– A MUST SEE WHILE IN SOUTH AFRICA
A mere half-hour from Pretoria and one-hour from
Johannesburg lays the historical village of Cullinan.
Blink and you may miss it but there is more to
the village than one may imagine.
The village grew around the Premier Diamond Mine.
Since the mine came into operation in 1903 it
has been the source of some of the world’s
biggest diamonds. The biggest gem-stone ever found
aptly named the “The Cullinan Diamond”
and was found in 1905 a few metres from the surface
of the open pit. It weighed in at a massive 3106
metric carats. It was bought by the Transvaal
Government and presented to King Edward. It was
then cut by Joseph Asscher of Amsterdam into 9
major stones. The largest, known as the Cullinan
1 and which is also known as the “Great
Star of Africa” was 736 carats and is set
in the Imperial Sceptre and the second largest
at 532 carats is set in the Imperial State Crown.
The mine still produces some of the world's biggest
diamonds and on the 24 September 2009 a diamond
weighing 507 carats was found. It was sold for
R270 million. A year earlier, a flawless blue
diamond weighing 26 carats was found, it was bought
by a Hong Kong business man for $9.5 million.
From this diamond a 7 carat stone was cut and
he gave it to his daughter who named it the Star
As you drive
into Cullinan, (don’t worry about traffic
lights the village does not have any), you may
think you are stepping back in time. On the R513
from Pretoria you will first encounter the Railway
Station. The station as well as the cottages for
the station master and platelayer was built in
1906; the station building is now a restaurant.
For those who would like a more relaxing visit
to the village, Friends of the Rail run regular
steam train trips to the village from Pretoria.
A little way along the road on the right
is the Hotel, built in 1906 it still retains its
old world charm and the staff often tells of the
ghost in the cellar. Directly across the road
is the Cullinan Lodge built during the Second
World War as an annex to the hotel. Both offer
first class accommodation at affordable prices.
Just around the corner the Herbert Baker designed
Anglican Church will be seen. Built in 1908 it
is one of 4 churches in the village, all built
before 1912. Adjacent to the church is the Masonic
Lodge also over 100 years old and across the road
is the old Premier Mine Recreation club. This
building was built as a recreation center for
the mine workers in 1912. In the early days, silent
movies were shown in the hall. Dances and balls
were also a common occurrence in the hall and
the building remains as a monument to those workers
who built it all those years ago. During the war
years over 60 thousand Italian POWs caught in
North Africa were interred at close by Zonderwater.
It was some of these gifted Italians who painted
massive 3 by 2 metre murals onto the walls of
the main hall. These were covered over in 1942
but were recently re-discovered and the hall gained
international fame because of these magnificent
works of art.
As you proceed down the road across the railway
line, on the left will be the golf course. The
course was opened in 1905 by Mary Anne McHardy,
who was the daughter of the first General Manager
of the mine. The course is a must for any serious
on the R513 you will now leave the village and
you may reflect "is that it?" In fact that is
not all the village has to offer. Re-trace your
journey back to the Anglican Church and proceed
down Oak Ave. The Avenue is lined with old houses
and shops and the first building you will pass
is Nedbank built about 1908. As you continue you
will pass over the railway line once again and
immediately on your left is a gravel road that
takes you to a lookout point of the big hole,
just behind the massive ventilation fan for the
underground workings. Our "big hole" is 1000 metres
long and 500 metres wide and with a depth of 450
metres is 4 times bigger than Kimberley's big
hole. From the first shovel of Kimberlite that
found its way onto the prospecting table in 1903
the hole developed into much as what you see until
the mine close in 1932 due to depression in the
diamond trade. Due to increased technology developed
during the Second World War there was need for
industrial diamonds and the mine opened as an
underground operation in 1945. The shaft visible
to the right is now over 60 years old and falls
into protected status of the National Heritage
Once again retrace your journey back to Oak Ave.
and the first building you will pass is Oak House,
now a guest house it was built for the Resident
Director of the mine in 1905. The house next door
was the first house built in the village in 1903.
Built for the General Manager, William McHardy,
it was occupied by 2 of his daughters until 1984
when they died within a few days of each other
aged 94 and 98 the house was turned into a museum.
What are known as the Miners Cottages a little
further down road are now are occupied by art
galleries, restaurants and curio shops, these
were built in 1906.
The best way
to see the village's secrets is on a guided tour.
An underground tour, the only one in the world
onto a working diamond mine isoffered.
To take in the villages historical sites, a journey
around the village on an old tram can be taken.
The highly recommended "Journey of a Diamond"
tour is an ideal way to see the open pit and the
surface workings of the mine. It also includes
a trip up onto the massive dumps of waste material
where one can see Pretoria.
No trip to a diamond mine and village would be
complete without viewing "Diamonds." Prima Lux
at 100 Oak Ave (first miner's cottage on the left)
offers exceptional quality diamonds at great prices
and friendly efficient service.
With affordable accommodation, good and varied
restaurants, art galleries, antiques, guided tours
and diamond shops it can't be bad, even if we
dont have one traffic light.
and provided by:
We wish you a house full of guests
and a safe month.