Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa

The Natal Battlefields

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Ladysmith.

Besieged by Boer forces in 1899/1900. Many battles fought on the town outskirts plus those at Colenso, Vaalkrans.

The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Newcastle

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Several walkabout tours introduce visitors to the town's many historic attractions and there is an excellent museum.

Ladysmith is also famous for the architecture of its electricity substations.


This small town became world famous between 1899 and 1900 as a result of its four month besiegement by Boer forces and has since become known as 'Siegetown'.

It was originally called Windsor but was renamed Ladysmith after the wife of the Governor of the Cape - Lady Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon Smith. The little town was a crossroads for transport riders between Port Natal (Durban) and the Transvaal. In 1886 the railway reached the town.

During the siege, food became very scarce and many of the 30,000 inhabitants died from enteric fever. In the final month of the siege, 28 British soldiers a day were being buried at the Intombi Hospital. Many other victims of the siege are buried on Cemetery Hill.

Of the garrison of 12500 only 9000 survived. The town is now an active community of over 100,000 people.

The Ladysmith CTO, PO Box 29, Ladysmith, 3370 036 6372922 2992fx

The Siege Museum

The museum was constructed in 1884 as a marketplace and served as a ration post during the siege. In 1965 the building served both as museum and as library but in 1985 was converted to the sole purpose of museum.

Local battlefields include: Spioenkop, Vaalkrans, Colenso, Tugela Heights, Elandslaagte, Nicholson's Nek and Wagon Hill.

A 'Siegetown' walkabout guide of the town is available from the Siege Museum. In addition to a collection of Boer War artifacts, the museum houses a diorama depicting Ladysmith at the time of the siege.

Castor and Pollux, two 6.3" howitzers that served the town well during the siege, including damaging one of the Boer guns, stand outside the museum entrance. The Bill Mackay Gallery includes glimpses into daily life during the siege.

The diorama depicts the positions of the guns of the Boers, the names of the geographical features, the positions of the Boer searchlights and the point where the Boers built a dam in an attempt to flood the town. Also indicated is Intombi Camp - a neutral hospital in the no-man's land at the foot of Umbulwane. Guided tours around the Museum are available and there is a curio shop.

The Police Station incorporates a loopholed wall built in 1879 as part of the defences of the town against a Zulu attack.


Dominating Ladysmith is the 'small mountain' - Umbulwane from the summit of which, the Boer forces could see almost all that was happening in the town.

The Boers used teams of oxen to pull their 5 ton Creusot gun - nicknamed Long Tom - to the summit. The gun had a range of 10 kms so the whole town was well within range. The shells took 20 seconds from discharge to exploding in the town so Mr. Parboo Singh would stand on a pile of sandbags at the base of the hill and signal when he saw the gun fire so that everyone had time to take cover.

There are self guided trails to the mountain which also has San historical significance and to the township at the base of the mountain where traditional Zulu beer may be sampled.

The history of the Town Hall is recorded in its museum (09.00 - 16.00) while the MOTH museum contains many fine examples of militaria 09.00 - 16.00 036 6373762.

The Siege Museum 08.00 - 16.00 Sats. 09.00 - 13.00 0361 22231 311400fx

Wagon Hill

(Platrand) marks the place where the Boers determined to drive the British from the hill on 6th January 1900 and monuments and cairns mark the places where men fell.

During the battle, a member of the Harrismith Commando, the Rev. JD Kestell gave succour to friend and foe alike under fire and a monument has been erected in his memory.

Gun Shield

. . .marks the site where Lt. Egerton, manning a 4.7 ship's gun succumbed to shell fire from the Long Tom on Pepworth Hill. The Lt. Col. Dick Cunyngham VC Cairn marks the spot where the commander of the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders - who had hardly recovered from wounds inflicted at Elandslaagte - was mortally wounded by a stray bullet whilst trying to reinforce the men on Wagon Hill on 6th January 1900.

Manchester Fort/Burger Monument

- the remains of 319 Boer soldiers were reinterred in this communal crypt with the names of a further 781 who are listed according to battles in which they fought. The upturned hands of the monument point in the direction of the various battles in which the men died.

Long Toms

Four of these 8" guns were ordered from France by the Transvaal Government in 1897 to protect Pretoria. Three were employed in the siege of Ladysmith and one in the siege of Mafeking.

Historic Tours

Spioenkop Battlefield, Spearman's and Rangeworthy cemeteries Vaalkrans Battlefield Colenso, the Loop and the Capture of the Guns The battlefields of the Tugela Heights ELandslaagte Battlefield and Battleridge and Naval Cemeteries The Siege of Ladysmith The Battle of Nicholson's Nek and Surprise Hill Wagon Hill and Platrand

Contact the Siege Museum 0361 26884

The Town

The Royal Hotel is the spot where Dr. Stark was mortally wounded by a Long Tom shell whilst talking to journalist McHugh in the doorway. The base of this shell is cemented into the pavement.

No. 16 Poort Road was General Sir George White's HQ until it was struck by a shell on 22nd December 1899.

The Town Hall served as a hospital but despite a large red cross flag, was still shelled on several occasions. The Convent was directly in the line of fire from the besieging Boer forces and after several direct hits the nuns were evacuated to the Intombi Hospital.

After the siege, the building was used by General Buller as his HQ. There is a walkabout/driveabout that identifies more than eighty sites of historical interest. Brochures are available from the Siege Museum.

The Blockhouse Museum is a private collection of siege memorabilia, Boer War and Anglo/Zulu War artefacts in a replica of a British blockhouse and it is well worth a visit. The MOTH Museum also has a collection of military memorabilia (0361) 23762.

The Cultural Centre in Keat St. houses a Jungle/Discovery room for kids, a Ladysmith achievers room, the Ladysmith Black Mambazo Hall, an art gallery and a conference room.

The town has also been famous in recent times for its frequent flooding by the Klip River. A magnificent dam has been constructed some 4km outside Ladysmith. The dam has been named 'Qedusizi' - 'the end of suffering'.

Close to the town in neutral territory Intombi hospital was established. A Garden of Remembrance commemorates the 700 soldiers and civilians that are buried here.

Not far from Ladysmith is Danskraal Farm where the Voortrekkers camped prior to the Battle of Blood River. It is also here where they reputedly made their vow to build a church should they defeat the Zulus.

The Soofie Mosque is rated as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world.

Ladysmith's Artistic Electricity Substations

Ladysmith is blessed with an array electrical substations of a wide variety of architectural types - so much so that there is a trail on which visitors may make the most of them.

There is also a drive/walk trail that takes visitors past many of the town's murals. These have brightened up many previously unoccupied spaces and have been painted by local school children, university students and art students. Themes cover such things as overpopulation, post apartheid South Africa, education and African wildlife. Details from Ladysmith Information.

The Historic Buildings Trail offers both a short and an extended trail covering the following:

A 1950 Art Moderne substation, the Convent, the Roman Catholic Church, General White's HQ, the Soofie Mosque, the Gandhi Memorial, the railway station, the Indian traders, the 1890 Neizel's Store, the fort, the Court House, the Royal Hotel and the Old Mill.

For more information: 036 637 2992

Malendeni Bird Sanctuary

An ideal spot for those who enjoy birding - more than 200 species have been identified here on the 1.5km long vlei that adjoins th Klip River.

Black Rock

This popular picnic spot is located off Poort Road. There is both a natural and a children's swimming pool.

Spioenkop Public Resort and Nature Reserve (5400ha)

This dam on the Tugela River under the shadow of the Spioenkop Battlefield is a major resort with boating, yachting, canoeing and fishing. Controlled hunting in a portion of the reserve is allowed in season.

There are more than 250 species of birds around the dam and a hide from which visitors can watch raptor feeding in the winter months. Mammals include: rhino, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, impala, buffalo and eland.

There is a choice of self guided trails including the one to the summit of Spioenkop to see the famous Boer War battlefield from which there is a splendid view of the Drakensberg Mountains - for which attractions Spioenkop is very centrally located 036 4881578. Accommodation comprises twenty five fully equipped six bed chalets and a camp site. 06.00 - 18.00 036 488 1578

Contact Ezemvelo Wildlife or 03682 ask for Spioenkop (camping).


Near the town is the location most generally agreed upon where in 1838 the Voortrekkers made the vow that should they defeat the Zulus, they would build a church (The Church of the Vow in Pietermaritzburg). The name allegedly comes from a dance given in honour of the Voortrekkers by a local chief.

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Natal Accommodation Guide
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