Towns and Cities

The tiny town of Marikana (established in 1870) was never much of a town and for a long time was really no more than a railway station and a collection of shops. In fact, the outside world would not have heard of Marikana at all if it were not for the notorious Lonmin Marikana platinum mining strike and shooting, where 34 striking Lonmin miners were shot and killed by police in 2012.

Worldwide, where precious mineral resources were discovered, buoyant photographers formed part of the desperate rush that ensued. This trend of fortune seekers, feverish migrating to these newly announced locations was also observed during the South African gold rushes at Pilgrim’s Rest (1873), Barberton (1883) and Johannesburg (1886).

Around the town stone age tools are found on the disturbed, agricultural lands, and more so alongside the Diep River and streams, telling us of human occupation over many millions of years.

The San also left evidence, in paintings on nearby Kasteelberg, and even though a transhumant people, the Khoekhoe too left similar indications of their presence. In today’s aware world, these people altered the environment little and must be considered to have had a balanced existence.


A common view ventured during small talk at meetings and social occasions I attend is that Sandton has no history. Many people describe the area as rich and soulless while others complain about 'poor architecture' and the explosion of sectional title complexes. In this article I will take readers on a dash around a few significant sites and hopefully persuade the naysayers that Sandton does indeed have a rich and layered history.

Beautifully situated in the Heidelberg Kloof is the Kloof cemetery, the original and oldest cemetery of the town. In fact, the oldest grave goes back to before the town was established. I'd like to take you on a walk through the graves, picking up a specific grave stone here and there.

Heinrich Ueckermann

The town started with Heinrich Ueckermann, he set up the first trading store in what now is the town.


We are honoured to publish this wonderful archive piece on the early history of Uitenhage. It was compiled by well known heritage practitioner Albrecht Herholdt and apperared in the 1988 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

[Originally published in 2013] When Elizabeth Anne Greyvensteyn first started selling rusks to her local community over seventy years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that her humble business would grow to become one of South Africa’s most iconic brands. Now employing over 250 people, the Ouma Rusks factory in Molteno is the lifeblood of the town’s small economy, owned by South Africa’s third largest food producer Foodcorp.

In the publication Boksburg 1903-4-1978-79: 75 Years of Municipal Government an unknown contributor reflected on the development of the town over seven and a half decades and asked ‘What was Boksburg like in 1903 when the first Town Council took office?’. Below is the answer to this captivating question.

Over the last few decades the name Sandton has become synonymous with wealth, luxury and privilege. One could even argue that it has become a valuable and iconic brand. There may be debate about what the brand represents and what it should be used for but very few people have an issue with the name itself. It is therefore hard to imagine that in the late 1960s there was a huge outcry when Sandton was officially named.


Although it has been severely contested, it is generally accepted that Potchefstroom is the oldest town founded by the Voortrekkers north of the Vaal River and that it was founded in 1838. The Mooi River area was well-known to Andries Hendrik Potgieter, the founder, when his party of Voortrekkers, or emigrants, as they were known at the time, settled here. Potgieter first saw the area during the winter months of 1836 and he passed through the area again later when on commando against Mzilikazi.

We found this brief article from the Randburg Sun when it fell out of an an old book. It was published in the late 1990s and explores the fascinating history of Randburg.

The earliest inhabitants of the area now called Randburg were tribesman roaming the open veld. Examples of their Iron Age craftsmanship can still be found on some of the local koppies. Little is known of the culture and history of these early people.

Stephanus Jesaias Ter Blans, eldest son of Heemraad Pieter Ter Blans (Terblanche) of the Reeboksfontein farm near Little Brak River, was the first colonist farmer to settle in the Knysna area. He named his loan farm Melkhoutkraal, which he established in 1770, on the east bank of the Knysna River. The farm stretched from the Indian Ocean to today’s Long Street in the town of Knysna. Stephanus Ter Blans died in 1794 after having had the loan rights for twenty years.

Below is another fascinating article from the South African Railway Magazine. It puts the spotlight on Bloemfontein's history, buildings and, of course, the momentous occasion of the arrival of the railway. It also highlights the rapid development happening in the Colony following the end of the Anglo-Boer War. Thank you to the Heritage Office at Transnet for giving us access to their archives.

Subscribe to Towns and Cities