Cape Colony: South African International Exhibition, Kimberley
|Form:||Circular with and without attached loop|
AM2: 41; Laidlaw: 0007;
Bearded bust of Sir Henry Loch, front and slightly to the left. On a band around, above: “SOUTH AFRICAN & INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION” and below between stops: “KIMBERLEY 1892”
Birds-eye view of the exhibition hall with mountains behind. In the exergue, the Cape Colony motto: “SPES BONA” on a ribbon.
The exhibition was opened on 8th September 1892 by Sir Henry Loch, Governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner for South Africa. It was held in the Public Gardens of Kimberley, a town located in the northern part of the Cape Colony in the region known as Griqualand West.
Diamonds were discovered there in the middle of the 19th century, and the town grew and prospered. However, Kimberley was not a suitable location for an international exhibition. The region is isolated, not noted for any natural beauty, and Kimberley is eight hundred miles from Cape Town which even today is a full day’s car journey away. The choice was made by Cecil John Rhodes, a diamond magnate and promoter of the Exhibition. Probably he was motivated by his imperial ambition for Britain and his drive to expand the Empire and colonise territories to the north. Also the border with the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State was only a few miles away.
While being a grand social occasion for the Cape Colony, the Exhibition was a financial flop, and Cecil Rhodes was left to pay off the debit.
The buildings were designed D. W. Greatbatch. After the Exhibition, the Art Hall was converted, with the assistance of the Cape Government and De Beers Consolidated Mines (the diamond monopoly company owned by Cecil Rhodes and Barney Barnato), for use by the Kimberley Rifles. From 1900-1902 it was used as a typhoid hospital during the guerrilla phase the Boer War.
The original name for Kimberley was New Rush. It was renamed Kimberley in honour of John Wodehouse, created 1st Earl of Kimberley in 1866. Lord Kimberley held the position Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1870 to 1874 and again during the period 1880-82 when the Exhibition was in its planning stages. The blue diamond-bearing magma ore, Kimberlite, also gets its name from Lord Kimberley.
The old regional capital, Griquatown, is a hundred miles to the east of Kimberley. It seems probable that the fantasy Griquatown pattern coinage, struck in Berlin and dated 1890, was on display at the Exhibition to promote German engineering.