"The First Anglo-Boer War - 1881"


Information regarding the tour

1. This tour lasts two days and covers approximately 800 kilometres. It is recommended that overnight accommodation should be booked at Newcastle.

2. The tour covers the northern Natal battlefields of the First Anglo-Boer War. It is designed with ease of access, comfort, security and maximum interest in mind. Before setting out on each leg of the tour read the navigational instructions carefully.

THE TOUR FROM THE WITWATERSRAND : DAY ONE

3. Depart after breakfast and join the N3 from Johannesburg via Germiston and Heidelberg to Durban. At first traffic is heavy and one must concentrate on remaining on the N3 for Durban through a succession of interchanges, but after passing Alberton the industrial area gives way to farmland and traffic eases off. Immediately after passing Heidelberg take the off-ramp for Balfour (R23).

4. The railway line to your left at this point was the scene of a train wreck perpetrated by the Heidelberg Commando, with devastating results. Further along, as one comes abreast of Greylingstad, if you look back at the hills over your left shoulder, you will see "SR" in large white letters on the hill. This stands for "Scottish Rictes" and marks the site of their regimental camp in 1881.

5. Continue on through Standerton, which is a small agricultural and industrial centre. Care must be taken in Standerton as the route signs are on small boards that can be easily missed. The R23 continues past Platrand and Perdekop through farmland to Volksrust.

6. This attractive town was laid out in 1885 after the First Anglo-Boer War in celebration of the Boer victory and is an agricultural centre. Stay on the R23 through the town and towards Natal. It is recommended that you have lunch in Volksrust or else top up your picnic basket here. The town hall gardens contain a very elegant memorial to those people who died in British concentration camps during the Second Anglo-Boer War. They also contain a well-preserved period steam-engine.

Majuba

7. Pass through Volksrust on the R23. Turn right onto the Durban/Newcastle road at the town hall and set your trip odometer to zero. The road crosses the Natal border between Volksrust and Charlestown and, 8 km beyond Volksrust, you will see the sign for Amajuba. Turn right onto the Kwaggasnek road.

8. The road is a good gravel road but stony. After a another four kilometres turn left at the next sign for Amajuba and enter through the gateway. The entrance fee is R5 per car but is not always charged. The property belongs to a university. The badge on the right hand pillar is that of the "Ossewa Brandwag", a political organisation that previously owned the property. Move straight ahead down the farm road, past the youth hostel on your right and park your car at the toilets area. Picnic, barbecue, toilet facilities and water are available.

9. The Majuba battlefield is on the summit of the mountain before you. The climb is a gradual one and, although not as steep as it appears, should not be tackled by invalids or the elderly. The average unfit middle-aged person can climb it in 45 mins, to an hour. It is marked by means of metal markers and water pipes with taps, which do not always work. Steps have been cut in places. There are three distinct plateaux and each has small marble tablets depicting the course of the battle.

10. As you climb, the path passes the high outcrop on the right known as Gordon's Knoll, which was defended by the 92nd Regiment of Foot. It then reaches the top plateau where it splits at a green metal table. The path of the right leads to a single monument at the summit of Majuba or McDonald Koppie. The monument is the site of a veteran's reunion in 1935.

11. The left hand path leads to a lonely cross which marks the spot where General Colley, the British commander, was killed. With your back to the lettering on Colley's monument, walk straight out for 100 metres and you will find a concrete marker and a large hole indicating the site of the well dug by the British troops for water.

12. From here make your way to the cemetery. Maj. Maude was the only officer killed at Majuba who is buried here. The reason is that he was only temporarily attached to Colley's force. The other officers who died here are all buried at Mount Prospect.

13. Follow the path from the cemetery to the barbed wire that prevents one tumbling down the southern face. The isolated knoll below you is Sailor's Knoll. Turn right and walk along the barbed wire. Various granite markers mark the site of the British advance, flight and positions, including that of the Naval Brigade. On completion, retrace your steps down the mountain to your car.

14. Move back through the grounds and turn left just after the Youth Hostel. A hundred metres up the road is the grave of an unknown Boer gunner killed in 1900 during the Second Anglo-Boer War and a vantage point which offers an excellent view of the pathway you used to ascend the mountain. Return to your car and retrace your route to the gravel road. Turn right and head back to the N11.

Historical Background to Majuba

15. Amajuba mountain is sometimes also referred to as Spitskop or Colley's Kop.

16. Great Britain annexed the independent Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in 1877. At first the Boers were almost paralysed by this high-handed action, but they gradually built up opposition to British authority. Between 8 and 14 December 1880 about 6 000 burghers met at Paardekraal, reinstated the former Volksraad as the highest legislative authority and resolved to regain their independence by force of arms. So began the "First War of Independence".

17. The main threat to the Boers came from the British Colony of Natal. From there General Sir George Pomeroy Colley with 1 400 men advanced against the rebels. The Boer Cmdt. Gen. Piet Joubert immediately decided to counter this attack.

18. With a force of 800 men he advanced towards Natal and at the end of January 1881 took up a position at Laing's Neck. Colley's camp was then at Mount Prospect, five and a half kilometres further south. On 28 January the Boers beat off a British attack at Schuinshoogte near Ingogo and on 8 February another at Laing's Neck.

19. With his advance blocked, Gen Colley decided to occupy Amajuba Mountain (Mountain of Doves) with part of his force. The top of the mountain commanded Laing's Neck; from there he would be able to bring artillery fire to bear on the Boer positions and also be in a position to seize the main road over the neck. During the night of 26 February he therefore led a force from his camp at Mount Prospect up the southern side of the mountain. With him he took 35 officers and 693 men belonging to three companies of the 92nd Highlanders, the 2nd Company of the 58th regiment, the 2nd Company of the 60th Rifles and 54 marines from HMS DIDO.

20. By daybreak on 27 February, the Boers were surprised to observe the British troops on the summit and at about 0:700 the British fired a few shots at the Boer camp, but there was little heat in the bombardment since Colley thought he was perfectly safe on the mountain. So confident were the British of their position that no serious attempts at fortification were made, the works of the Naval Brigade on the western perimeter being probably the most substantial.

21. Gen. Joubert, however, decided that the British must be dislodged and sent volunteers from all the commandos under command of the burgher officers D. Malan, S. Roos and J. Ferreira up the mountain. All morning the Boers, 400 - 500 in number, worked their way steadily upwards in alternate rushes, each party covering the other in turn as they moved from one piece of cover to another. The whole operation was covered by long range fire from the better shots, usually the older men, in the rear, which served to keep the defenders' heads down. As with so many South-African hills, the formation of the mountain slopes is such that much of the terrain is dead ground, i.e. invisible to the watcher above.

22. The volunteers were both courageous and successful. By 11:00 most of the positions on the slope of the mountain were in their hands and by 13:00 the first of the Boers had reached the top. The Highlanders defended themselves bravely but could not resist the fierce attack and by 15:00 the engagement was over. Gen. Colley was shot in the head where he stood amongst his men on the summit. The British losses were 92 killed, 134 wounded and 59 captured and those that were left fled down the mountain slope they had ascended the previous night. The Boer losses were two killed and five wounded. Gen. Colley was buried in his camp at Mount Prospect and a marker was afterwards erected at the place where he fell.

23. The battle of Amajuba resulted in an armistice and led to the peace negotiations that took place in O'Neil's cottage.

Laing's Neck

24. Turn right at the junction with the N11 to Newcastle. At the crest of the pass which is marked by a sign "Laingsnek 1680m" turn left following the brown sign to Laingsnek memorial.

In the parking lot there is a vandalised diorama, but from this point there is a clear view of the battlefield which extended all the way along the ridge to the left. The white monument, about three quarters of the way up the hill, indicates the point of furthest advance of the British troops up the hill (58th Regiment). The monument can be reached on foot along the crest of the ridge for those who are interested. The tree-lined koppie in front of the diorama is Brownlow's Kop and is named after Major Brownlow who led a charge in the battle.

Historical Background

25. The battles of Laing,s Neck (28 January 1881), Schuinshoogte (8 February 1881) and Majuba (27 February 1881) present us with a interesting array of facts about the British troops.

26. A British regiment, the 92nd, wore khaki doublets - this was the first appearance of khaki in South Africa. Officers wore Sam Brown belts in South Africa for the first time. The 58th Regiment wore the traditional scarlet tunics and blue trousers. The naval detachment wore blue. Helmets, puttees, etc. were pipeclayed white, but the 92nd Regiment stained their helmets with mud. This was the last time that the "colours" were carried by a British regiment in battle. During the battle of Laing's Neck the Union Jack was accidentally flown upside down. The British considered this campaign as an Imperial War, and therefore scorned the help of local volunteers such as the Natal Mounted Police and Natal Carbineers. Local volunteers were only accepted for specialist jobs such as scouts and interpreters.

27. After the British annexation of the Transvaal and the subsequent decision of the Boers at Paardekraal to defend their country at all costs, war broke out. The British garrisons at Pretoria, Lydenburg and Potchefstroom were besieged and a column of the 94th Regiment which was moving to Pretoria, was ambushed and practically wiped out at Bronkhorstspruit. It became quite obvious to the British that relief had to be sent.

28. Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley was Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Natal at the time and also the High Commissioner for South East Africa. He was a man of ambition and great administrative ability. He had previously seen service in India and South Africa but had not yet commanded troops in battle.

29. Colley left Pietermaritzburg to relieve the besieged garrisons in the Transvaal. He travelled by post cart to the Biggarsberg. The Boers were thought to be threatening the route so the Natal Mounted Police escorted him to Newcastle.

30. Colley had a pitiful 1 100 troops to invade the Transvaal. The troops were made up of infantrymen from the 21st, 58th, 3rd and 60th Regiments. There was no cavalry, only four seven- pounders and a mounted squadron of 70. There were also 120 naval men from the HMS "COMMODORE" with 13 rocket tubes.

31. On 24 January the troops began to move from Newcastle hoping to make Standerton. The march was a nightmare. It was raining, the mud on the roads bogged down the wagons, the rivers were swollen and when the sun shone the high tambotie grass gave off steam. It took four days to reach Mount Prospect, about 32 kilometres from Newcastle. The scouts reported that the Boers were on the Transvaal side of Laingsnek where their wagons and tents could be clearly seen.

32. On the morning of 28 January Colley ordered Maj. Brownlow to capture a detached hill and to cover Col. Deane's men as they scaled the 304,8 m rise to engage in battle with the Boers. Colley, his Aide-de-camp, lt. Ian Hamilton, and the Natal Mounted Police scouts took their stand to the rear where they could observe the operations. There were also about twenty observers from Newcastle who were mainly reporters.

33. The artillery shelled the Boer positions for about twenty minutes and then the infantry (the 58th) under Col. Dane advanced in columns of four.

34. When well on their way Maj. Brownlow and his mounted troops charged the hill named after him, also known as Engelbrechtkop. It was a steep and exhausting ride and many of the leading troops, including Brownlow, had their horses shot from under them. The second troop, thinking that all was lost, turned and headed for their starting line. The second troop were inexperienced soldiers, and poor horsemen on untrained horses.

35. This immediately exposed the 58th. The Boers were now free to come forward onto the western slopes where they were within clear view and range of the 58th, who were still struggling up the long slope to the east of the road. They now came under heavy fire and, with men dropping about them, they reached the crest in a confused and exhausted state. They were also still in close companies and Col. Deane realised too late that he should get his men into extended order. Things now became chaotic. Men were breasting the ridge in full view of the Boers at a distance of about 137 metres. The casualties became extremely heavy. The British fell back and then retreated under the direction of Maj. Essex, the sole member of Colley's officers to survive. This action of the 58th was the last time that the colours were carried into battle.

36. The Memorial on Brownlow's Hill records 79 officers and men as killed but the total casualties could have been more.

O'Neil's Cottage

37. Six kilometres further down the road is O'Neil's Cottage which is clearly signposted. The collage is now a museum open from 08:00 to 17:00. There are toilet facilities and there are trinkets and farm products for sale. In the front garden is a monument to the King's Royal Rifles (the Greenjackets).

Historical Background

38. O'Neil's Cottage is planned in the form of a cross and is built of stone. In March 1881 peace negotiations were conducted there after the Battle of Amajuba, and the treaty that brought the First War of Independence of 1880-1881 to an end was signed in this building. At that stage it belonged to R.C. O'Neil, known to his familiars as "Ou Gert".

39. On the night of 26 February Gen. Colley's troops started their climb of Amajuba mountain just behind this house. After the subsequent defeat of the British and the death of Colley, Sir Evelyn Wood concluded an armistice with Gen. Piet Joubert on the 6th of March. On the 15th of March Paul Kruger, Dr. E.J.P. Jorrissen and other Transvaal leaders arrived at the Boer camp at Laing's Neck and on the 20th of March President J.H. Brand of the Orange Free State joined them. Brand's function was to as act arbitrator at the negotiations.

40. The discussions were held in O'Neil's house at the invitation of Sir Evelyn Wood. The Transvaal was represented by President Kruger and Jorissen and at various times also by Gen. Piet Joubert, M.W. Pretorius, Jacob Maré, D.C. ("Swart Dirk") Uys, Karel Rood (interpreter), Gen Nicolaas Smit, C. Joubert, the Rev. D.P. Ackerman and J.O.H. Sluiter (recorder). On the British side there were Sir Evelyn Wood, Major Fraser, Major Clarke, Captain Roberts, Captain Thornbrugh-Cropper the Aide-de-Camp, and Lieutenant Hamilton. President Brand was present throughout the proceedings.

41. The meetings were held in the front room on the east side of the building. At times all except members of the government were sent out, and at other times the Boer leaders held informal consultations outside on the verandah. No full minutes of the discussions were kept. At the end of the meeting the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek regained its independence although it remained under the suzerainty of Britain for the time being.

42. The meeting of the group of people around the table in the front room forms the subject of one of the panels by the sculptor Anton van Wouw on the base of the Kruger statue on Church Square, Pretoria.

43. The cottage was built about 1870 by P.A. Hayward de Bary, a Roman Catholic, which explains why a white cross appears on the front gable, and was later bought by a certain O'Neil of Graaff-Reinet. In 1878 O'Neil transferred the house to his brother, R.C. O'Neil, who was living in it at the time of the Battle of Amajuba. Some of the wounded were cared for in the house and three of the men who died in it are buried in the orchard nearby.

Ingogo/Schuinshoogte

44. On leaving O'Neil's Cottage turn right once again on to the N11 to Newcastle. At the crossroads further down the road to Ingogo and Ingogo Station turn right towards Ingogo Station and set your odometer on zero. There is an excellent view of Majuba on your right. After passing the Valley Inn on your right one almost immediately comes to a bridge at 3,2 km from the road on one's left. Turn left over the bridge. Follow the good gravel road under the railway line and, as you emerge, the battlefield of Schuinshoogte, also known as Ngogo, is the slight rise to the right. At 6,8 km a cemetery comes into view on the crest line on the left. This, as well as the hill on the right, is the site of the battlefield which is bisected by the road that is the original old main road to Laing's Neck from Newcastle. Stop at the parking site next to the diorama after 7,2 km. The diorama has been vandalised, so cross the road to the memorial and graveyards to view them. Come back past your car to the graveyards on that side of the road. In addition to the graves of those killed in battle in 1881 there are a number of graves of members of the Devonshire Regiment buried here in 1900. These graves have a connection with the ruins of a Second Anglo-Boer War fort between the graveyards and your car and which, unless carefully examined, could pass as a jumble of rocks. Climb onto them and the outline of the fort becomes immediately visible.

Historical Background

45. While Colley was licking his wounds after the defeat at Laing's Neck and awaiting reinforcements, the Boers carried out a series of raids on his communication lines. He therefore took a small force of 273 men down the old road which runs past Valley Inn (then known as Fermistone's Hotel) to clear the lines. It was a blistering hot day and they had no rations with them as no engagement was anticipated.

46. Two seven-pounder guns and half a company were left to guard the drifts near the hotel. The main body consisting of about four companies and the nine-pounder guns continued towards Newcastle with Colley in personal command.

47. When they reached Schuinshoogte they were unexpectedly fired upon. The Boer's rifles were deadly accurate as always and they took advantage of every bit of cover, slight as it was. The British were unable to obtain an advantage - the artillery had little or no effect and sustained musketry fire at close range demolished them.

48. Shortly after 17:00 there was a torrential downpour which was a relief to those who had been lying in the blistering sun for hours suffering from thirst. The battle ended indecisively soon after sunset and both sides withdrew; the British suffering further losses when crossing the Ingogo River which came down in flood after the storm. Neither side had planned the battle - the Boers had attacked on the spur of the moment. As near as can be determined the losses were four British officers and 62 men killed and one officer and eight men drowned. Four officers and 63 men were wounded. The Boer losses were nine men killed and six wounded.

Fort Amiel Cemetery

49. After leaving O'Neil's Cottage turn left and continue along the old road to Newcastle. It is a good gravel road and runs through a small pass which was the scene of the ambush of a British convoy to whose relief the British forces were coming at the subsequent battle of Ingogo/Schuinshoogte. When you strike the tar, turn left onto the R34 to Newcastle, keeping a sharp eye open for buck on the right.

50. Immediately upon entering Newcastle, at the "Welcome" sign, Fort Amiel cemetery is visible in a grove of trees 300 metres off to the right. It contains the graves of those who died in and around Newcastle while on active service.

Fort Amiel

51. If you wish and if you have time, you may now visit Fort Amiel, although we recommend you leave it for the morning (see par 26). The museum is open from 08:00 to 17:00 but is closed on Wednesdays. Enter Newcastle past the "Welcome" sign and take the second road on your right at the Fort Amiel sign. This is Eaton Road. At Amiel Road turn left and then right into Fort Road by following the signs to the museum.

Historical Background

52. When the British expected trouble with the Zulus in 1876, Major Charles Frederick Amiel was sent with 2 000 men, drawn from companies of the 80th Regiment, to build a fort at Newcastle (one of a series throughout Natal).

53. About this time, local inhabitants belonging to the Newcastle Mounted Rifles built the present armoury as an arsenal and for the defence of the area.

54. Maj. Amiel and his detachment had previously arrived in Natal from Hong Kong on 6 March 1876. He had served with the Staffordshire Volunteers in numerous wars and expeditions in the East, among which were the Burmese War of 1852 and the Indian Campaign of 1858-1859.

55. In 1879, the horrible aftermath of the Battles of Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift shattered the peace of the little settlement of Newcastle, leaving half of the women widowed.

56. With this as background and as a prelude to the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877, the building of a fort at Newcastle was of the utmost importance to the British - especially as Newcastle was regarded as the main strategic military focal point in northern Natal.

57. Fort Amiel was therefore built hurriedly by the detachment of the Staffordshire Volunteers (80th Regiment) and named after their commander. After it was built Maj. Amiel and his troops were held there in reserve for action. There is ample evidence that Newcastle (Fort Amiel) was an important military base for operations from 1876 right through to 1902. During the Zulu War of 1879 it was used as a transit camp, hospital and commissariat depot.

58. The fort appears to have continued in this capacity during the 1800-1881 Anglo-Boer War. In several accounts we read that Gen. Colley found everything in readiness at Fort Amiel. The Fort once again came into prominence during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 when troops were stationed here, as the numerous graves in the town cemetery tell the story of soldiers who died of enteric fever during 1900. It was also about this time that a watch-tower was erected on the Guard house.

59. The defences of Fort Amiel consisted of a ditch, a rampart and a stone wall. The foundations of the outer wall can still be seen on the boundary of the knoll overlooking the Ncandu River.

60. Continue straight into Newcastle, or if you have visited the fort, retrace your route up Fort Road, taking the first turn right into Amiel Road and then left into Eaton. At the R34 Memel/Newcastle road, turn right and continue into Newcastle. At the R34 traffic light turn left towards Utrecht and Volksrust. The Holiday Inn and Majuba Lodge are 1 km further on the left. If you have accommodation booked in town turn right at the traffic light instead of left and you will arrive in the city centre. For the purpose of this tour the overnight stop is assumed to be at one of the above two hotels.

DAY TWO

Fort Amiel

61. Leave from the Holiday Inn and, if you have not already visited Fort Amiel, turn right at the traffic light onto the R34 to Memel. At Eaton Road turn left at the sign for Fort Amiel and then, following the signs to the museum, left into Amiel Road and right into Ford Road until you arrive at the Fort.

62. Having completed your viewing retrace your steps (as described in paragraph 26) to the Memel road and then turn right towards Newcastle. At the R34 to Ladysmith turn right towards Ladysmith and the city centre.

63. If you have already visited Fort Amiel the previous day, leave the Holiday Inn and turn right towards Ladysmith and the city centre. Cross the R34 Memel road traffic light and continue towards the city centre.

Newcastle

64. Newcastle is the largest town in Natal and is an industrial and commercial centre with many attractions. Our route takes us into Allen Street and we continue along it towards the centre. At Scott Street, Newcastle's main street, turn right. Four hundred metres further, on the right, is the very attractive town hall. Directly outside the town hall is a very realistic statue and monument in memory of the members of the Newcastle Mounted Rifles who died on active service in the Zulu War of 1879. Also at the town hall is a very helpful information office that will help with things to see or do, or accommodation. To the right, when facing the town hall and behind a row of flagpoles, is Scott Square with its original well and town pump and the site of the old gallows which is covered by a lovely period archway forming the entrance to the Carnegie Library.

Town Cemetery

65. Leave the town hall by returning down Scott Street and turning right into Voortrekker Street, then left into Harding and right into Hardwick. The town cemetery is on the right hand side of Hardwick Street at the intersection with Van der Byl Street. Park on Van der Byl Street. The lower, older area of the cemetery is filled with the graves of soldiers who died at No. 1 Stationary Hospital at Charlestown in the Second Anglo-Boer War. Grave number M79 is that of Newcastle's winner of the Victoria Cross, Corporal J.J. Clements, VC.

Mount Prospect

66. On leaving the Cemetery turn right into Hardwick Street and continue along it until you arrive at the traffic light at B.J. Ford Street and the Holiday Inn. Turn right towards Volksrust. At the traffic light in Newcastle where the Volksrust road crosses the H.J. Van Eck Drive set your odometer on zero. Follow the N11 and R34 to Volksrust taking care at the last service station to follow the N11 to Volksrust.(See para 67). Stay on the N11. After 27,5 km you will see the Inkwelo Motel on your left followed by a board saying "Volksrust N11".

An Optional Excursion to Utrecht

67. After returning to the N11 you have a choice. You may either follow the tour as from paragraph 92 to Mount Prospect or you may do a side trip to the pretty and historic little town of Utrecht. If you decide on the former proceed to paragraph 92 for further details.

Utrecht

68. On leaving Newcastle towards Volksrust on the N11 proceed until you reach the Vryheid-Utrecht-Dundee turn-off to the right (R34).

69. 34,8 kms from the turn off, turn left at the sign Utrecht-Paulpietersburg. This is the first entrance into Utrecht and becomes Voorstraat.

70. Utrecht was established in 1847 by Cornelius van Rooyen who was reputed to have personally anointed Panda as King of the Zulus, J.C.Klopper and A.T. Spies. The town played a leading role in the 1879 Zulu War where it served as a major British headquarters and hosted some major British figures of the time. The town as laid out on a grand scale for a projected population of 50 000 which it never reached. This is evident by the many large and vacant plots which are almost characteristic of the town. Some have been built on and the buildings subsequently demolished, others have never been used.

71. Proceed along Voorstraat. Seven of the streets of Utrecht are named after the streets of Utrecht in Holland. After crossing Hoopstraat note the "Landrost, Post- en Telegraafkantoor"erected in 1892 on the left, followed immediately by the Town Hall erected in 1913 and also on the left.

72. Continue along Voorstraat and cross Van Rooyen Straat. Note the Anglican Church on the right. It was built in 1899 and has a very pretty interior. Unfortunately the congregation has dwindled away and the church has fallen into disuse and is kept locked.

73. Cross Keerom Straat and turn right at the next street, De Kock Straat. The corner is marked by a jail which is on your left after you turn. Stop as you turn and note the sandstone remains of the old jail built into the new one on the Voorstraat facade of the building. It is one of two remaining sections of pre 1900 Transvaal jails still in existence.

74. Take the first turning on the right into Hoogstraat. Proceed along Hoogstraat and cross Keeromstraat. The empty area on the right is the site of the old British Headquarters

75. Historical Background: This was the headquarters of the British Army during the Zulu War. Various regiments and companies of regiments of the British army were stationed here from 1877 until after the war. Wood's Column was formed here and later took part in the battle's of Hlobane and Khambula. Troops represented were the 80th Regiment, 13th Light Infantry, 11th Battery, Royal Artillery, 90th Light Infantery and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment.

76. Proceed further along Hoogstraat. At the Shell service station on the right, turn left into Van Rooyenstraat. At the turn-off to Paulpietersburg turn left into Presidency Road. After 1,6kms the road becomes gravel and one encounters a road camp on your right. From the road a clearly identifiable powder magazine in the grounds of the camp is readily seen. This is one of three similar structures built in 1893 by the Transvaal Republic. The other two are in Heidelburg and Lydenburg.

77. Retrace your route back down to the Shell service station and turn right into Hoogstraat and left at the jail. There is a new cemetery on your left. Across the road from the jail is the old graveyard. Turn right into Voorstraat and stop at the gate at the graveyard. This old cemetery is well worth a visit. Many graves of well-known Voortrekkers are here. The Rev H.L.Neethling , the first moderator of the United Dutch Reformed Church of the Transvaal and Rev Arlington, the first Vicar-general of the Anglican Church in Zululand are also buried here. There is a cemetery within the cemetery laid out in the symbolic form of an 1879 War Department arrow which contains the graves of British Zulu War and Boer War casualties, amongst them Stephen Thornton Phillimore the Deputy Commissioner of the British Army during the Zulu War.

78. One can now continue along Voorstraat out of towm for 1,7kms to reach the Utrecht Country Club and Balela Caravan Park and dam for a picnic, meal and overnight stay in a chalet or else return back along Voorstraat and take the first turning right into Keeromstraat.

79. Turn immediately left into Kerkstraat. Note the beautiful Victorian "Shawe House" on the right. Although it's facade is disfigured by a modern Tv aerial this house and the Rothman House immediately next door are considered to be among the finest examples of Natal colonial residential architecture in rural Natal.

80. On the next corner on the right is the Uys House. It is one of the oldest buildings in Natal north of the Tugela River and dates bach to 1856. It was the house of "Swart" Dirk Uys, who was the first commandant of Utrecht appointed by the ZAR in November 1855, four years before the district was incorporated into the Transvaal. The facade is the work of Senator Jacobus Johannes Uys, son of Wessel Hendrik Uys, who was elected as the first member for Utrecht of the Executive Council of the Transvaal in 1859. Prince Louis Napoleon, the Prince Imperial, courted Sannie Uys at this house in 1879.

81. Just across Van Rooyenstraat there is a vacant lot on the right which is the site of the old "Ulundi Hotel". The hotel was established in 1877 and displays the town's connection with Zululand. Princess Eugenie, the Prince Imperials mother is reputed to have stayed in this hotel during her visit to the site of her son's death.

82. Immediately on the left is the "Old Residency" of 1892. Continue on down Kerkstraat, until you reach the Dutch Reformed Church on your left. On your right, almost concealed by a modern home, is a monument to Petrus Lafras Uys: P.L. Uys was one of the original settlers in this area in 1847. He was the first Landdrost appointed by the government of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek after Utrecht was officially incorporated into the Transvaal on 6 November 1859. He was a member of the Transvaal Volksraad for the Utrecht district, also commandant for several years. A commando of some 40 men, including his four sons, fought with the British during the Zulu War. He was killed in the Battle of Hlobane on 28 March 1879. The monument was erected in 1881 by the burghers and British soldiers of Woods Column with whom he fought in the war.

83. Just across the road is the Burgher monument erected in memory of the soldiers of the Boer Republics who were killed in action. On the base of the monument is a plaque to the memory of Captain Leo Pokrowsky, one of the most famous foreigners who fought with the Boer forces during the Second Anglo-Boer War. A Pole in the Russian army he was killed in a skirmish on Xmas Day 1900 when whilst serving as a volunteer with the Boer forces he and his men attacked the British garrison in Utrecht.

84. Note the irrigation furrow running past the front of this monument. An irrigation system was started in Utrecht in 1860 and added to until 1865. All the furrows were lined with sandstone slabs as can be seen here. The system was discontinued in the 1960's.

85. Move up to the DR Church. This magnificent old building was erected during the ministry of the Rev H.L. Neethling, the first moderator of the "Nederduitsche Hervormde of Gereformeerde Kerk of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal). The foundation stone, to the right of the front portal, was laid by Gen Piet Joubert, Commandant General of the ZAR on 23 October, 1891 and the church was consecrated on 21 April 1893, the service being conducted by the Rev Dr Andrew Murray, Moderator of the church in the Cape Colony. The church has a beautiful wooden interior roof but is normally kept locked.

86. Return to your car and move along Kerkstraat to the first turning left into Loopstraat. The building on the left is the "Ou Pastorie" Museum. This house was built in 1888 (note the date on the drainpipes down from the guttering on the porch) for the Rev H.L. Neethling, the first moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Transvaal. He ministered from this house from 1875 to 1893 during political differences, problems over church unity and the Zulu War. During this latter conflict Utrecht was the headquarters of the British Army and a staff of approximately 4000 men were stationed there. As they had no chaplain Ds Neethling held services for the British troops every Sunday evening in English. In addition to being a reflection of the style of living at the time the Museum houses serious exhibits and artifacts from the Zulu and Boer Wars. The curator and staff are extremely helpful. The museum is open on weekdays from 09h00 to 12h30 and from 13h15 to 16h00. It is also open on the the first Saturday of every month between 09h00 and 14h00. Should you wish to view the museum outside these hours an appointment can be made by phoning (03433) 3042.

87. On completion of your visit to the museum return to your car and proceed along Loopstraat to the first turning right (Voorstraat) which will take you back to the Newcastle-Volksrust road. (N11) Turn right here and continue the tour if you wish as set out in paragraph 92 onwards.

88. Utrecht : Historical Background : Utrecht was established by Voortrekkers who left Natal after the annexation by the British in 1845. They moved in from 1847 and occupied land they obtained from Panda the king of the Zulus, for grazing purposes. The agreement was a verbal one, and the settlement was know by the name "Buffelsriviersche Maatschapij." In 1854 this verbal agreement was confirmed by a written agreement and on November 6, 1859, the area was incorporated into the Transvaal as the district of Utrecht. The Buffelsriviersche Maatschappij was therefore one of five trekker settlements that existed before 1850 which eventually united to from the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, (Transvaal).

89. Utrecht is the name of a very well know city in Holland. Dr HE Faure, the minister of the Dutch Reformed Church congregation in Pietermaritzburg and founder of the local congregation on 19 November 1854, persuaded the Church Council to adopt the name Utrecht for the congregation as he had studied for the ministry at the University of Utrecht, as did his father and uncle. This occured in March 1856. The town, established in August 1855 and know by the name of Schoonstroom, also adopted the name as did the district which was know as the "Buffelsrivierse Maatschapij since 1847.

90. The origin of the name goes back to Roman times. In 9 AD the Roman Empire decided that the Rhine river would remain the boundary of the empire and so they erected forts at many places along the river. These forts were also the points of entry into and departure from the empire. Such a fort was know as a "traiectum" and during the years the Dutch people came to pronounce this word as "trecht". A Roman fort and crossing along the Rhine was thus know as a "trecht". The city of Utrecht originated on a site of a "trecht", and as it became necessary to distinguish among the different "trechts", such as Upper Trecht (later the city of Maastricht) and Lower Trecht (Uut-Trecht or simply Utrecht). By 870 AD the name Utrecht for this town was commonly used.

91. Seven of the streets of Utrecht were named after streets in Utrecht, Holland. They are Bloem Street, Kerk Street, Voor Street, Hoog Street, Rozen Street, Dom Street and Lelie Street. This latter street was closed when the Bergsig school was built.

92. Look carefully to your right after passing the "Inkwelo Motel" for a small farm name-board at 28,3 km from Newcastle saying "P.W. Wait - Samsonklip" and a farm road leading through a culvert under the railway line. Follow this road under the culvert and left along the railway line. After half a kilometre the road overlooks a valley. Stop here and park, but beware of the trains - this line is one of the busiest heavy duty lines in Africa! Look to your right and the second clump of trees next to some electricity pylons is Mount Prospect. The flat- topped mountain on the other side of the railway line is Majuba. In the grove of trees is a rock-lined cemetery containing the graves of General Colley and 60 of his officers and men who died with him at Majuba. Mount Prospect was the site of Colley's base camp. It can be reached by returning to Wait's farm and if you are interested, applying there for permission to cross the farm to the cemetery.

Historical Background

93. Mount Prospect was Colley's main camp, from where he launched his efforts to break through to the Transvaal. From Mount Prospect Colley was constantly aware of Amajuba Mountain, about five and half kilometres to the north-west. After the disastrous battle at Laingsnek, Colley saw Majuba as being the key to his breakthrough into the Transvaal.

94. Today Mount Prospect marks the graves of Gen. Colley and about eighty British soldiers who fell on Majuba and Schuins-hoogte.

The Grave in the Lounge

95. Return under the culvert to the N11 and turn right to Volksrust. The N11 enters Volksrust and continues to the centre of the town. Continue along this road and across the traffic light at the city hall. The road now becomes Laingsnek Street and is signposted "Ermelo/Wakkerstroom".

96. At the next traffic light set your odometer to zero and continue straight on following the sign to "Amersfoort/Ermelo". After 3,6 km you will notice the arched entrance to Mahaweni Dam pleasure resort on the right. Turn in here. Admission is free. Pass under the arch and follow the road, leaving the dam on your left. This is the former site of "Swart" Dirk Uys's farm. Swart Dirk was the famous Voortrekker, Dirk Uys's, brother. Picnic sites and toilets are available.

97. Continue past the caravan park and, at the dam wall, take the right hand branch onto the farm road. When the road forks again, once again take the right hand road towards the trees and gate. Park at the trees. Leave your car and, entering through the farm-gate and turnstile, approach and enter the round monument. This round monument was built to enclose the tomb of young Dirk Uys, killed at the Battle of Laing's Neck. His grief-stricken parents brought the body back and buried it in the lounge of their farmhouse so that he would always be with the family! The house has long since disappeared but the grave remains.

Historical Background

98. In the Battle of Laingsnek fourteen men of the Boer forces died. One of them was the 25-year old son of D.C. ("Swart Dirk") Uys, the famous Voortrekker leader who, after the battle of Amajuba, took part in the peace negotiations at O'Neil's Cottage. The family, grief-stricken at their loss, felt that the younger D.C. Uys, as well as his comrades, should be commemorated and so erected the tombstone in their house.

99. Swart Dirk Uys died in 1910. In the years to follow, the original Uys house fell into disrepair and the municipality of Volksrust has therefore erected a stone wall in close proximity to the original foundation around the grave.

Mausoleum of Cmdt-Gen. Piet Joubert

100. Return to your car and go back past the dam to the entrance of the resort. Turn left onto the tarred road back to Volksrust. At the town hall turn right onto the Johannesburg/Standerton road. At the next traffic light continue straight on for Vrede and set your odometer on zero. After 19,4 km the tarred road becomes good gravel and, at 28,2 km, you will arrive at "Rusfontein," the farm of Piet Martins, on your right. Enter through the double gates and follow the farm road. This farm originally belonged to Cmdt. Gen. Piet Joubert, the general in charge of the Boer forces during the two Anglo-Boer Wars. As the farm road curves left the farmhouse will appear on the right and the mausoleum right ahead. This is private property so, staying well away from the farmhouse (and its dogs), park your car at the entrance to the small private cemetery. Both the cemetery and the mausoleum are kept locked but the grave of Cmdt. Gen. Joubert is clearly visible through the gates, as is the crest of the Transvaal Republic on his sarcophagus.

Historical Background

101. Cmdt. Gen. Petrus Jacobus Joubert was born on 20 January 1831 at Swartberg (Cape Colony). Well qualified in affairs of statesmanship and military life he played a dynamic role in the community and from 1875 he repeatedly acted as vice-president of the Transvaal Republic. After the British annexure of Transvaal in 1880 he, already Commander-in-Chief of the Boer forces, was selected at Paardekraal to be a member of the triumvirate designed to restore the Republic.

102. After the British attack on the South African Republic and their defeat at Amajuba, he was hailed as "The Hero of Amajuba". After the election of President Paul Kruger as State President, he still played a very active roll in political life and, as Commandant-General, saw to the fortification of Pretoria.

103. With the outbreak of hostilities in the second Anglo-Boer War he led the invasion of Natal. He suffered a fall from his horse and, with serious internal injuries, was brought to Pretoria where he died on 27 March 1900.

104. On the insistence of his widow, Hendrina Susanna Johanna Joubert, his body was brought in a lead coffin to his farm Rusfontein at Volksrust. A German surveyor, Martin Welch, who sympathised with the belief of Cmdt. Gen. Joubert and lived on the farm, was appointed to erect the sarcophagus for which the widow paid. Cmdt.Gen. Joubert's wife died in 1916 and was buried next to him. Martin Welch died in 1904 and is buried in the open field about a hundred yards downhill from the sarcophagus.

105. Return to your car and go back down the farm road to the gravel road to Vrede. You now have a choice. You may return to the Witwatersrand by continuing along ± 60 km of gravel road to Vrede and thence by tarred road to Standerton, or you may return to Volksrust and from there to Johannesburg. The latter route is recommended. In this case retrace your route to Volksrust and then follow the Johannesburg route via Standerton, Balfour, Heidelberg and Germiston.

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