Kimberley Club

Luxury and elegance is what the team behind Rovos Rail strives for, meaning a stop at the legendary Kimberley Club is all part of bringing old-world elegance and sophistication to our guests.

Rovos Rail

Kimberley has been the site of some of the most important meetings, balls and events throughout the course of its history. Royalty, business magnates, governors and prominent politicians have stayed and been entertained in the mining town. One such place was the Kimberley Club, where the majority of millionaire heavyweights came and went. Founded in 1881 by Cecil John Rhodes, the club was a place where everyone wanted to be a fly on the wall so that they could be privy to some of the most momentous geo-political decisions in the diamond industry. Despite the dusty location, Kimberley became a sought-after town, abuzz with enterprise and dreams of fortune. Fortunately, young Rhodes saw that a leisurely meeting place for visitors unaccustomed to the rustic nature of rural South Africa was needed. The Kimberley Club not only served a social purpose; being a member meant that you could be exposed to the world of business and diamond trade.

The Kimberley Club

The Kimberley Club is a reminder of the old-world European charm and “upper-crust” men and women who descended upon Kimberley to live alongside the diggers and farmers. The club’s history is just as rich and interesting as the diamond mining that went on around it. Rhodes’s friend, Neville Pickering, was a frequent guest to the club and recalled the gaiety of the nightly dinners and dances, providing the perfect diversion to a hard day. The décor was extravagant and transported one to a palace adorned with stained glass windows, velvet drapes and Turkish carpets.

old-world European

The Kimberley Club burnt down twice and was rebuilt both times. The first fire was caused by an oil lamp chandelier that fell in the Billiard Room. As the club was made up of mainly wood, it burned ferociously and quickly, leaving nothing but two side walls. The second time was nine years later, in 1895. Many items were destroyed, save for the stores in the wine cellar, important papers from the safe and the kitchen. A famous weighing chair given to the club by Winston’s Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph, in 1892 was saved as well and today stands in the lounge off the bar. The furniture of the third and final Kimberley Club is still in use today and was mainly ordered from London. This includes the bentwood chairs in the bar and the mahogany sideboard in the Dining Room.

Billiard Room

The club was graced by royal visitors during the 20th century; Prince George visited in 1933 and Queen Elizabeth in 1947. They were quite eventful stays for the royals. The Queen forgot a diamond ring in the washroom, but it was found and returned to her by a steward while the Prince nearly chocked to death on a fishbone during dinner. The Prince, later the Duke of Kent, still managed to enjoy his stay and left a signed photograph of himself, which is still among the items at the club. During its heyday, no expense was spared to ensure guests experienced a top-quality visit. A Christmas menu from 1899 included the delicacy turtle soup, mutton cutlets, foie gras, plum pudding and Stilton cheese.

washroom

Today, the club is still in operation, with 540 members. It also operates as a four-star hotel, offering 17 bedrooms resplendent in the colonial-style and three dining areas. The club’s rooms offer a glimpse back in time and it is said that the Reading Room on the second floor is haunted by Mr Joe Van Praag, one of the Kimberley Club’s residents who lived at the club until his death in 1948.

Enjoy the wonders of one of the oldest clubs in the country as you relax on your Rovos journey.

 

Images:
www.southafrica.net
www.safarinow.com
www.nightjartravel.com
experiencenortherncape.com
http://www.heritageportal.co.za/