Springs

The city of Springs, east of Johannesburg, is on the East Rand, or what is now known as the Metropolitan area of Ekurhuleni, in the Gauteng Province. It was founded as a coal and gold mining town in 1904, but its history can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century.

From about 1840 farmers moved into the area and declared farms for themselves, especially after the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic, later Transvaal) became an independent republic with the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852. These initial farms were large, but the measurements of the borders were inaccurate and later, when the correct borders of the farms had to be documented, there were several extra or odd pieces of land that did not belong to any farm. These odd pieces of land then became state property. Such an odd piece existed between three neighbouring farms on the Witwatersrand, namely Geduld (meaning 'patience'), De Rietfontein ('the reed fountain') and Brakpan (literally, 'small, brackish lake'). The 685 ha odd piece was given the name 'The Springs' by the land surveyor James Brooks, probably because of all the fountains on the land. Another story is that he wanted to name it after himself, but because his name (Brooks) resembled the Afrikaans word 'broek' (trousers) so closely, he feared that the Afrikaans farmers in the area would mock it.

On 16 September 1884 the official map of The Springs was registered in Pretoria, the Republic's capital. Initially, the land's value was equal to R200. But the discovery of coal and gold and its subsequent mining increased the value considerably.

The coal discovered in The Springs was of a good quality and in 1888 the first contract was signed to mine coal there. Initially mining was on a small scale, but rose when the Great Eastern mine was established. There were a number of corrugated iron houses around the mine and, although there was a few small hotels and general dealers, it was not a town yet. The settlement grew and in 1902 a health committee was appointed to look after the building and location of structures and also the hygiene in the growing township. In 1904 the Grootvlei Proprietary Mines were registered and shafts were sunk. This followed the discovery in 1899 of gold on the farm Geduld and the further discovery of the main reef in 1902.

In April 1904 The Springs was proclaimed a town, called Springs, the health committee replaced by a town council, and it flourished as a mining town. In 1962, Springs produced 10% of the country's gold and 9% of its uranium. However, by the end of the 1960s the last mine in town, the Daggafonteinmyn, (literally: Marijuana fountain mine) was emptied. The town did not die, but instead developed into an industrial centre.

Today, Springs is well known for its architecture: it has the second biggest collection of small scale Art Deco buildings in the world, after Miami in Florida, USA. These Art Deco buildings were constructed between the two world wars. Other landmarks include several monuments to important figures in the city's development, like Paul Kruger, and the war cemetery where many Coloured soldiers are buried who died during the Second World War fighting in the Allied Forces. Important and well-known people who were born or lived in Springs include Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, rock musician James Phillips and Afrikaans singer Rina Hugo.

References