Blossoming into a city of note, Newcastle’s journey has been a powerful one.
With its roots embedded in history, not many realise that our beloved town has changed its name more than four times in the past 177 odd years. During the 1840s, Newcastle’s name was originally Post Halt 2, as postal coaches used to stop here to obtain fresh horses during their journey from Durban to Johannesburg.
It was then known as Waterfall River Township due to the Ncandu River. Newcastle then received its name from the British colonial Secretary, the fifth Duke of Newcastle, a British aristocrat and not the city in England like some believe.
Then during the Anglo-Boer War, Newcastle was invaded by Boer Forces on 14 October 1899 and the town’s name was changed to Viljoensdorp, which stayed like this for seven months until the British recaptured it. Fort Amiel Museum and Newcastle Town Hall both stand proudly, echoing Newcastle’s epic historical roots. Fort Amiel was the army base for the British forces, while the Newcastle Town Hall was built in 1899 and was built in commemoration for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
A little unknown fact is that the bricks for the colonial building was supplied by ANC stalwart, Mac Maharaj, thereby linking two different eras. Maharaj’s old house can still be seen in Boundary Road, Lennoxton. Mahatma Gandhi once passed through Newcastle as well, in his quest for equality.
With Newcastle giving birth to freedom fighters, its peoples surviving the Anglo-Boer and Anglo-Zulu wars and even sporting a visit from Winston Churchill, is it any wonder that Newcastle sports a powerful history?
After the steel industry boom in the 1900s and the discovery of coal, Newcastle quickly rose as one of the most flourishing towns in Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
But, while its growth speaks of a promising future, let’s never forget that heroes once walked freely in our beloved town.