Let’s be honest and admit that the reason why we all know of Kimberley is because of its hole, the big diamond hole. Coincidently, this is also the reason why Kimberley exists so don’t feel guilty for knowing little else about the place. In 1866 a diamond was found and traded in the vicinity of the current Kimberley and this happened a second time in 1869. But is was third time lucky in 1872, when a 83,5 carat diamond was found on a koppie on the farm Vooruitzight, belonging to the De Beers brothers, that the real diamond rush took place. As every girl and some men know 83,5 carat is one hell of a stone. Within a month 800 claims were staked and worked on the koppie which was rapidly being torn apart. As work continued the koppie was levelled with the ground and gradually turned into a hole, the world-renowned Kimberley se Gat (Kimberley Mine). The Boers, the Brits and the local Griquas all claimed ownership of the diamond fields, and after arbitration by the Brits the Griquas got it and immediately placed themselves under British protection. It is unclear from history books whether the Brits received a kickback for going with the Griquas during the arbitration process.
The area was then known as Griqualand West. For about two years after that, from 1871 to 1873 the British politicians fought about what to name the place and it was eventually named after the highest ranking official that was part of the discussion Lord Kimberley. This ensured that he would be able to spell the name of the town correctly. It is unclear from history books whether Lord Kimberley had any grandchildren in the 1950’s National Party government who also named everything after themselves. As we can see here, renaming places for no apparent reason at all is not a new thing; it’s part of South African heritage.
Individuals, partnerships and companies owning parts of the mine gradually merged until 1888 when it all came together and there was only one owner, De Beers Consolidated Mines, who until today holds a monopoly over the world diamond market.
Kimberley has two very famous pubs, “The Star of the West”, and “The Half”. The former has been operational since 1870 and apparently got it’s name as parts of it was built from wood transported there all the way from the South African West-Coast by shipwrecked sailors from a ship by the same name. The latter was halfway between Beaconsfield (which really is now just part of Kimberley) and Kimberley City Centre. It is rumoured to be the only remaining drive in pub in the world, and legend has it that is was originally proclaimed a drive in pub by Cecil John Rhodes when he was to old and lazy to get off his horse for a drink. At some stage the owners were instructed to build a six-foot wall around the pub, so they dug a six feet deep trench around it, and built a wall in the trench. When visiting the pub there is absolutely no sign of the wall, as it is under the ground.