Utrecht

1

In 1900 British troops occupied Utrecht during South African War of 1899 - 1902 as their headquarters. The British were wary of having to camp in high altitude area where their health were going to be affected by the mounting heat in the sunny South Africa and Utrecht provided them with a perfect opportunity of experiencing a climate closer to home. Moreover, the nearby Buffalo River was an ideal place to grow vegetation and it was going to be easy for them to get water for their daily needs. The history of Utrecht in Natal began in 1852 when a group of Dutch Voortrekkers from the Cape settled along the Buffalo River in Natal. Andries Pretorius as a governor, disapproved of them having to settle in the area as it fell outside the proclaimed boundaries of the Transvaal. Pretorius was afraid that the British might see it as an encroachment and in the process endangering the existence of the Republic of Transvaal. In 1854 the Buffalo River Community gave the Zulu King Mpande 100 cattle in exchange of the grazing land. In 1854 the Republic of Utrecht in Natal was formed. The name place was Utrecht due to the name, which existed in Holland where the Buffalo River Community came from. A.T. Spies was elected as governor of the newly formed republic. Utrecht approached the Transvaal government for incorporation and this was done to make their stay more protected against any form of attack.

Realising that they were ignored, they approached the Lydenburg Republic trying to exploit on the differences, which were there between them and the Transvaal government. In 1855 the Transvaal government acceded to pressure and gave recognition to Utrecht's independency. In 1858 Utrecht was incorporated to the Republic of Lydenburg. In 1860 upon the incorporation of the Republic of Lydenburg, Utrecht automatically became part of the republic of Transvaal, a thing that the community had been wanting for a long time. In 1879 Utrecht served as Headquarters for both the Commander - in - Chief Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Evelyn Woods. The Old Patronage in Utrecht today serves as great tourist destination because of its historic significance and the house used to be a guesthouse for various heads of states. At the end of the South African War, Utrecht was returned to Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal). Most of the people who looked after the herds of animals and domestic workers for the Dutch Voortrekkers lived in the nearby Madadeni area. In 1970 it was believed that Utrecht had a population of 966 Whites, 280 Coloureds, 12 Asians and 4537 Blacks. In 2000 it was estimated that Utrecht had a population of more than 5000.


References:
• Potgieter, D.J(ed)(1976). Standard Encyclopedia of Southern Africa Vol. 11 Cape Town: Nasou, pp.106-107.
• http://battlefields.kzn.org.za/battlefields/about/20.html
• www.go2africa.com/south-africa/battlefields/utrecht

Last updated : 30-Jan-2012

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011