Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pilgrim's Rest, another South African UNESCO site??

Yesterday we went to a diamond we are off to a GOLD Pilgrims Rest, a "romantic" spot in world where a gold rush took place....

Pilgrim's Rest is a small town in the picturesque Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.
A living museum - the entire town has been declared a National Monument - we are going back in time to the days of old Transvaal Gold Rush.

We have obtained a map from the central information centre and we are going to take a walk through this town that looks exactly like it did in the 1870's...a time warp!!

Hey Sita, did you know that this site is also on UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage sites?? Why??

Pilgrims Rest's history allegedly began in 1873 when 'Wheelbarrow' Alec Patterson, who pushed his belongings along in front of him, panned for gold in the stream running through the valley.
In 1873 rich gold deposits were discovered in the Pilgrirn's Creek, a tributary of the Blyde River, close to where the village of Pilgrim's Rest was established. The news of this rich strike triggered the first major gold rush in South Africa. Pilgrim's Rest was declared a gold field on 22 September 1873 and by the end of that year there were some 1500diggers working 4000 claims in and around Pilgrim's Rest.
As a result, Pilgrim's Rest became a social center of the diggings and within a year there were 21 stores, 18 canteens, 3 bakeries and all sorts of other establishments which are are currently seeing....
It is estimated that R2 million worth of gold was mined during the first seven years of alluvial mining in the Pilgrim's Rest valley.

By the 1880's alluvial gold deposits began to dwindle and diggers were steadily leaving to prospect elsewhere.
In 1881 the first gold rnining company amalgamated with several other smaller companies to form the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates (TGME) which became the sole owners of Pilgrim's Rest and the farrn Ponieskrantz on which it is situated until 1972.
The history of this company and Pilgrim's Rest were inseparably linked
as both shared the fluctuating fortunes of the mines.
Some extraordinary nuggets were found here in Pilg rims Rest including 'Breda' who weighed in at 214 oz and 'Lilley' at 119oz.
One reef, found after the main rush had died down, yielded over 5,000,000oz of gold in 50 years of continuous working.

Hey Nopi, did you know that Pilgrim's Rest was the location of an emergency mint during the Second Boer War?? This mint struck the famous and extremely rare Veld Pond.

Mining was active until 1971 when Beta Mine was closed down. Tranvaal Gold Mining E states opened again in 1999 and there is active gold mining in the hills around Pilgrim's Rest.

As we walk along we admire the graceful church architecture .....
The Anglican Church was built by diggers in 1884 and the original bell can still be seen.
In 1874, the year after the Pilgrim's Rest gold-rush began, the Methodist church established a ministry there to cater for the spiritual welfare of the diggers. The Rev. J .Good, who was appointed to serve the Pilgrim's Rest congregation in 1910, recorded that the first Methodist Church to be erected was 'sent out from England in sections in 1895 and used as a stable in the Anglo- Boer war'.
It also served as a school.
The original church, however, was demolished in 1911 after a suicide inside the building and a more substantial structure took its place.
The foundation stone was laid on the 14th of October 1911 and a new manse was also provided for the minister just behind the church.

Oh Marti, isn't the Dredzen Shop and House Museum just so quaint?
It is a living museum depicting the lifestyle of the town's original general dealers, including the family of the owner living in the back of the house, and original goods on display in the street side shop!! Wow, this is what it would have been like during the period 1930 to 1950.
The original Adcock's store is now restored as a Saloon Bar and Restaurant.
The old bank house originally housed 'De Nationale Bank der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek' and later Barclays Bank. A part of the building was used by the bank man ager as a residence.
The House Museum, built in 1913, is an example of the wood and corrugated iron architecture which is typical of Pilgrim's Rest. In 1976 the building became a house museum and was furnished to epitomize a middle class home of the early 20th century in this area.

The Alanglade House Museum, once the mine manager's house, has a fine collection of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco styles of furniture, dating between 1915 and 1930.

We wanted to post some postrossing cards from the original post office...but it is now a museum.

The Printing Museum is a tribute to the printing industry, and includes historical front pages of local publications.
Did you know that the first locally printed newspaper to be circulated on the Pilgrim's Rest Goldfields was the 'Gold News' on 24 January 1 874? Shortly after it was first published, an Irishman, W.J. Phelan, became the new editor and he changed its name to 'Goldfields Mercury'. In 1910 the first 'Pilgrim's and Sabie News' was published with T.W.S. Craig as its editor. The original premises of the paper which was situated between the present building and the Pilgrim's Hotel was totally destroyed by fire some time between 1916 and 1919. Subsequently the printing works was moved to its present site. This building was originally a private residence constructed during the late 19th century.

There is Joubert Bridge , was built in 1896 and was named after the mining commissioner. It stone arches proudly span the Blyde river and the bridge offers the visitor a dramatic entrance into town.

We are at the graveyard and notice that every single grave was laid facing in the same direction, except for the famous Robber's Grave which is laid perpendicular to the rest, emblazoned simply with a cross and the large type words of Robbers Grave.
It is as the name suggests the grave of a robber who was shot steali
ng a tent from one of the miners!!
A tent represented a "home" so was the most valuable of any individuals belongings, stealing this tent was a most grievous crime and the punishment was meted out in the extreme.

The increasing production in ore after 1896 necessitated the establishment of a central reduction works at Pilgrim's Rest. By 1897 the first buildings were erected and consisted of a stamp mill, smelting house and a few offices.
There were several mines in the area and an electric tram was built to convey ore from the outer mines to the central reduction works.
The reduction works were closed in 1972 when the last mine at Pilgrim's Rest ceased production. The run down buildings have been restored and is now a museum.

We took the Digging Museum & Gold Panning tour and it detailed the lifestyle of original pioneer and the methods they used in panning alluvial deposits. This is so cool!

OMG, there is even a Golf Course!! It is a tricky 9-hole layout with shared greens. The clubhouse's walls were constructed with materials brought originally by ox-wagon from Groot Marico.
This has been such an awesome day......hey Princess, we will be spending the evening at the Royal Hotel.

The hotel was built in 1894 and one of the most interesting features is the bar which was once a chapel in Cape Town before being dismantled and shipped to Pilgrim's Rest via Delagoa Bay.
This hotel has been impeccably restored, to reflect true late Victorian style. Trapped in a time warp, the lounge reflects an epoch of time honoured hospitality and elegance so typical of the late Victorian era. Upon entering the Royal Hotel, we are immediately taken on a nostalgia filled trip into the past. The reception walls are lined with the most interesting photographs and artefacts providing vivid glimpses of Pilgrim's Rest's history. Furnished with genuine antique brass beds, wash stands, wardrobes and authentic Victorian baths how can we not be be transported back into history??

Tonight we are going to a street party ....perhaps there will be a Can-Can dancer or two??
Life in the 19th century certainly wasn't boring!

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