Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal

Coordinates: 28°33′35″S 29°46′50″E / 28.55972°S 29.78056°E / -28.55972; 29.78056
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ladysmith central business district
Ladysmith central business district
Ladysmith is located in KwaZulu-Natal
Ladysmith is located in South Africa
Coordinates: 28°33′35″S 29°46′50″E / 28.55972°S 29.78056°E / -28.55972; 29.78056
CountrySouth Africa
MunicipalityAlfred Duma
 • Total84.13 km2 (32.48 sq mi)
 • Total64,855
 • Density770/km2 (2,000/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
 • Black African73.3%
 • Indian/Asian15.0%
 • White8.3%
 • Coloured2.9%
 • Other0.5%
First languages (2011)
 • Zulu64.3%
 • English22.8%
 • Afrikaans6.3%
 • Sotho2.2%
 • Other4.5%
Time zoneUTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code036

Ladysmith is a city in the Uthukela District of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It lies 230 kilometres (140 mi) north-west of Durban and 365 kilometres (227 mi) south-east of Johannesburg. Important industries in the area include food processing, textiles, and tyre production. Ladysmith is the seat for both the Alfred Duma Local Municipality and Uthukela District Municipality.

The town was named after Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith, also known as "Lady Smith," the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the Governor of the Cape Colony from 1847-1852. It saw numerous actions during the Second Boer War, when after numerous small skirmishes the town was besieged by Boer forces on 2 November 1899. After three British attempts to relieve the defenders and one Boer attempt to take the town all failed, the siege was eventually broken on 28 February 1900. Both Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi were present at the siege, the former as a war correspondent and the latter as a stretcher-bearer.

In 1900, the unincorporated town of Oyster Harbour on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, was renamed Ladysmith by James Dunsmuir in honour of the lifting of the siege of Ladysmith.


Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith

In 1847, after buying land from the Zulu king Mpande, a number of Boers settled in the area and called it the Republic of Klip River with Andries Spies as their commandant. The republic was annexed by the British in the same year and on 20 June 1850 was proclaimed a township called Windsor.[3] On 11 October 1850, the name was changed to Ladysmith after Juana María de los Dolores de León Smith, also known as "Lady Smith," the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith, the Governor of the Cape Colony and high commissioner in South Africa from 1847 to 1852. A fort was built in 1860 to protect the villagers from the Zulu.[3][4]

The Second Boer War[edit]

The town hall during the siege in 1900, with Boer artillery damage to the bell tower

During the Second Boer War, British commander Lieutenant General Sir George White made Ladysmith his centre of operations for the protection of Natal against the Boer forces.[5] Starting on 29 October 1899, a number of short-lived battles were fought for control of the town, but after suffering heavy casualties the British forces retreated to Ladysmith and the Boer forces did not make use of the opportunity to follow up the attack and take control of the town. Following the battle, while British forces under White regrouped in the town, Boer forces surrounded Ladysmith. The Siege of Ladysmith lasted 118 days, from 2 November 1899 to 28 February 1900, during the most crucial stage of the war.[6] Approximately 3,000 British soldiers died during the siege.

Three attempts by General Sir Redvers Buller to break the siege resulted in defeat for the British forces at the battles of Colenso, Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz. On 6 January 1900, the Boer forces of Commandant-General Piet Joubert attempted to end the siege by taking the town before the British could launch another attempt to break the siege. This led to the battle of Platrand (or Wagon Hill) south of the town. Buller finally broke the siege on 28 February 1900 after defeating the Boers by using close cooperation between his infantry and artillery. Winston Churchill, then a young war correspondent for The Morning Post of London, was present at the relief of Ladysmith after having been taken prisoner (between Ladysmith and Colenso) and escaping earlier during the war.[7][8][9] Mohandas Gandhi, along with the stretcher-bearing corps that he had established earlier during the war, was involved in a number of actions that took place in and around Ladysmith during the relief.[10]


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: SA Explorer
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Windsor Dam

Ladysmith is located on the banks of the Klip River ("stone river"), with the central business district and a large part of the residential areas located within the flood basin of the river. It is on the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains, about 26 km from the Van Reenen's Pass. The town has a subtropical highland climate (Cwb, according to the Köppen climate classification), with warm summers and cool, dry winters. It borders on a humid subtropical climate (Cwa). The average annual precipitation is 639 mm (25 in), with most rainfall occurring during summer.

Since it was established the town has suffered severely from flooding of the Klip River. During the 110 years up to 1997 with the completion of the Qedusizi Dam,[11] 29 serious floods occurred.[12] Minor flooding occurred almost every year. The worst flooding in 30 years occurred in 1996 leading to R500 million in damages and the evacuation of 400 families.[13] Efforts to control the flooding date back to the 1940s. In 1949 the Windsor Dam was completed, but this dam silted up very quickly and was not an effective means of flood control.[12]


Ladysmith railway station

Ladysmith is served by a small airport, (IATA: LAY, ICAO: FALY) is located on the outskirts of town just below Platrand at 28°34′48″S 29°45′10″E / 28.58000°S 29.75278°E / -28.58000; 29.75278 (Ladysmith Aerodrome).

The Danskraal Yard is located on the Free State main line and the GlencoeVryheid line and acts as a depot for train marshalling and maintenance as well as rail maintenance.[14] The passenger station is located some distance away from Danskraal close to the Central Business District.

The N11 links Ladysmith with Newcastle in the north and with the N3 Freeway in the south-west, while the R103 provides access to Colenso in the south and the N3 Freeway in the west. Traffic traveling between Durban and Johannesburg used to pass through Ladysmith up until the late 1980s, but the completion of the N3 Toll Highway, bypassing Ladysmith 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the west, has caused a dramatic drop in traffic volumes through this town as well as others that are now bypassed.[15] In that regard, the old main road through Ladysmith is now designated as the R103.

Society and culture[edit]

Castor and Pollux historical Howitzer cannons in front of the Town Hall, 2000.
Imperial Light Horse Memorial on Wagon Hill for the officers, n.c.os and troops who died in battle on January 6, 1900. Photograph 2008.

The only sold local newspaper in Ladysmith is the Ladysmith Gazette. It is believed to have been established in 1902, and is part of the Caxton Group of newspapers. Two free local newspapers are the Ladysmith Herald and the Times of Ladysmith..[16] 5 South African Infantry Battalion is based in Ladysmith.[17] A military shooting range is located on the outskirts of the town between the Aerodrome and Platrand.

Other buildings of interest are the Siege Museum, built in 1884 as a marketplace and opened as a museum in 1995.[18] Detailing the battles and history at the time of the Siege, the museum holds around 60,000 documents related to the Siege and the Boer War.[19] The Town Hall was damaged by Boer artillery during the Second Boer War. A large number of the Second Boer War Battlefields around Ladysmith have been preserved as memorial sites. Monuments and memorials to those who died during the battles have been erected at most of them. Two RML 6.3 inch Howitzers used by the British during the Siege stand in front of the Town Hall.

The Burgher Memorial on Wagon Hill at Platrand. Photo 2008.

Located just south of the town, the Platrand/Wagon Hill area saw action during the Relief of Ladysmith. The Burgher Memorial on Wagon Hill, a sculpture of six hands pointing upwards and one downwards, was erected in 1979 in honour of 781 Boer forces killed in the battles in Natal during the Second Boer War. A crypt at the center contains the remains of 310 re-interred burghers.[20][21] On Platrand there are memorials to the Imperial Light Horse, the Devonshire Regiment, the Earl of Ava and a number of others.

Ladysmith is the hometown of Joseph Shabalala, founder of the group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.[22] Thulani "Sugar Boy" Malinga, a champion boxer, was born in Ladysmith.[23] Thamsanqa Gabuza, a soccer player, who plays for Orlando Pirates, was born in Ladysmith.

Soofi Mosque

Christianity has a strong presence in and around Ladysmith. It can be seen through the places of worship built around the time of the Anglo Boer wars. One such structure includes the Anglican All Saints Church, built in 1902 from cut flagstones from a quarry in the area. Islam also has a strong presence in the town, which is well known for the Soofie Mosque on the banks of the Klip River. Built in 1969, it is regarded as one of the finest in the country. The origins of the structure date back to 1895 when Hazrath Soofie Saheb arrived in South Africa. He made it his mission to build as many as 12 mosques along the east coast of Durban. Ladysmith was also the home of a revered saint known as Hazrath Soofie Sayed Mahomed Abed Mia Osmani, who is buried in the Ladysmith Muslim Cemetery.[24][25]

For Hinduism, Sanathan Dharma Sabha was inaugurated to promote religious, social, cultural and education activities in Ladysmith in 1902. The oldest Hindu temple resulted from the amalgamation of Hindu Thirukootam (1910) with the Shree Ganaser Temple and hall erected in 1916. It was declared a national monument in November 1990. The present site of the SDS temple (Sanathan Dharma Sabha aka Lord Vishnu Temple) also housed Mahatma Gandhi who established a non-White Stretcher-bearer service in the Ambulance Corps in the Ladysmith and Spioenkop during the Anglo-Boer War.

There are also Rastafarian devotees within the areas surrounding Ladysmith, residing in Waters Meet, Peace Town, eZakheni, Steadville, Saint Chads, Acaciaville and Roosbom.


  1. ^ Robson, Linda Gillian (2011). "Annexure A" (PDF). The Royal Engineers and settlement planning in the Cape Colony 1806–1872: Approach, methodology and impact (PhD thesis). University of Pretoria. pp. xlv–lii. hdl:2263/26503.
  2. ^ a b c d "Main Place Ladysmith". Census 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Ladysmith History & The Boer War". Archived from the original on 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  4. ^ Smith, Harry (1903). "The Autobiography of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Smith". Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  5. ^ Durand, Henry Mortimer; White, George Stuart (1915). "III - Arrival in South Africa". The life of Field-Marshal Sir George White, V.C. Vol. II. Edinburgh, London: W. Blackwood. pp. 17–27. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  6. ^ Rickard, J (2007-02-05). "Siege of Ladysmith, 2 November 1899 – 27 February 1900". Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  7. ^ Creswicke, Louis. "From the Commencement of the War to the Battle of Colenso, 15th Dec. 1899". South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 2 (of 6). Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  8. ^ "Winston Churchill". Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Churchill, Sir Winston". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 3 February 2008.
  10. ^ Radhakrishnan, S. (2000). Mahatma Gandhi: Essays and Reflections. Jaico Publishing House. p. 510. ISBN 978-81-7224-122-3.
  11. ^ "Water resource management". South African Government Information. 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-09-12. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  12. ^ a b Bell, F. G.; Mason, T. R. (1998). "The problem of flooding in Ladysmith, Natal, South Africa". Engineering Geology Special Publications. Geological Society, London. 15 (1): 3–10. doi:10.1144/GSL.ENG.1998.015.01.01. S2CID 140597926. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
  13. ^ "Disaster management guidelines for municipalities". National Disaster Management Centre. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 22, 2014. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  14. ^ "KwaZulu-Natal Freight Transport Data bank". KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  15. ^ "Heritage Impact Assessment of Braamhoek Integrated Power Supply Project" (PDF). eThembeni Cultural Heritage. p. 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-10. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  16. ^ Archived 2008-03-17 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Infantry Formation". South African Army. Archived from the original on 2018-01-04. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  18. ^ "The Siege Museum". Tourism Archived from the original on 2003-10-25. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
  19. ^ "52. Ladysmith Siege Museum". National Archives and Records Service (NARS). Retrieved 2008-10-22.
  20. ^ "Platrand & Burger Memorial". Heritage KwaZulu Natal. Archived from the original on 24 Dec 2016. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  21. ^ "The Burgher Monument". Battlefields Route Association. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  22. ^ "The Official site of Ladysmith Black Mambazo". Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 2010. Archived from the original on October 20, 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  23. ^ "Thulane MALINGA". Boxing Records Online. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  24. ^ "Soofi Mosque". Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: Heritage KwaZulu Natal. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  25. ^ Browne, James Stark (1906). "The Battlefields". Through South Africa with the British Association. London: J Speirs. p. 73.


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