Afrikaans name: Middelburg
Situated on the banks of the Klein Olifants River, one can find the town of Middelburg. It is commonly believed that the town received its name as it was the halfway point between Pretoria and Lydenburg. The town has been around since 1856 but it was officially established in 1866 and renamed named Nazareth. Nazareth did not receive a warm welcome from the town's population so in 1874, the Transvaal Government decided to change the name back to Middelburg. The town also briefly held the seat of the Transvaal Government after the fall of Pretoria during the Anglo-Boer War.
As mentioned, Middelburg was designed to be a thriving city in between Pretoria and Lydenburg, although this didn’t happen instantaneously, Middel burg is now the agricultural, industrial and communications centre for the neighbouring areas. It has also become the Stainless Steel Capital of Africa and home to Columbus Stainless, a large stainless steel plant that has been rooted in the town since 1965. This plant provided most of the townspeople with employment and gave the economy a much needed boost. Over time, the town began to make its mark in the agricultural sector and it has become another one of the town's most lucrative sources of income.
One of Middelburg's main attractions is the Middelburg Jazz Festival which is held annually in March. This festival draws large crowds each year and really brings the town to life. It is a truly unique experience that you should add to your bucket list.
While visiting Middelburg, travellers should make a trip to Fort Merensky which is 13 kilometres from Middelburg on the road to Groblersdal. This stronghold was constructed in 1865 by missionary, Rev Alexander Merensky of the Berlin Missionary Society in order to protect the mission station, Botshabelo which translates into 'place of refuge' from Pedi and Swazi tribes who constantly raided the mission. To date, the stronghold still stands in perfect preservation.
During your time in Middelburg, visitors should go to see Meijer's Bridge which has been declared a national monument. The bridge dates back to 1896 and is an example of old-style architecture as it was built by the Transvaal Republic. Another landmark worth visiting is the Dutch Reformed Memorial Church that was erected in 1890. At the time, the church, also known as 'The White Church', was the focal point of the entire district. Every 3 months everyone in the community would travel by ox-wagon to gather outside the church in order to receive Holy Communion, which was known as Nagmaal.
To truly capture the essence of Middelburg's heritage and culture, travellers should make visiting Botshabelo Historical Village and craft markets a priority on their must-see lists. Another stop must be made to the Ndebele Traditional Village to really learn about the Ndebele culture. Middelburg also offers a unique experience to all its visitors in the form of cultural tours which displays Middelburg's cultural diversity at its finest.
Not far from Middelburg is the Kruger Dam, a popular destination for swimming and fishing. It also boasts a restaurant, caravan park as well as overnight accommodation. Loskop Dam is also situated only a few minutes away which gives you the perfect excuse to do some exploring just out of the town.
As a standing reminder of the 1 381 women and children who died during the Anglo-Boer War, a memorial museum was established on the site of a large concentration camp and provides a thought-provoking experience to all who visit the museum.
Outdoor enthusiasts will have plenty to do during their time in Middelburg. The Middelburg Nature Reserve offers a wide range of hiking trails and is home to many different species of flora and fauna. If you happen to be an avid golfer, you may want to pack your golf clubs for your stay as Middelburg has its own golf course.
Above - Upmarket suburb in Middelburg
Above - Dutch Reformed Church Moeder Gemeente (1890)
Above - Dutch Reformed Church of Africa (1964)
References and further readingThe Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Published: 1987 - Page: 102
Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 27
On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 1995 - Page: 168
Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 222
Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 291