Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
The Midlands Region
The Natal Midlands: Pietermaritzburg Attractions
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The city has been the Provincial Capital since 1854 and as such, boasts wonderful examples of Victorian architecture.
A stimulating variety of both Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
The Station - where Gandhi was ejected and the Police Station in Loop Street, where Nelson Mandela was taken after being captured.
The Natal Museum - a wonderful collection of animals and artefacts. Also, the Voortrekker Museum and Railway Museum.
The Comrades Museum - artefacts from the world famous Comrades Marathon.
Old Colonial Houses
Most old private residences are of red brick, corrugated iron roofs with wide, cool balconies edged with ornamental iron balustrades known locally as 'broekie lace' (underpant lace).
Connecting the main city thoroughfares are quaint lanes located in which there were once no less than four stock exchanges in which one can find interesting shops.
The City Hall
The City Hall dominates the city centre with its 150ft clock tower and was built on the grounds of the old 'raadsaal' (meeting hall).
It is reputedly the largest brick building in the Southern hemisphere and contains an organ with a similar record. The first City Hall was destroyed by fire in 1898 and the current structure was built in 1900.
Adjacent to the City Hall is Carbineer Gardens in which are the Langalibalele Monument (see Estcourt page) and Sherwood Foresters Monument.
The Garden of Remembrance
The garden is located directly opposite the City Hall and contains memorials to those who died in local and World Wars.
Many South Africans died in the First World War in the Battle of Delville Wood and the cross in their memory reputedly weeps on every anniversary of the battle.
You will encounter a variety of these buildings during a five minute walk around the city centre. In the main street - Church Street - there is the Colonial Building.
Round the corner in Commercial Road, opposite the City Hall is the old Supreme Court. In 1990, the building was converted into the Tatham Art Gallery. The building formed the centre of the town's defences when a Zulu attack appeared imminent in 1879.
Round the corner again in Longmarket Street the old Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council Buildings - the old Natal Parliament.
There were eleven nominated members in the Council and 37 members in the Assembly. Across the road is the imposing Main Post Office. Opposite the Tatham Art Gallery is the Publicity Association building which when built in 1884 acted both as Police Station and Fire Brigade.
Adjacent to the Post Office are the offices of the Natal Witness, the oldest newspaper in South Africa. The Presbyterian Church opposite the Colonial Building dates from 1852.
At the station end of Church St. is Government House which served as the residence for successive governors of the province. Here, such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Princess Eugenie and Rider Haggard were entertained.
Macrorie House Museum
Macrorie House (1863) was once the residence of the Bishop of Pietermaritzburg and features a small Gothic chapel.
The interior of the house has been carefully restored to recreate the gracious lifestyle of its previous owner with a display of ecclesiastical memorabilia and is one the finest examples open to the public.
Newer buildings near the city centre fortunately have made extensive use of the red brick to blend in with the existing architecture as harmoniously as possible.
11 Loop St., Pietermaritzburg, 3201 09.00 - 13.00 Sun: 11.00 - 16.00.
The Natal Parliament Building
The building was used as the Colonial Legislative Assembly Building from 1889 until Union in 1910 when it changed to the Natal Provincial Council. During the Boer War, the building was used as a hospital.
Natal Parliament Building, Longmarket St., Pietermaritzburg 3201. Weekdays 08.00 - 16.00
The only surviving Voortrekker house is at 333 Boom Street. The house is built on land granted in 1846 to trekker Petrus Pretorius.
This magnificent Victorian Station was the setting for one of Mahatma Ghandi's most profound experiences when he was thrown off a train despite carrying a First Class ticket.
It is said that it was this incident which started him on hios path of passive resistance - satyagraha. A plaque marks the spot. There is also a statue of Ghandi in the city centre pedestrian mall.
The Standard Bank Building (1882)
The Bank (in Church St.) was modelled on the Bank of Ireland in Belfast and even contains a stained glass window depicting the four seasons - of the northern hemisphere!
The Tatham Art Gallery
The gallery is one of seven major art museums in South Africa and reflects the diversity of cultures encountered in the country. there is beadwork, basketwork, sculptures, linocuts, a collection of both British and French art and a varied exhibition programme.
The gallery also acts as an educational institution which encompassed workshops, lectures, children's classes, film shows and concerts. The Phemba Kahle project facilitates tuition in a variety of art forms.
The Tatham Art Gallery, PO Box 321, Pietermaritzburg, 3200. Tues - Sun 10.00 - 18.00
St. Peter's Church
This building was the original cathedral of Bishop Colenso and houses a collection of religious artefacts.
The Natal Museum
The Natal Museum (1905) is one of South Africa's five national museums.
Apart from its internationally acclaimed displays of a wide variety of local flora and fauna and African cultural artefacts, interesting historical areas take visitors back to the age of the dinosaurs, the hall of African cultures, an Iron Age exhibit, the marine gallery, the Sisonke Gallery (which highlights the change over the years, of Zulu items such as spears and the effect of apartheid on such changes), the Stone Age exhibit, to the smoky caves of the San painters or to an 1850s Victorian Pietermaritzburg.
For those of a more nautical disposition there is the deck of a Portuguese caravel or a visit to the ocean floor and a specimen of a real coelacanth.
All in all, a very absorbing full day's visit during which visitors can see the big five up close without leaving the city centre. There are specimens of every antelope in Africa as well as the largest African display of shells, 650 species of birds.
Comrades Marathon House
The museum is located in Scottsville in a fine old Victorian house. It contains memorabilia and personal effects from those involved with the history of the Comrades. One of the most popular exhibits is the 1:25000 model of the Comrades route. The museum also hosts visits by school groups.
Church of the Vow and Voortrekker Museum
The tiny Church of the Vow is now a Voortrekker museum and houses ox wagons, rifles and many other interesting examples of Voortrekker history including Piet Retief's prayer book.
The museum complex also contains the house of Andries Pretorius, Welverdient ('well deserved'), the commandant of the victorious Voortrekkers at the battle of Blood River as well as a replica of a Hindu Shiva temple.
Two adjacent buildings contain many other artefacts, a sculpture display and a collage of the rôle of Black people in the Boer War. There is an auditorium, a shop and a restaurant.
PO Box 998 Pietermaritzburg, 3200 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mon - Fri 09.00 - 16.00 Sat 09.00 - 13.00
The Natal Railway Museum - Hilton Station
The displays are of railway memorabilia such as a bullion coach (1937), an engineer's coach and 'Blue Train' dining and kitchen car (1937).
There are 12 locomotives, a gift shop, and conducted tours. The trains are operated on the second Sunday of each month. The Steam Railway is run solely by volunteers. Apart from the real stuff, there are two of the country's finest model railways.
PO Box 632 Hilton 3245 08.00 - 16.00
The large Indian population of Pietermaritzburg has left many indelible imprints on the city's architecture. The Sri Shiva Soobramoniar and Marriamen Temple are built in the Southern Indian style and are the principal places of worship for the city's Hindu population.
The adjacent Marriamen Temple hosts the fire walking ceremony each Good Friday in which devotees complete a ten day fast by walking barefoot over a bed of glowing coals.
One of the shrines at the temple complex is of the nine planets, around which worshippers walk in the hope of attraction benevolent planetary attention.