History of Middelburg

Hospital history in Middelburg originated with the establishment of a hospital to provide care during the war against Sekhukkune in 1878. During the preparation for the Anglo Boer War a make-shift hospital was created in the Beer hall (Bierhal) with the bar counter serving as the operating table. The British later opted to deploy No 17 Stationary Hospital in the centre of the town for wounded or ill soldiers, for the duration of the war. During this time the Middelburg Cottage Hospital was also established for civilian care.

The Middelburg railway station building is generally considered one of the architectural jewels of the Dutch South African Railway Company (NZASM) period architecture. The building is built from dressed red sandstone with strands of white sandstone used symmetrically throughout the external building and on the two stepped gables, was completed in 1895. On the Eastern side of the station building the iron and wood goods shed, also build in 1895, is the only NZASM good shed still existing in South Africa. The water tank, to fill the steam locomotives with water, is most probably also the original. The complex also included 10 houses for railway personnel, built around the station at the same time, of which four is still standing.

History of a more than 130-year-old company with a culture for excellence that refused to lie down and die.

Thos Begbie’s history begins with its entrepreneurial founder and master engineer, Thomas Begbie, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 19 March 1845. Thomas Begbie received his early training in Glasgow, where his strong inclinations in the engineering field led to his apprenticeship with Messrs. Denny Bros, engineers and shipbuilders of Dumbarton. On completion of his apprenticeship, he toured most of England and Scotland. He became a mariner and, as a ship’s engineer, served a number of steamship companies and visiting most parts of the world. After securing his engineer’s ticket, he decided to make his home in South Africa, settling in Cape Town in 1877. All reports during these early years refer to his ‘honorable bearing and exceptional ability’.

Middelburg was, ten tye van die Anglo-Boere Oorlog, ‘n administratiewe sentrum vir die omliggende area en daarom sou die dorp ook sentraal wees tot die lotgevalle van vele vroue en kinders gedurende die oorlog.

Die eerste aanduiding van vroue en kinders in Middelburg volg op Lord Roberts se optrede op 20 Julie 1900 toe hy 412 vroue en kinders uit Pretoria, op oop beestrokke, na Van Der Merwe-stasie gestuur het. Die doel was om ‘n las op die Transvaalse Regering en die boere kommandos te plaas vir hul versorging (1) (2). Hierdie vroue en kinders is onder leiding van Ben Viljoen afgevoer na Middelburg, waar hulle in die nuwe dorpsaal in die middedorp geakkomodeer is1. Hulle is later van daar na ‘n Burger-kamp by Baberton geneem (2), wat na 14 September 1900 ‘n Britse konsentrasiekamp geword het (3). Ben Viljoen maak ook beswaar by Sir Reginald Pole-Carew oor wyse waarop vroue vervoer is en dat drie of vier hoogswanger was (2).

What makes our history, which comes from the memories and stories of those who lived in the jurisdiction area of the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality, before us so unique? New, or perhaps forgotten, historical information from different sources, and with the help of our local heritage professional’, Abby Maloma, give insight into our own unique cultural heritage as a town, in this feature.

The area where Middelburg town is situated today was originally part of the Lydenburg Republic that separated from the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republic in 1857.

It is said that Rev JH Neethling of Stellenbosch, who visited the parsonages of the Transvaal in 1850’s, recommended that a town should be proclaimed and named Middelburg.  The name was chosen due to the geographic location of the town which is halfway between Pretoria and Lydenburg. The Volksraad adopted the name and the town was duly christened Middelburg.

  • Land Area : Approx 117.40Km2( 45.33sq mi)
  • Population : 229831 ( male gender 119 410 and female gender 110 421)
  • First Languages:
  • Afrikaans 50.3%
  • Zulu 12.4%
  • English 11.1%
  • Northern Sotho 7.6%
  • Other 18.9%

Doornkop came into being around 1905 after the Pedis from Botshabelo decided to purchase their own land, escaping the unfair labour practices by the German missionaries. The land was bought by 284 residents from the farmer, Klaas ‘Tumahlogo’ Joubert for R7 000. Their title deed is dated 28 March 1915. It is assumed that the original village established here, is more than 100 years old.

Across the ridge on the north-western side towards Botshabelo, the township of Mhluzi was established a few years after the town of Middelburg in 1879. It was incorporated into the greater Middelburg in 1994. The first residents were (the late) Hermanus Motsedi Sefoloshe and his wife, Nelly Otto.

On 17 May 1884, President Paul Kruger and Portugal entered into an agreement to develop a railway line between Pretoria and Delgoa Bay (now Maputo). The station had been in use since 1890 and was only completed in 1894.

Jacobus Pertus Toerien. He wrote under the pen name of Jepete. The epitaph on his grave reads “JEPETE responsible for the translation of SARIE MARAIS”

The American folk-song ‘Ellie Rhee’ was translated to Afrikaans and Ellie Rhee became Sarie Marais (Mare). This song became known during the Anglo Boer War – there are references to the Khakis, a name given to the British by the Boers.

Toerien was a co-worker in the translation of the song, but there is no conclusive proof that he was responsible for the origin of Sarie Marais. It is possible that he ` wrote ` the third verse during the 1914 / 1915 Rebellion.