History of De Ark Guest House

Celebrating more than 150 years of existence, De Ark House is one of Lydenburg's oldest and most prominent buildings. De ArkGuest House  features magnificent guest rooms in the grandest of fashion, a Victorian tea garden secluded by rose thickets and a breakfast / dining room befitting of royalty. The De Ark House dates back to 1857, which makes it one of the oldest remaining buildings in Lydenburg. In 1893 it was converted into a double-storey building, as it was expected of the parson’s wife to accommodate catechumen who stayed far in the district.

De Ark History

History of Lydenburg

Lydenburg (Town of Suffering) occupies a special place in the history of the Transvaal. It was founded in 1850 by the company of Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter who abandoned their first settlement of Andries -Ohrigstad 50km to the north. This had proved a suicidal site owing to the scourge of the Lowveld in those days – the ubiquitous malaria mosquito.

Lydenburg was one of several republics established in the Transvaal because of dissention among the early Voortrekker leaders about the political destiny of their followers north of the Vaal River. In 1856 Lydenburg seceded from the Transvaal Republic with headquarters in Potchefstroom, and, in the following year, joined the Republic of Utrecht. In 1860 both these republics re-joined the Transvaal Republic. Lydenburg also played an important role in the early attempts by Transvaalers to find a route to Delagoa Bay and a port free of British control. On 6 February 1873 alluvial gold was discovered in the district by several prospectors and the Lydenburg goldfields were proclaimed three months later. Among the first finds were two large nuggets: Emma( 765kg) and Adeliza (737kg), both bought by President TF Burgers. Today the gravels of the Spekboom River are still being washed for alluvial gold.

During the Transvaal’s first war against Britain (1880 – 1881) a British garrison under Lt. WH Long was stationed at Lydenburg. They build a small fort named Mary in honour of the commanding officer’s wife. It was from this fort that Lt. Anstruther and the 94th Regiment marched to Pretoria to join the main British forces there . They never reached their destination. Meanwhile the remainder of the garrison at Lydenburg were besieged in the front in a manner that suggested that neither side really wanted a war. To counter the two small field guns used by the Transvaalers, the British fashioned a gun of their own from a water barrel of a water pump which managed to hurl cannon balls of 1kg at the enemy. After the war the fort fell into a state of dilapidation and in 1889 some of it’s stones were used to build a powder magazine which still stands.

Among the exhibits of the local Gustav Klingbiel museum are replicas of the seven terracotta ‘Lydenburg heads’ found in the valley of the Sterkspruit and dating to the 5th century. Six of the heads are human and the seventh is some kind of animal replica.

 Lydenburg heads and pioneer house

History of the Long Tom Pass

This road links Lydenburg on the Drakensberg plateau with Sabie on the escarpment, and is one of the most spectacular highways in the country and its summit (2 150m) is one of the highest points reached by a major road.

The main obstacle along the route was the Drakensberg. In 1871, at the behest of President TF Burgers, the Transvaal Volksraad voted for the construction of the road over this formidable barrier to the sea. The contract was awarded to Abraham Espag and most of the work was done by pick and shovel. The first wagons to use the new road which followed the route of the old “hawepad”, in many places, arrived in Lydenburg from Delagoa Bay in 1874.

The pass used today was opened on 22 July 1953. At the same time it was given the name Long Tom to commemorate a famous skirmish between the Boers and British along this road in September 1900. Parts or the old road are signposted along the new pass, which was tarred in 1964. At Die Geut (The Gutter), ruts can be seen in the slate. These were scored by the locked wheels of the heavily laden wagons when they were slid down the steep gradient. Also signposted, among others, is Whiskyspruit, whose water was reputedly so good that it made an excellent drink regardless of the quality of the whisky. Courtesy:Lowveld Info

Longtom collage