence, it may be considered a major cultural asset. Since its erection in 1892, no major alterations have been made to the house or the outbuildings, all of which contained furni­ture, household equipment and tools which belonged to the Stopforth family, and their descendants. James Stop­forth died in August 1921 and was buried in the Barberton cemetery.


Guard House

Standing at the foot of Rimer’s Creek, this wood and iron building was erected in 1901 during the Anglo-Boer War. It was manned by the Barberton Home Guard, formed by members of the public with J W Winter as the first captain. However no shot was ever fired from this point. It was declared a national monument on the 23 March 1979. The Barberton Commando was started in the 1914-1918 war and still exists today.


Barberton Museum

Housed in the old restored Barberton Iron and Steel Building in Crown Street. Open Mon – Sun 09:00 – 16:00. It houses exhibits on the archaeology, cultural and gold mining history of the area.



Lone Tree Hill behind Barberton offers paragliding enthusiasts one of the most popular launching pads in the country, with a selection of safe landing sites. Permission to gain access to Lone Tree Hill can be obtained from Lomati Wood Processors, P O Box 115, Barberton 1300.


Old locomotive

In General Street, between the entrances to the Bowling Club and the Caravan Park, is a locomotive that did service on the railway line between Barberton and Kaapmuiden till the beginning of this century. On 13 May 1971, steam locomotive number 536, class 6B, travelled on its own steam from the Railway Station to Fitzpatrick Park where it rests today. The locomotive was manufactured in London in 1898 by the firm Nielsen Reid and Co. She was one of three such engines in existence in South Africa. From a photograph, the locomotive was identified and found in Port Elizabeth. The loco was brought back to Barberton as a gift to the town by Ben Schoeman, then Minister of Transport, to celebrate the town’s 87th birthday.


Jock of the Bushveld statue

In front of the municipal offices, in General Street, is a statue of ‘Jock of the Bushveld’. The sculpture was made by Ivan Mitford-Barberton of Cape Town and donated by Mrs Mackie Niven, daughter of the late Sir Percy Fitzpatrick.


Jock of the Bushveld waymarker

At the 11 km milestone between Barberton and Noordkaap, on the southern side of the road, is a waymark, embossed with ‘Jock Trek 1885’ plaque, to define where some of the old transport routes were crossed by modern tarred roads.


Fortuna walking trail and tunnel.

The walking trail, skirting the southern boundary of Barberton, achieves its uniqueness through the inclusion of the Fortuna tunnel in the route. The trail wanders along a path bordered by indigenous trees and shrubs. A torch is necessary for the 600 metre walk through the tunnel, where some of the oldest sedimentary rock formations in the world can be seen. The total walk distance is 2 km.


Garden of Remembrance

During the Second World War a large military training camp was sited on the eastern outskirts of Barberton. Regiments spent two to three months in training here before being posted to the front line in Egypt and Abyssinia. Many of the regiments that were encamped at Barberton, built their regimental badges out of stone, cement and plaster. These badges can be seen in the Garden of Remembrance, at the foot of an aloe covered hill, where an imposing stone memorial, to persons who gave their lives in the Lowveld during the early days, can be seen. The local MOTH organisation preserves and maintains these badges.


Shiyalongubo Creek and Dam

The creek rises on the farm Twello, flows east and enters the Shiyalongubo dam on the farm Duurstede, 23 km east of Barberton. The name means ‘leave the clothes behind’. When Mswati II (1845-1865) had his line of military outposts built on the northern boundaries of Swaziland, he also moved his capital from Kufinyeni to Hhohho, on the northern banks of the Mlumati River, in the Hhohho valley in Swaziland. The induna was Matsafeni Mdluli (after whom the station Mataffin west of Nelspruit is named). The path between Hhohho and Mjindini was along the Intintinyana Creek in the Sikhala Sohodo area, over the Makhonjwa mountains, along the Shiyolongubo Creek and down Ingudu (SiSwati: Ingudvu) Creek (Rimer’s Creek) to Mjindini. With the discovery of gold in the De Kaap Valley in 1882/4, mines were started and Swazis worked in the area. When they returned to Swaziland they changed their mine clothes, in other words: leave (shiya) their mine clothes (longubu) behind, before entering Swaziland. When returning, they again had to change their Swazi clothes for mine clothing. This area, therefore, became known as Shiyalongubo, meaning ‘change (leave) your clothes’. This language is called ‘fanagalo’ which has its origins in the era of the discovery of gold and the beginning of mining in South Africa.


Rose’s Creek

Rises in the Barberton nature reserve, 2 km south-east of the town, flows north-west and joins Rimer’s Creek in town. A certain Mr Rose built a swimming bath in the Berea as well as drinking troughs for horses. The water came from this creek which is named after him. There is a walking route of 1,5 km along this creek, with picnic facilities.


Rimer’s Creek (A walk from town)

Approached from the Market Square and Lee Street is a dirt track leading into Rimer’s Creek. At a distance ‘Barbers Reef’ and some excavations can be seen. The ruins of ‘Barber’s stone house’ atop the ridge to the left of the creek is a stiff climb.