Himeville is a small village situated in the foothills of the beautiful Southern Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, approximately 130 km from Pietermaritzburg. It is a landmark en route to the world famous Sani Pass and the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park. Himeville is the closest town to the Sani Pass which links the town with Mokhotlong in Lesotho.
Himeville was named in 1902 after the then Prime Minister of Natal, Sir Albert Henry Hime, a road engineer elected as Prime Minister of Natal in 1889. The town was first established as a police outpost and a branch of the Border Mounted Rifles in 1890 following a spate of gun-running and cattle rustling in the area.
Some Interesting History - 1800's
Toward the end of the 1800's disasters were a plenty. In 1896 a locust invasion devastated crops. This was followed by the rinderpest plague and East Coast fever causing severe losses to stock and, if that was not enough the great blizzards of 1902 and 1905 isolated the district for weeks, taking a heavy toll.
In 1896 the Natal Government fixed a site for a laager and proclaimed a village allowing a commonage of 3000 acres. The laager was built and also a residency, and mr Crossley built a store and an hotel. This settlement became the Himeville village named after Sir Albert Henry Hime, Prime Minister of Natal from 1899 to 1903.
The Le Fleur rebellion in East Griqualand in 1895, a short lived insurrection, led to the construction of the laager in what is now Himeville, to provide protection to the settlers in the event of further uprisings.
The outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 saw many of the farmers being called to arms with the Border Mounted Rifles and most of the Underberg men were involved in the siege of Ladysmith. The hostilities, however, were confined to the northern parts of the colony and no fighting ever took place in the Himeville area.
The establishment of another village, Himeville, in 1902 with a resident magistrate, the police station and a prison in the old laager unfortunately split the community into two factions and the sad state of affairs became known as the Underberg / Himeville War. It resulted in animosity and duplication of resources which continued for many years bringing unnecessary problems in one form or another until the villages were united by decree in the year 2000.
In 1919 Himeville Farmers' Association was formed as a result of irreconcilable differences with Underberg Farmers' Association.
The 1920's ended with the influenza pandemic which claimed a great many lives all over the world and even in the Himeville district.
In 1932 Ken Blaikie recalled sitting at the drift on the Polela river below Himeville and building a little dam with his hands, putting the river through his matchbox for an hour without restricting the flow; evidence of the severity of the drought then in its third year.
Harry Smith built Basutoland police post two miles from the top of the pass toward the end of 1932.
The first bowling green was built by Italian prisoners of war in Himeville in 1943. The Cobham State Forest Mountain Catchment was established in 1952 and the Underberg / Himeville Fishing Club was formed in 1954.
In mid 1959 the Himeville main road and the road between Underberg and Himeville was tarred.
Himeville Arms Hotel - 2012
Crossley's Hotel - 1930 now the Himeville Arms Hotel
A game of tennis in Himeville - 1910
The end of May 1959 saw the great snowfall that blocked the Sani Pass for three months. The heavy rains, lasting for three days, washed away bridges on the South Coast. The road to Underberg was cut off for 24 hours by the floods.
The Garden Club arranged the planting of trees between the two villages in 1970, in an endeavour to unite the Underberg and Himeville factions. (They were finally united by decree in 2000, into Kwa Sani Municipality.) Himeville Nature Reserve was proclaimed in 1973 and SABC Television transmission became available in 1975. The Himeville Fort was declared a National Monument in 1978 and became the Himeville Museum.
The real Himeville Centenary Year was 1986 but, as nothing had been organised in time, the celebrations were held over for a year; as luck would have it they coincided with the floods and were largely washed out. The special dinner laid on in the courtyard of the museum, in a marquee, had the guests dining with their feet in two inches of water.
Despite the phenomenal rains the summer of 1987 was one of drought as it didn't rain again until February 1988, when more heavy rains were experienced and the bridge over the Loteni river near the police camp was washed away.
Himeville Nature Reserve
Himeville nature reserve was established on 1st February 1956. The reserve is situated on the eastern boundary of Himeville and was established primarily to provide trout angling facilities to the public. The intention was also to use the dams for research in connection with fish culture.
The reserve is small with uniform vegetation and there is not a great diversity of terrestial fauna. The following are found: Striped polecat, Cape clawless and Spotted-necked otter, grey Duiker, Oribi, common Reedbuck, Blesbuck, Grey Rhebuck and Black Wildebeest.
There is a wide variety of birds. Indigenous fish found here are Chubby-head minnow and Plain long fin eel. Trout have been introduced and frequently restocked.
The Himeville Museum
In 1974 and subsequent years through the efforts of the Historical and Museum Society and with the help of the local community, the ground work was laid for a district museum. In 1978 the Himeville museum was gazetted and came under the provincial authority and received provincial subsidies.
The museum aims to cover all aspects of the environment; the geology and wild life as well as the pre-history and later settlement of the district. In 1981 the museum was opened to the public, who continue to support it. The Historical and Museum Society provides a part subsidy and its members as 'Friends of the Museum' give practical help as called upon to do so. The Society holds an anniversary celebration in September each year in the museum.
The first police post in Himeville was a small stone house built in the 1890's on the present site. In 1952 a more permanent building was constructed and married and single quarters have been built in recent years.
The station serves a wide farming area. The stock theft unit operates from Bushman's Nek police station and there is a border post on the Sani Pass Road. The station mans a twenty-four hour security surveillance.
The Police are an asset to our community and the Himeville detective branch has been active in some very important arrests over the past year.
Himeville Hotel under snow - 30 August 1962
The Himeville Museum today
St Michael and All Angels Church
The original church of St Michael and All Angels was a wood and iron building, erected in 1917. This was situated in the position of the present church garden. One half of the building was used as the church hall in which many meetings and functions were held. Occasional services were held in the Himeville Court House, before the first church was built.
After the Second World War the new stone church was begun and took a number of years to complete. The foundation stone was laid on the 20th May 1950 by the Rev E. F. Pennington. The stones for the building were taken from a quarry towards Underberg.
The Himeville Police station - 1901
© Southern Drakensberg Information - 2014