Life is about discovering.

A few years ago I first visited the old mining village of Leydsdorp. On Saturday I visited it again with my riding friend Neil Buckley. While sitting in the totally desolated village I realised again how lucky we are to go and discover and unfold many layers of history.

Have you ever been in a town where you were the only people there?

The history of this little village makes for interesting reading. I quote from the website http://www.southafrica.net/sat/content/en/nl/full-article?oid=431444&sn=Detail&pid=716&Historical-Leydsdorp

Ghost town in Limpopo – Historical Leydsdorp

Walking the dusty streets of Leydsdorp today, it looks like a ghost town sinking back into the lush Limpopo bushveld. But Leydsdorp was once the centre of a short-lived gold boom before politics and the dreaded blackwater fever (malaria) closed it down. Nevertheless, the legends of Leydsdorp live on …

Just off the R71 from Tzaneen in Limpopo province, at the town of Gravelotte, there’s a turn-off to a place called Leydsdorp.

A gentle dirt track leads to what was briefly a gold boom town that mirrored Mpumalanga’s Pilgrim’s Rest for legend and raucousness.

In the mid-1880s there was a gold rush to the Murchison Range. All the usual gold-rush suspects arrived, people who had been everywhere from Kalgoorlie to the Klondike.

In 1890, a ‘small town with a big cemetery’ was established and named after the state secretary of the Old Transvaal. Malaria (then called blackwater fever) took most lives; lions and bar-room brawls accounted for most of the rest of the names in the graveyard.

According to legend, Leydsdorp was declared a city for a day – by Boer President Paul Kruger. At that time important documents could be signed only in cities, and President Kruger was on a hunting trip in Leydsdorp. So he declared the village a city!

One day a popular local chap called Sandy died. The miners built him a coffin out of beer cases, ensconced him in it and told a couple of labourers to take it to the cemetery while they had drinks in memory of their friend.

When they arrived and lifted the coffin up to carry it to the burial plot, they discovered that it was very light: the bottom had broken out of the makeshift coffin and Sandy’s corpse was nowhere to be found.

They found his body at the side of the road, took him back to the pub and stuck him ‘back in his box’ while they had a few more drinks to discuss the incident. By then it was too late in the day to bury him – the mosquitoes were already massing over at the graveyard.

Characters called Mica Bill, Paraffin Joe, Brandy Smith and The Heavenly Twins mined claims called the Old Birthday, the Flying Dutchman, Antelope and Blue Jacket.

More than 3 000 miners and opportunists gathered in Leydsdorp during its heyday, where no fewer than 8 bars slaked their thirst.

Accommodation was hard to find: 2 miners burrowed into a giant ant hill and set up home – they even built a kitchen down there with a stove and a chimney.

Do you see where Leydsdorp lies? One of the red dots.

The town looks even more desolated than way back in 2007.

2007 - Pavements clean and well kept.

2012 - Long grass everywhere.

2012 - At least the street names are still the same.


2012 - the "koekepan" (cocopan, used for transporting gravel and rock from the mine) is filled with grass.

2007 - The till (cash register) in the old pub frequented by the thirsty.

2007 - The ceiling of the old pub, bullet-riddled.

2007 - The cellar under the bar where corpses were often kept over night before they could be buried the next morning.

Do you know of more such villages / towns in South Africa? Please let me know. I would love to visit such places. Emil?

About Lodie

Africa, Africa, Africa!
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7 Responses to Leydsdorp

  1. Suzette Wickens says:

    Hi Lodie, Putsonderwater is ook ‘n voorbeeld hiervan. Suzette

  2. Maryna den Braanker says:

    Thank you Lodie, for sharing your very interesting trips with us !!! The tale about Sandy was VERY enjoyable. To me it is interesting how times were and the people’s ways of living. Those years a boy was kicked out to work for his own bread and butter at 14yrs. When reaching ‘Sandy’s’ age and due for his wooden-jacket, he would’nt mind at all that his friends was a bit careless about him. Times changes. . .for sure !

  3. Egmont Sass says:

    Sounds like just the place I need to visit and explore, thank you for sharing.

  4. Pieter says:

    ek het so vinning op die WD forum gaan kyk en die volgende gekry:

    Bonnefoi tussen Carolina en Machadadorp
    Copperton Weskus
    Daviesville Limpopo S23 24.496 E29 59.127
    Diepgezet aka Msauli in the mountains behind Barbeton. 26° 0’11.45″S 31° 4’20.42″E
    Gumtree, near Clocolan
    Italian POW village near Barrington
    Leydsdorp Limpopo S23 59.739 E30 31.266
    Petersburg near Graaf Ren.
    Schoemansdal Limpopo

  5. Lodie says:

    Pieter, baie dankie! Dis `n WAARDEVOLLE lys hierdie!! Nou kan die lekkerte begin!

  6. Neil Buckley says:

    I think, i smell some more trips coming up :-))

  7. aloys says:

    With my son I stayed in the Leydsdorp hotel for 1 night incl.eat and drink in 1998. Very friendly owners. At that time it was very hot but we enjoyed ouer stay. To us , it was very surprising to see the Dutch names of farmers there in the middle of nowhere.
    a. lukkassen Netherlands.

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