Information and history

ID #2925

Lydenburg – Heart of the Mpumalanga, Escarpment, Mpumalanga.

It was founded by the Voortrekker leader, Hendrik Potgieter, in 1849. The trekkers had been forced to move from Ohrigstad due to an outbreak of malaria. The town was the capital of De Republiek Lydenburg in Zuid Afrika until unification with the South African Republic (ZAR). It gained municipal status in 1927.

It is a major mining and agricultural centre on the Sterkspruit River. It is a convenient stopover on tourist routes to Pilgrim’s Rest, Sabie and the Lowveld.  The climate is typical of the Mpumalanga middleveld (1424-m) with cool to cold nights and warm days.  Dams, rivers and open vleis are an attractive feature of the area.

It is an important historical centre, hosting an excellent museum at the Gustav Klingbel Nature Reserve. Its history dates back many centuries to the early passage of migrating peoples who left behind and remarkable record of their dwellings and terraced farmlands.  The "Lydenburg Heads” – clay heads unearthed near the town, form an important link in the archaeological finds in the area.  The culture of the Afrikaner is well represented in the historical architecture of the town.

o    The Voortrekker School, which dates back to 1851, is on Church Street opposite the Voortrekker Church (1852).  Both are national monuments and were restored from pen and ink sketches drawn in 1867. The Dutch Reformed Church (1890) on Church Square features a superb kiaat pulpit, which is a replica of the pulpit of the church in Stellenbosch. Descendants of the Voortrekker GC Schoeman donated the organ to the congregation in 1926. The museum features some excellent exhibits of early human occupation in the area, the most notable being the Lydenburg Heads.  These clay-scuplted heads date back as far as 500AD. Displays feature early gold mining history along with many cultural exhibits.  The Powder Magazine (1890) was used during the Sekhukhune War and the First and Second Anglo-Boer Wars. The ZAR Post Box in front of the Voortrekker Church was manufactured at Pletterij den Haag and erected in 1895.  The Burger Memorial commemorates members of the Lydenburg Commando who lost their lives during the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).  The Ox Wagon Trek Memorial on the corner of Burger and Voortrekker Streets was erected in 1938 to commemorate the Great Trek of 1838. The Mpumalanga Parks Board Fish and Plant Production Centre, 3-km southeast of the town off the R37 comprises 56-Ha of botanical gardens, a fish hatchery and aquarium with a shaded picnic area. It is open daily from 08h00 to 16h00.
o    The Steenkamp Bridge, 11-km from Lydenburg on the R36 to Ohrigstad was opened in 1897 and remained in use until 1965. The bridge, which was damaged during the Second Anglo-Boer War, was named after Helgard Steenkamp, commandant of the Lydenburg Commando. The Mtololo Volcanic Pipes at the end of Voortrekker Street are evidence of volcanic activity in the area 2000 million years ago.
o    The Finsburg Goldfield north of the town in the Spekboom River Valley is the site of early alluvial diggings. They can only be visited by special arrangement.  The Gustav Klingbel Nature Reserve and the Sterkspruit Nature Reserve conserve a variety of antelope, small mammals and birds on 4000-Ha of typical middelveld grassland.  Hiking trails exist in both reserves.  The Lydenburg Waterfall, 16-km north of the town, is one of the most spectacular in Mpumalanga. Consisting of three falls with a combined height of 244-m, they drive an electrical generator.
o    The Lydenburg, Buffelskloof, Ohrigstad and Kwena Dams, all within easy reach of Lydenburg, offer some of the finest coarse and trout fishing in South Africa. The Sterkspruit Nature Reserve protects the mountain catchment area above Lydenburg at the Long Tom Pass. The De Kuilen Trout Hatchery, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, supplies trout ova and fingerlings to both local and international markets. It is closed to the public.
o    West of the town, over the Dorps River, lies the suburb of Mashishing (a beautiful Pedi word meaning savannah grass) that houses 36000 people. It has an interesting history. It was originally called Marambane, a name derived from the word mahambane, meaning "to walk" It was used to describe the gold prospectors, the Abomahambane, who earlier scoured the hills and valleys around Lydenburg in search of gold.  One of the first secondary schools in the region is located here, attracting students and their parents from many smaller communities.  The Marambane Primary School, which was opened in 1942, was built by the Lydenburg United Church and is a superb example of early school architecture.  Today it has over 800 pupils. One of the famous sons of Mashishing was Gert Skosana, a deacon of the NGK, who championed the causes and interests of this community in a lifetime of dedicated service. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.

Scenic Drives from Lydenburg:

•    Take the R37 over Long Tom Pass, visit the Forestry Museum and a number of waterfalls before travelling on the R532 to Pilgrim’s Rest and returning to Lydenburg on the R533 with a stop at the Ohrigstad Nature Reserve before joining the R36.
•    Take the R36 to Ohrigstad and the Abel Erasmus Pass. Return on the R532 via the many scenic wonders. Continue to Graskop and return via Pilgrim’s Rest.
•    Take the R540 to Dullstroom, take the minor road to Stoffberg and join the R555 to Roossenekal for a visit to Mapoch’s Cave. Return to Lydenburg on the R577.
•    Visit the Gutav Klingbel Museum and Nature Reserve 3-km from Lydenburg. Return to town for a visit to the Fish and Plant Production Reserve. Then take the R36 towards Ohrigstad to see the spectacular Lydenburg Waterfalls.

Lydenburg is one of the foremost trout and coarse fishing centres in South Africa. Fishing facilities have been developed on all dams. Camp sites caravan parks and guesthouses cater for the many fishermen who come to Lydenburg to enjoy the angling and the beautiful tranquil surroundings.

Lydenburg is on the R540 northeast of Belfast, which is on the N4 east of Middelburg, which is at the intersection of the N4 with the N11.  BKLydenburg

Contct:            Lydenburg Tourism Association
Box 192 Lydenburg 1120
+27 (13) 235 1776+27 (13) 235 1776

Mpumalanga Tourism Association
Promenade Centre
Box 279 Nelspruit 1200
+27 (13) 752 7001+27 (13) 752 7001 telephone
+27 (13) 752 7013 fax


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Last update: 2014-03-25 14:15
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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