Mining History

Some time ago I posted an item on the Heritage Portal about the demolition of the 1904 ERPM Clubhouse and the 1908 (Herbert Baker) extension to the ERPM Clubhouse (click here to view). A stop order was subsequently obtained, and demolition of these two structures was halted, but only after they had been broken down by about 80%.

Johannesburg is a gold mining city and, through the decades, there have been a number of disasters related to the industry. A walk through Johannesburg's cemeteries offers a visual history of premature loss through mine related explosions. The granite memorial in the Braamfontein Cemetery erected in memory of those who lost their lives in the great dynamite explosion of 1896, is still moving and offers a unique insight into Johannesburg history. 

 

[Originally published in 2014] This wonderful article, written by Malcolm Wilson, describes the journeys of early hunters, settlers and prospectors as well as the development of Driefontein Farm on land which is now just a few kilometres from 'Africa's richest square mile'.

Early Settlers and Prospectors

The county of Cornwall, in England’s south west, is a well known holiday destination renowned for its scenic beauty and it comes as a surprise to many a visitor that the county has an industrial past. From the mid-18th century Cornwall was as industrialised as the Midlands and North of England and it was one of the most important metalliferous mining areas in the world. In fact the metal Tin had been exploited in Cornwall by the Romans in the 3rd & 4th centuries AD, after their previous source - the Spanish tin mines, were worked out.

Headgears are the ultimate symbol of the mammoth Southern African mining industry. They tower over billions of rands worth of wealth and help to sustain vast underground cities. They are appreciated by millions around the world and we are blessed to have some of the finest examples. The article below provides an overview of the purpose and significance of headgears.

On reaching the bottom of Robber’s Pass on a journey towards the village of Pilgrim’s Rest you will notice on your left the Golf Club, but should you glance to the right you will see at intervals elegant cast iron poles each with a curved outrigger. You may well ponder as to what they are and after three guesses will still be none the wiser. To know the answer you will have to know some of the history of Pilgrim’s Rest.

The Struben brothers, Fred & Harry, by invitation of Louw Geldenhuys, discovered and mined gold on the Eastern part of the farm Wilgespruit in 1884-5. They learned mining from a Cornish miner, George Arnold (every body is ‘George’) and blasted and dug their way into the Witwatersrand Ridge in several places, most famously the “Confidence Reef Mine”. They imported a stamp mill from Sandycroft Foundry in England and powered it with an 8 horse-power steam engine they had on their farm, from Ransom, Simms & Jefferies, also a UK firm.

Over the last few weeks there has been considerable discussion about the shocking state of George Harrison Park in Langlaagte (the site commemorating the discovery of the largest goldfield on earth). In the following thought-provoking piece Gavin Whitfield, geological consultant and author, argues that we should 'not waste further effort on maintaining this important heritage site as it is...'

History

A few weeks ago (late September 2013) we paid a depressing visit to George Harrison Park in Langlaagte, the site of the discovery of the largest gold field on earth. The Geological Society's Blue Plaque has been removed, building rubble is scattered around the main entrance, the panels revealing the significance of the site have been damaged by fire and the main memorial looks battered to say the least. It is incredibly sad to see one of the most important heritage sites in South Africa looking so neglected.

 

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