The Town of Lydenburg, in Mpumalanga Province, was founded in 1850 by the company of Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter who had abandoned their first Settlement -Ohrigstad, 50 km to the north.. It was once the capital of its own independent Republic, and still boasts some of the best preserved Zuid Afrikaanse and old Transvaal architecture in the Country. Lydenburg, which means "place of suffering" was founded by these pioneering Voortrekkers fleeing malaria and the debilitating heat of lower lying Areas in the early 1800's. Although Lydenburg was healthier, marauding Bapedi armies under the leadership of Kgosi Sekhukhune fought a series of bloody pitched battles with the settlers, Monuments to which can still be seen in the Area.
Lydenburg is an important centre for Farming, and is also home to one of Mpumalanga's best Museums detailing the mysterious History of the famed Lydenburg Heads, which are unique pottery masks, made by a vanished people thousands of Years ago. The Lydenburg Heads are one of the earliest known forms of African sculpture in Southern Africa and are dated at between AD 500 and AD 800. There are seven hollow, Terracotta Sculptures which are named after the site at which they were discovered in the late 1950's. Replicas of the seven Terracotta 'Lydenburg heads' found in the Valley of the Sterkspruit and dating to the 5th Century, are to be found at the local Museum. Six of the heads are human and the seventh is some kind of animal replica! It is believed that they were used as Ceremonial Objects, during the performance of a Initiation Ritual.
Lydenburg was one of several Republics established in the Transvaal. In 1856 Lydenburg seceded from the Transvaal Republic and, in the following year, joined the Republic of Utrecht. In 1860 both these Republics, rejoined the Transvaal Republic. The Voortrekkers attempted to find a route to Delagoa Bay and a Port, free of British control. Alluvial gold was discovered in the District by several Prospectors, on 6 February 1873 and the Lydenburg goldfields were proclaimed, three Months later. Among the first finds were two large nuggets: Emma( 765 kg) and Adeliza (737 kg), both bought by President T.F. Burgers. Today, the gravels of the Spekboom River, are still being washed for alluvial gold!
A British garrison under Lt. W.H. Long was stationed at Lydenburg during the Transvaal's first war against Britain (1880 - 1881) . They built a small Fort; named Mary, (after the Commanding Officer's wife). It was from this Fort that Lieutenant Anstruther and the 94th Regiment, marched to Pretoria, to join the main British forces there, but they never reached their destination. To counter the two small field guns used by the Voortrekkers, the British fashioned a gun of their own from a water barrel of a water pump which managed to hurl cannon balls of 1 kg at the enemy. After the war the Fort fell into a state of dilapidation and in 1889 some of it's stones were used to build a powder magazine which still stands.
Lydenburg ('town of suffering') occupies a special place in the History of the Transvaal. This had proved a suicidal site owing to the scourge of the Lowveld in those days - the ubiquitous malaria mosquito.
Lydenburg also played an important role in the early attempts by Transvaalers to find a route to Delagoa Bay and a port free of British control. On 6 February 1873 alluvial gold was discovered in the district by several prospectors and the Lydenburg goldfields were proclaimed three months later. Among the first finds were two large nuggets: Emma( 765 kg) and Adeliza (737 kg), both bought by President T.F. Burgers. Today the gravels of the Spekboom River are still being washed for alluvial gold.