Discover Middelburg: 5 historical sites to visit
On the way to Kruger National Park, you may stop at Middelburg. This Mpumalanga town has become a significant farming and industrial centre. First named 'Nazareth' (meaning 'branch' or 'shoot'), it was renamed to mark its location between Pretoria and Lydenburg.
For the intrepid traveller, Middelburg offers much in the way of game drives, hiking trails and cultural tours. Dig deeper, and you'll find a gem rich in history. Here are some of the places you should visit in Middelburg.
1. Botshabelo Mission Station and Cultural Village
Within the Middelburg district, is the Botshabelo Cultural Village. It started as a mission station by German missionaries Alexander Merensky and Heinrich Grutzner. The mission grew and became a significant spiritual, cultural and commercial hub in Mpumalanga. Parts of the mission remain in a lovely church and several period buildings.
The area also celebrates Ndebele culture. A guided tour will take you through brilliantly coloured Ndebele huts with bold geometric patterns. There's also an open-air museum which preserves the Ndebele culture and provides a window to the Ndebele way of life.
Art lovers should take note of the cultural village. Esther Mahlangu, one of South Africa's most prominent artists, lived and worked at the village for 11 years. She is famous for taking Ndebele art global. Esther's work has appeared in exhibitions in more than 12 countries, and she's collaborated with BMW, Albany and Freshpak. Her art can be viewed at the village.
2. Fort Merensky
Walk a short distance away from Botshabelo, and you'll come to a stone fortification on a prominent hill. Fort Merensky was built to protect the mission's converts from attacks by local tribes. It became a place of refuge for black Christian converts fleeing their own community and their ancestral beliefs.
After you've marvelled at the unique blend of Western and Sotho architecture, you can climb the five-metre high lookout tower. Although a ruin, the experience will take you back to 1865 when the fort was a commanding presence offering comfort to Botshabelo's people. Fort Merensky is worthy of its presence as a national monument in South Africa.
3. Dutch Reformed Church
If you visit Middelburg, you have to see the Dutch Reformed Church. The town literally sprung up around it. When the town was established by the Voortrekkers, they built their church first, uniting their community. Light-coloured stone and an imposing spire showcases the beauty of the Dutch architecture.
The church remains standing today. Known as the 'Witkerk' (White Church), it celebrated its 150 year anniversary in 2017. In recognition of the event, Dr Gerdrie van der Merwe released a coffee table book exploring the history of the region and congregation.
4. Middelburg Cemetery
It may seem morbid but the town's cemetery reveals much about its history. Middelburg's historical museum has been clean and restored, becoming a notable tourist attraction. This is the resting place of figures from the Second Boer War and Apartheid times. A truly fascinating grave is that of John Sweet Distin, a former Middelburg parliamentarian. In 1846, his family's ship was en route from New Zealand. Upon sailing past South Africa, he decided to jump off and begin a new life in the country.
For those interested in the more sombre side of Middelburg's history, a Spooky Tour is held once a month.
5. Middelburg Mall Clock Tower
The Middelburg Mall offers a great shopping experience. But, it's also a good stop for more than retail therapy. In a nod to its local heritage, the mall built a landmark clock tower. As Middelburg moves forward, it's nice to see the town's signature architectural details incorporated into modern structures.
Research shows that a town's history can have a positive impact on property values. With such a rich past, it's a good idea to consider Middelburg. At Seeff, we believe your home is where your story begins. As the property experts, we aim to make it a fantastic one! You have your pick of over 300 properties and homes for sale in Middelburg. Browse our website and make an appointment with an estate agent today.