Wellington

Standing beside a provincial road, the R44 just outside Wellington in the Western Cape, is a blockhouse, a remnant of the Anglo-Boer War, one of those erected on the instigation of Lord Milner. There are a number in the area which followed and provided security on the vital link for the British, the rail line between the Cape and the north.

The Wellington blockhouse is the southernmost in the chain. It was constructed of stone with three tiers of loopholes under concrete lintels, with an open, corrugated iron roof.

During the South African War of 1899-1902 blockhouses formed an essential part of British military strategy against Dutch forces. Initially these were fairly substantial and were used to guard key military points, but once the war moved into its final stages, they were used, together with barbed wire, as a means of limiting the movement of Republican commandos. All in all, some 8000 blockhouses were built over a period of two years, and although most were eventually dismantled, a number still remain in silent testimony of a bitter and foolish war.

[Originally published in 2014] Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of articles, compiled by Peter Ball, on the history of Southern African railways. The first installment looks at some of the earliest railways in the country and the extension of various lines into the interior (driven by the great mineral discoveries of the second half of the nineteenth century).

[Originally published 30 May 2014] Bathurst Primary School is running a campaign to raise funds for much needed restoration work. The campaign's tagline is 'Restoring the Oldest School in South Africa'. The cause is undoubtedly a worthy one but is the claim of 'oldest school' legitimate? Ms Sigi Howes (Head: Education Museum, Wynberg, Cape Town) provides some answers in this open letter.

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