Information provided by Hans Bornman from his unpublished book, Lowveld Tour Guide:
The town, between the Steenkampsberg and the Drakensburg, at 25 06S, 30 27E, lies at an altitude of 1463 m above sea level and was founded in 1849. The Voortrekkers, under the leadership of Hendrik Potgieter, had to leave Ohrigstad as a result of the unhealthy climate resulting in many deaths owing to malaria. Moving to a higher lying area Lydenburg was founded. This town became the capital of “de Republiek Lydenburg in Zuid Afrika” from 1857 to 1860, after which it was reunited with the old South African Republic (ZAR). It attained municipal status in 1927.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Situated in Church Street near the corner of Kantoor Street. The school was completed in 1851 and is the oldest existing building in Lydenburg. The school was declared a national monument in 1974.
Situated on the corner of Church and Kantoor Streets, it was built in 1852. The original gables were removed in 1879, the windows were altered to Gothic windows and the thatched roof was replaced by one of corrugated iron. It was restored to its original style with the aid of a pen sketch done by Richter in 1867 and another illustration published in ‘The Graphic’ of 1876. In 1894 this church was replaced by the nearby Dutch Reformed Church to which services were transferred. In 1973 the church was declared a national monument and is presently the oldest existing Dutch Reformed Church north of the Vaal River.
Dutch Reformed Church
Situated on Church Square between Lange and Kantoor Streets. The foundation stone was laid on 12 April 1890 by the Rev H J Neethling and the church came into use in 1894. The building cost a total of £12 119. The pulpit, a replica of that in the Mother Church in Stellenbosch, was constructed by Palframan and De Roo of kiaat wood (Pterocarpus angolensis) which was donated by Abel Erasmus. In 1926 a unique organ was donated to the congregation by the descendants of the Voortrekker G C Schoeman. The erf on which this church and the Voortrekker Church stands was declared a national monument in 1978.
Some of the most interesting Early Iron Age finds date back to 490 AD, which were discovered at Sterkspruit near Lydenburg by Ludwig von Bezing. It consists of 7 terracotta heads known as the Lydenburg Heads. 6 have human faces and the 7th that of an animal. Two of the heads might have been worn as masks, the rest are much smaller and may be associated with rituals. The original heads are displayed in the SA Museum in Cape Town. Imitations of 3 of the heads are presently in the Lydenburg Museum.
Situated in Viljoen Street between Voortrekker and Potgieter Streets. After the conclusion of the Sekhukhune War in 1879, a division of soldiers, attached to the 94th Regiment, were stationed at Lydenburg. At the commencement of the First Anglo-Boer War (1880-1881) Lt.-Col. Anstruther, with the larger part of the garrison, departed for Pretoria. The remaining soldiers under the command of Second Lt. Walter Long transformed a number of huts into a fort which was named after Long’s wife, Fort Mary. The fort was successfully defended for 84 days by a few British soldiers and was evacuated after March 1881.
At this stage the weapons and ammunition were kept in the powder magazine near the Landdrost (Magistrate) building. However, the building was unsafe and damp and thus unsuitable for this purpose. In 1889, a contract was concluded to build a new powder magazine. For this purpose some of the stones from Fort Mary were used. The names engraved by some of the British soldiers can still be seen. The builder was a certain Rink. The building was completed in 1890, declared a national monument in 1962 and restored in 1982.
ZAR Post Box
Stands in Kantoor Street in front of the Voortrekker Church. This pillar box was manufactured in 1893 at ‘Pletterij den Haag’ and erected in Lydenburg around 1895. The post box previously stood near the Burgher monument and was moved to its present position in 1975. In 1979 it was declared a national monument and is still in use today. The first postal service between Lydenburg and Potchefstroom was already in use in 1850 and was maintained by voluntary financial contributions.
Situated on Church Square alongside the Dutch Reformed Church and accessible from both Lange and Kantoor Streets.
On 20 July 1914 the consistory of the Dutch Reformed Church decided to donate a piece of ground to erect a monument to the memory of the Lydenburg burghers who died during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). This monument, with the names of 33 burghers engraved on it, was unveiled about 1918 by General S W Burger.
Ox-wagon Trek Monument
Situated near the corner of Voortrekker and Burger Streets adjacent to the post office. This monument was erected in 1938 by the Cultural Historical Society in co-operation with the Town Council. The symbolic ox-wagon trek through the Republic to Pretoria was intended to commemorate the Great Trek, which had started a century earlier from the Cape Colony to the north. The wagon tracks in the cement in front of the Voortrekker School marks the trek the Charl Cilliers wagon made through Lydenburg to Pretoria in 1938.
Situated approximately 11 km north of the town on the road to Ohrigstad and slightly upstream of the present Schalk Burger Bridge across the Spekboom River. The bridge was opened on 21 June 1897 and was still in use in 1965. It originally had steel railings supported by 2 stone abutments. The bridge is named after Helgard P Steenkamp, a member of the Executive Committee of the 2nd Parliament and Commandant of the Lydenburg Commando.
During the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) the steel railings were partially destroyed. In 1903 the bridge was rebuilt with stone and renamed the Spekboom Bridge. In 1973 it was declared a national monument and given its historically correct name viz Steenkamp Bridge.
About 2000 million years ago volcanic action in Mpumalanga gave rise to this natural occurrence. The eruption was of the type which originates from the violent escape of subterranean gases, accompanied by a little lava, which had accumulated under high pressure. With the escape of the gases in their upward movement the overlying rocks disintegrated. The volcanic pipe or opening which was formed in this way, consists of course fragments of a variety of rock types cemented together by the lava. The remains form the present outcrops. Another result of this violent turbulence of the mixture in its upward path is the formation of concentric structures composed of lava and known as volcanic bombs. Examples of such bombs may be seen here amongst the exposed rocks. To get there travel westwards along Voortrekker Avenue, past the bridge to the first dirt road and they may be seen on the right hand side of the road.
The Finsbury Goldfields are situated north of the town in the Spekboom Valley. Adjacent to the river, the remains of early alluvial gold diggings can still be seen. Some of these are still being exploited today.
Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve.
The reserve covers an area of 2 200 ha. The following game can be seen in the reserve: eland, zebra, kudu, impala, wildebeest, oribi, duiker, grey rhebuck, reedbuck, blesbuck, bushbuck, bush-pigs, aardvark, steenbok, jackals and more than 100 kinds of birds. To name a few – crane, hammer head, kingfishers, woodpeckers, secretary birds, robins, and hoepoes. A rich variety of flora can also be seen. Of great significance are the archaeological ruins that date from the latter Stone Age (1200 AD – 1500 AD) and consist of stone walled agricultural terraces. The Nature Reserve has been opened to the public on a limited basis for braais (barbecue) since July 1983. There is also a walking trail close by leading to the ruins enabling those interested to view them.
De Kuilen Trout Hatchery
The function of the De Kuilen Trout Hatchery is to provide trout roe to fish producers and to distribute fish for angling purposes in proclaimed trout waters. The station is equipped with the most modern facilities in the world and is the largest in the southern hemisphere. The hatchery can accommodate about 10 million trout roe at a time.
Trout farming and provisions for angling have in recent years become a commercial proposition of ever-increasing importance. The story begins in Lydenburg when H J Gurr, local postmaster, caught a trout of doubtful origin in the Dorps River in 1912. He conceived the idea that trout would thrive in streams in the district and accordingly ordered ova from Jonkershoek and later from the Pirie Hatchery at King Williams Town.
The ova, which arrived packed in moss, were placed in the boxes in the water-furrow below his house. He reared fingerlings which he liberated in local streams from about 1916 onwards. To assist him financially he sold some to interested parties in Sabie, Pilgrim’s Rest and Swaziland.
When Gurr left Lydenburg in 1920 the work was carried on by F C Braun, the local watchmaker and jeweller. A trial stocking of a stream on the farm Kraaibosch, on the edge of the Steenkampsberg, proved successful. Here three anglers between them caught 72 trout in one day in 1922. The news proved to Braun that trout would thrive in these cold, clear mountain streams.
Two years later the Lydenburg Trout Protection and Angling Society was formed with Braun as secretary. Funds raised by subscription enabled him to carry on doggedly during the following 25 years, during which time he reared fry from about half a million ova and distributed them in local waters.
In 1948 the Fisheries Institute was founded in Lydenburg to conduct research into various aspects of trout culture and to expand the good work of enterprising individuals. It also supplied applicants with trout and other fry as well as with eyed ova for many years.
Commercial trout breeding has largely been taken over by private enterprise and the Institute’s work, apart from research, is now confined to supplying eyed ova to clubs and private owners and to the stocking of public streams with sizeable fish.
Geological occurrence : Dwars River
This occurrence consisting of chromite bands in anortosite, is clearly visible from the bridge over the Dwars River. It is a spectacular sight for laymen and geologists.