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 Diamond Fields Region of the Northern Cape, South Africa

Diamond Fields Region

The regions of the Northern Cape

      Acknowledgements: Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA)

The rush for buried treasure and frenzied digging by miners may now be part of Kimberley’s rich history but much of the ambience has been preserved in the old buildings, art galleries and museums. In fact visitors to Kimberley can try to imagine life in a ‘rush town’ in the reconstructed town that has been created next to the amazing Big Hole, ‘the largest hand-dug excavation in the world’. Diggers used, shovels, picks and bare hands that created the hole measuring 215 meters (705 feet) deep with a surface area of 17 hectares (42 acres) and a perimeter of 1,6 km (just under a mile).

Kimberley's Big Hole

Kimberley's Big Hole

There are also important archaeological sites in the area with excellent examples of ancient rock engravings.

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Towns of the Diamond Fields

Barkley West

Barkley West is a town that lies 32km (20 miles) northwest of Kimberley on Route 31 and was founded after diamonds were found at Klipdrift on the Vaal river in 1869.



Lies north of Kimberley on Route 49.



Kimberley is the only city of the region and is therefore the capital. It is the junction between two major South African highways -- the N8 that travels from east to west and the N12 highway that travels from Cape Town via the N1 to the south and Pretoria and Johannesburg to the north.

Diamond deposits were discovered in 1871 on the farm Vooruitzicht owned by the De Beers brothers. By 1872, 50,000 hopeful miner/diggers were housed in tents around the hillcock where the discovery was made. The conditions were ghastly with insufficient water; medical and sanitary facilities were very poor and disease was a constant threat. There were many stories of success and riches but equal amounts of despair and loss.

By 1873 grand homes were being built and the town was named Kimberley after the Earl of Kimberley who was the British Secretary of State for the Colonies at the time. With time Kimberley was able to add a number of ‘firsts’ to its list of accomplishments. It had the first South African flying school, first stock exchange and first city in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric street lights.


Kimberley's Mine Museum

The Mine Museum at Kimberley

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Kimberley’s Big Hole

The Big Hole is all that is left after years of digging by miners with shovels, picks and sometimes by hand to uncover the treasure of diamonds that lay beneath the earth. Mining started in July of 1871 and ended around August of 1914. In these years the mine delivered 2,722 kilograms (5,988 pounds) of diamonds while sifting through 22,5 million tons of excavated earth.

An open air museum is located next to the Big Hole and original buildings were moved and are included in the museum.

Attractions at the Big Hole

Tours are conducted every hour on the hour from 9am, with the last tour being at 4pm daily except on December 25th.

For fees and other information:

Points to consider

Heroes of Kimberley

Cecil John Rhodes arrived in Kimberley when he was 18 years old. By the time he was 38 he was not only Prime Minister of the Cape Colony but also the Chairperson of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd and Consolidated Goldfields Ltd.

Sol Plaatjie was a very special author, the first Black South African author in fact to publish an English novel, translate Shakespeare into Setswana, served as editor of a number of newspapers and authored documentary books. He was the founding member of the ANC before he died in 1932. Today his house in Angel Street is a museum and National Monument.

Kgosi (Chief) Galeshew was captured in 1878 after the attack on Cornforth Hill near Taung. This earned him 12 years in prison. He was released but captured again in 1897 for the Langeberg Rebellion. The Kimberley ‘township’ has been named after him.

Marie Bocciarelli was the first South Africa woman to receive her wings as a trained pilot and a graduate of the Kimberley Flying School in 1913.

Henrietta Stockdale founded professional nursing in South Africa. She worked in Kimberley in 1876, then as a Matron of the Carnarvon Hospital in 1879. It is because of her efforts that the first state registration of nurses in the world took place. She believed that nurses should work under a guidelines of professional standards.

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