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Barberton Manor Guest House

'The Gem of Barberton'

4 star accommodation South Africa
accommodation South Africa
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The colourful and vibrant cultural background of Barberton gives the place a unique character that reminds one of the irrepressible pioneering spirit of man. From archaeological sites dating back to as much as 400 BC and evidence of even earlier San/Bushman habitants, to traditional Swazi cultures and the later discovery of gold and the coming of the Europeans, Barberton represents everything that is truly African, in a unique colorful palate mix of heart and character.

Archaelogical and San\Bushman evidence

There are at least three known sites of early archaeological significance in the Barberton area. Most of it consists of low circular walls with evidence of temples and planetary observatories. The debate as to the age, origin and type of people who made these dwellings still caries on. One site on SAPPIs land is due to be opened to the public. Keep an eye on this site for further developments.

  Discovery of gold

The Barber brothers and their cousin, Graham, were prospecting in a rift at the foot of the Ingudu mountains where they came upon a rich gold reef and proceeded to peg a claim. Just the next day the Umvoti Reef, next to the Barbers claim, was discovered.

On June 21, 1884, Graham Barber wrote a letter to the State Secretary to inform him that payable gold had been found on State-owned land. The State Secretary asked the Magistrate in Lydenburg to investigate the matter and for David Wilson, the Gold Commissioner, to submit a report. Wilson made his investigation on July 24, 1884, and found that Barber had indeed found payable gold. In his book Behind the scenes in the Transvaal Wilson writes that he decided to declare a township at the base of the hills where the Umvoti Creek entered the De Kaap valley, broke a bottle of gin on the Barber Reef, champagne was not available, and named it Barberton.

Hundreds of people converged on Barberton to share in the prosperity envisaging a paradise where money was to be made.
Edwin Brays discovery of the Golden Quarry in 1885, so named because it looked as if the rock was formed entirely of gold, resulted in the mine becoming well known throughout the world. Sheba mine is today one of the oldest, and richest, working gold mines in the world having been in production for more than a century and it is estimated that production will continue for several decades to come.

Large amounts of money flowed into Barberton and several stock exchanges operated here. More buildings were erected, billiard saloons and music halls established. The Criterion and Royal Standard hotels were opened. Bartenders vied with each other to attract customers from the sidewalks and played the popular songs of the day.

Inside barmaids relieved thirsty customers of their money by providing suitable refreshments, the most well known barmaid being Cockney Liz who, it was said, granted her favors to the highest bidder. Barberton flourished for only a brief period and soon the inhabitants began to move away to the newly discovered goldfields on the Reef.

De Kaap stock exchange First train arrival
First stamp mill Road to Barberton
Street scene Down town
Street scene Swazi hut
Swazi miners Wagon river
Wagon trail Steam stamp battery

Concentration camp

Eureka City

Nigh on 120 years ago a butcher initially of Durban with the moniker of Sherwood set up a hotel and, yes, a butchery on a spur of a mountain above the fever ridden Lowveld valley. For a brief moment in time a vibrant Eureka City sat on top of Sheba Hill, a plum pudding of gold. While Sherwood brought the commerce, Edwin Bray, prospector and miner extraordinaire made it happen. It was Edwin Bray who looked to the hills to seek the source of gold being panned in the streams below. It was as though the chicken and the (golden) egg had arrived simultaneously. There were 15 partners in Edwin Brays Sheba Reef Gold Mining Company. A fifty ton tests run of Sheba ore yielded 300, yes, three hundred ounces, of gold! By 1887 Eureka City had grown to a population of 700. Sherwood was selling meat at a rate of 10 oxen and 40 to 50 sheep a week from his butchery attached to his Queen of Sheba Hotel.

But it was not only Sheba Mine serviced from the fever free Eureka City. There was Joes Luck, Thomas Mine, plus a myriad of fossicking. Prospectors and diggers all needed accommodation, food, and recreation. There was, a Wood Store, a Lawsons Bakery, Cohens Bottle Store, Cohen and Ernsts Store, a post office, a police post, a race-course, and a double tennis court.

All this was here, on top of the plum pudding referred to in H V Mortons book, In Search of South Africa (circa 1946) where he recounts a friends remark that The gold on the Rand is in layers (like a sandwich cake), but out here its dotted about in the rock like fruit in a (plum) pudding Well, the fruit in the pudding has been removed leaving the pudding honeycombed with manmade caverns dripping with underground damp, timber props, ladders, bridges and the signs of serval (tierboskat) and more. Without proper guidance a man could get lost in the pudding forever and a day.

Nothing remains of Eureka City 120 years after the beginning except mystique, words, a few yellowing photographs in the archives, ruins on the ground and caverns underground.

Cockney Liz  
Cockney Liz

Cockney Liz undoubtedly gave pleasure to a lot of people with her singing and her dancing, although she was not a trained professional. She must have had a most pleasing manner, but she also knew how to handle men. And like her rival, the Golden Dane, she refused to be inveigled into any permanent relationship, for she was out to make as much money as she could fast and get away to a milder climate

She was for at least three years the talk of town. This was certainly quite an achievement in an environment where the good womenfolk outnumbered the others and where they must have had a lot to say about that brazen hussy. This, apparently, with little effect even on their daughters, who where given to copy Lizs hair-do, her mannerisms and her songs.

Actually Liz must have had a tonic effect on Barbertons society and even on its morals, for hers was no hole in the corner show, and even her conquests were there for all to see. The ingenious look that she cultivated that characterises her photographs must have caused strong men to flex their muscles to protect the pretty little thing.

It must on all accounts be admitted that Liz was a remarkable woman, also in respect of her relationship with Stafford Parker, who was her friend and confidant and probably no more. Wild horses could not drag Lizs story from Parker, mores the pity as myself would give a lot to know whether she finished in the gutter [which I, as a romantic, refuse to believe] or in a baronial hall, as is often claimed.

Apparently one part of the old Cockney Liz story is true as confirmed by various people present. That concerns her arrival in Barberton by mail-coach in June 1887 with the stated purpose of finding her fianc. Whoever the man was, he had passed away tragically, as was related, but without the explanation that he was shot while decamping with his partners savings! Stafford Parker, at this stage together with many other things, also proprietor of the European Hotel, extended courtesy and the offer of money or a job to the tall, beautiful girl but she refused to accept charity. Not trained to do anything she told Ms. Fernandez, proprietress of the Red Light Canteen, that she would help in the bar and also sing and dance if needed. Her very first performance brought the house down and after that Liz was the greatest attraction in town. She gravitated from entertainer to owner- not only the Red Light but also of the Royal Albert Hall- fake firmament, stars and all.

From Dynamite and Daisies by Piet Meiring.

The Golden Dane

In the early days of rough and tough, there weren't many women folk who were prepared for life on the frontier, so, there was a "ready market" for the lady's of ill repute like Cockney Liz, Trixie and others who were prepared to sell their wares to the local diggers and pilgrims.

One of these ladies of the night was a blonde haired beauty known only as the Golden Dane. She was reportedly one of the most attractive ladies in town and seemed to be the main rival for Cockney Liz. No-one knew her real name or where she was from except that she regularly mailed letters of to Denmark in Europe.

Having so few womenfolk around, many diggers vied for the attention of these ladies, and tried to woe them over into marriage. The Golden Dane was one of the girls who insisted to keep her client base as broad as possible and would not be wooed into any permanent relationship. Off course the girls could not afford to be associated with any one particular man, for this would ruin their business and reputation.

On one occasion, a Jewish fellow started a rumour in town that he has managed to win her hand and that she was betrothed to him. Upon hearing it the Golden Dane went to confront him as he was having his drink in one of the local canteens. She marched in with sjambok in hand and insisted that in front off all the witnesses in the bar, he should retract his statement. Moreover, for the record, that not for any amount ever, will he be able to make use of her services again. Off course he complied...

Although many in the Barberton community considered people like The Golden Dane and Cockney Liz brazen hussies, they gave a lot of their own time and money to uplift and help the fledgling digger community. Most of them did volunteer work at the local hospital, helping to keep their clientele in good health. During a particular bad spell of malaria fever in the digging camp, the Golden Dane was one of the only people seen to attend to the diggers in their tents, as they lay suffering and dying from the fever. She treated them without any reward and in fact used her own resources to help the diggers in their battle against malaria. A couple of days passed wherein she wasn't seen or heard of. Upon inspection, the diggers found her in her room in a coma as she was being attacked by the malaria fever. The diggers started to nurse her in turn, but two days later, she passed away and was no more. Upon checking her belongings, not a single piece of paper or evidence could be recovered to indicate her real identity or any next of kin or relations. So, the Golden Dane passed away without anybody ever knowing her real identity.

Jock of the Bushveld
Jock of the Bushveld

Sir Percy was born on 24 July 1862 in King Williams Town, in the Cape Province, where his father was a judge. He grew up in Cape Town, and on the death of his father he became, at the age of 16, a clerk at Standard Bank. The life proved intolerable to him and after five years he resigned. He then made his way to the eastern Transvaal, where he became a transport rider and enjoyed six glorious years of adventure in the lowveld. During these years he acquired his dog, Jock.

Jock of the Bushveld is, therefore, essentially a true story, rich in episodes of hunting, real- life characters and adventures in the haunts of big game. The book covers Sir Percys years as a transport rider and ends in 1889 when tsetse fly infected all his oxen with nagana and he was ruined. He walked penniless into Barberton, all the way from Lows Creek, found a job and also a wife, Lilian Cubitt, whom he married on 16 February 1889.

Sir Percys job was with the Johannesburg mining group, the Corner House. He gave Jock to a friend of his, who eventually gave the dog to a trader who had a store in Mozambique at a place known as Old Pessene, 25 kilometres north-west of Maputo. There Jock was killed one night when he rushed out to attack a stray dog who was raiding the fowl run. Jock killed the thief but was then shot when his master mistook him in the darkness for the other dog.

Brief history of the Swazi

By Francois Erasmus

The first permanent settlement of Swazi people in the Lowveld may be traced to the defeat of Mswatis forces by the Mpumalanga at Mariepskop in 1864. Fearing the wrath of the king, most survivors sought refuge in Sekhukuneland. Others settled in an area free of Tsetse fly, between the mountains that today form part on the southern end of the Kruger National Park. They named the area Khandzalive this means they found settlement. A third group went to live at a place called Selapi (Selephi) about 10 km south west from where Barberton would later be established. They called the area Mjindini, which means so far and no futher'. As they were afraid that Msawti would have them executed if they returned to Swaziland.

With the death of Mswati II in July the following year, era of Swazi conquest, territorial expansion and assimilation of other tribes came to an end. This was compounded by an increased influx of pioneer farmers into the Transvaal replublics, conflict between British, Zulu and Boer in Natal and the eventual discovery of gold in the De Kaap Valley in the 1880s. Owing to the warm, unhealthy climate and hostile attitude of the local people, Europeans initially avoided the Lowveld. After the abortive de Kuiper expedition of 1725, more than a century elapsed before white people again entered the area.

In their attempt to find a route to the sea, the Hans van Rensburg expedition was massacred at the confluence of the Limpopo and Olifants Rivers. Although sources need to be identified and confirmed, the hostile attitude of the local people may be ascribed to the Arabian and Portuguese slave trade. By the time that the first European settlers moved into the area, those already living here could be largely identified by a late iron-age way of life that was markedly distinguishable from other late iron-age traditions found in the southern part of the continent.

  Historical sites

Museum in Crown Street: Displays the geological, mining and general history of Barberton.
The museum is open weekdays between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Barberton Museum

Old Stock Exchange faade: The entrance to the first gold stock exchange in South Africa formed in 1887, is still visible in the town. Once owned by Sammy Marks and trading shares at R105 a share back in the 1890s, it played an important part in the economic foundations of South Africa.

De Kaap Stock Exchange

Lewis and Marks Building: The first double storey in the Transvaal now a restaurant, originally financed and owned by Lewis and Marks.

Anglo Boer War: During the Anglo Boer war (1899 1902), a Concentration camp and Military Hospital was established where the Golf course is today. A commemorative pillar in the Barberton Cemetery for those who died has been erected.

Block House: This wood and iron guard - house in Rimers Creek was one of five erected in the area during the Anglo Boer War. The main aim was to protect the Concentration Camp and Military Hospital. No shot was ever fired from this point.

Blockhouse at Rimers' Creek

Old Locomotive: The locomotive was used on the railway line between Barberton and Kaapmuiden around 1899. In 1971 it was brought back to Barberton, after it was found in Port Elizabeth. Loose rail sections were used, and the train, under its own steam, made its way through the streets to where it stands today.

Jocks Memorial: South Africas most famous dog, Jock of the Bushveld, is immortalised in a statue in front of the Municipal buildings.

Regimental Badges: During World War II several British regiments spent two to three months training in a military camp just north of the town, before being posted to the front in Egypt and Abyssinia. While they were stationed here many built their regimental badges out of stone, cement and plaster. Today, the local M.O.T.H. organisation preserves and maintains them.

Garden of Remembrance: A stone memorial to persons who gave their lives in the Lowveld during the early days, are situated close to the Regimental Badges.

Fernlea House: In Lee Street. Admission is free, and the museum is open from 9:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 16:00.

Fernlea House

Eureka City: During the gold rush days, small communities sprang up all over the place. One of them was Eureka City in 1885. A lively place with five hotels, a racing course and a dancing hall, it housed approximately 700 people. According to legend, one local hotelier, had a wife who was not very pretty, and she got the name Queen Of Sheba. When the richest reef ever to be worked, Sheba Reef, was discovered at Edwin Brays Golden Quarry, 50.000 ounces of gold were extracted from the first 11.000 tons of ore. Today the city is a ruin.

Aerial Cableway between Barberton and Havelock Mine, Swaziland:

Havelock Cable Way
Completed October 1938
Length 20,36 Km
Speed 183m per minute (11 Km.\Hour)
Load per Car: 200 Kg
Supporting Pylons 52
Highest point above ground 189 m

Belhaven House Museum: This beautiful Victorian house is a prime example of the wealthy middle class circa 1904. It has been restored and furnished to its original appearance.

Belhaven Museum


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