2 April 2012 by Chris Marais

A tour of the Kimberley Club

Visit a fascinating Kimberley landmark, rich with the stories of diamonds and colonial times, and infused with a gentlemanly quiet reflecting another time.

By now, you’d have expected the Northern Cape diamond city of Kimberley to have gone to sleep because the big mines have closed up shop. Instead, it still bustles as if the Big Hole was in full operation. (In a way, it is – except the riches come in the form of thousands of tourists who flock to the massive excavation every year.)

But in the centre of all the clatter and traffic is an oasis of gentlemanly quiet: the Kimberley Club. I was in the city recently and wanted to have a look. I’d heard it was awfully exclusive, so doubted my chances of being let in the front door.

I wasn’t. I was let in though the back door on Currie Street, which has now become the official entrance to the Kimberley Club Boutique Hotel.

It is, really, like a memory box from the old colonial times, when ‘diamondaires’ – a favoured Oppenheimer term – ran Kimberley like a fiefdom. This is where they escaped from the toil and dirt of the dusty diggings to hang out with their peers, quaff champagne, smoke cigars and read newspapers shipped out specially from England.

Cecil John Rhodes was the undisputed boss-man of the Kimberley Club – his portraits are everywhere. At the back entrance is a life-size statue of ‘The Colossus’ holding a sheaf of papers and staring intently at you like he wants to close a deal – right now.

Upstairs, past the exquisite stained-glass windows, the guest rooms are set out as if royalty comes visiting on a daily basis. The main veranda downstairs still has wicker chairs and, if you're a guest, there could well be a Bombay G&T on its frosted way to you right now.

Cecil John Rhodes was the undisputed boss-man of the Kimberley Club – his portraits are everywhere. At the back entrance is a life-size statue of ‘The Colossus’ holding a sheaf of papers and staring intently at you like he wants to close a deal – right now.

In front of the main entrance on Du Toit’s Pan Road is a metal arrow inset into the brickwork. The story goes that, despite dreaming of a British Empire stretching from the Cape to Cairo, Cecil John Rhodes had a rotten sense of direction. So his mates had the arrow put into the bricks – permanently pointing north.

The Kimberley Club, which still has permanent members but welcomes guests to its boutique hotel, has got to be 1 of the most charming British colonial nooks in South Africa.

Category: Culture & History


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