History of Ladysmith

Ladysmith is a town situated in the Uthukela district of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, 230 kilometres north-west of Durban and 365 kilometres south of Johannesburg. Important industries in the area include: textiles, food processing and tire production. 


Both Alfred Duma Local Municipality and the Uthukela District Municipality are situated in Ladysmith.

In 1900, the unincorporated town of Oyster Harbour, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, was renamed ‘Ladysmith’ by James Dunsmuir, in honor of the lifting of the siege of Ladysmith by the British during the Second Boer War. The siege had been lifted on the 28th of February in the same year.

After buying land from the Zulu king Mpande in 1847, a number of Boers led by Andries Spies settled in the area calling it the ‘Republic of Klip River’. In the same year, the republic was annexed by the British who later proclaimed it to be a township called Windsor (20 June 1850). On 11 October 1850 the name was changed to ‘Ladysmith’ after the Spanish wife of the British general governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner.

In 1860 a fort was built to protect the villagers from the Zulu.

Battle of Ladysmith 

During the Second Boer War the British commander Lieutenant General Sir George White made Ladysmith his center of operations for the protection of Natal against the Boer forces. A number of short-lived battles were fought from 29 October 1899 for control of the town. The British forces retreated to Ladysmith to nurse the heavy casualties they had sustained, leaving the Boer forces with an opportunity to follow the attack up and seize control of the town. Fortunately for the British, the Boer forces did not utilize this opportunity.

Siege of Ladysmith

Following the Battle of Ladysmith, Boer forces surrounded the town whilst British forces regrouped. The siege lasted a total of 118 days during the crux of the Second Angelo- Boer War. During the siege, approximately 3000 British soldiers died.

Relief of Ladysmith

 Three attempts by General Sir Redvers Buller to break the siege resulted in defeat for the British forces at the battles of Colenso, Spioenkop and Vaal Krantz. On the 6th of January 1900 the Boer forces of Commandant-General Piet Joubert attempted to end the siege by taking the town before the British could launch another attempt to break the siege. This led to the battle of Platrand (Wagon Hill) south of the town.


On 28 February 1900 the siege was finally broken by General Buller after defeating the Boers by using close cooperation between his infantry and artillery.


Also present at the Relief of Ladysmith was Sir Winston Churchill, then a young war correspondent for The Morning Post (London). Churchill had been taken prisoner (between Ladysmith and Colenso) and managed to escape earlier during the war. Mohandas (Mahatma) Karamchand Gandhi and the stretcher-bearing corps that he established earlier during the war (Natal Indian Ambulance Corps), were involved in a number of actions which took place in and around Ladysmith during the relief.




The Boer en Brit Self Catering Guest House was established in 1998 with the centenary celebrations of the Siege of Ladysmith, and our logo depicts General George White and General Louis Botha, the leaders at the time of the British and Boer forces respectively.


Ladysmith can be found on the banks of the Klip River (“stone river”), with the location of the central business district and a large part of the residential areas within the flood basin of the river. It lies on the foothills of the Drankensberg mountains, about 26 km from the Van Reenen pass.


The town has suffered severely from flooding of the Klip River since being established. Ladysmith has seen 29 serious floods during the 110 years before the completion of the Qedusizi Dam, translated as ‘An End To Suffering’ Dam, in 1997. Minor flooding was a near yearly occurrence.

In 1996 the worst flood in 30 years occurred, leading to R500 million in damages, and the evacuation of 400 families.

Efforts to control the flooding date back to the 1940s. In 1949 the Windsor Dam was completed, but this dam silted up very fast and was not an effective means of flood control.


Ladysmith has a subtropical highland climate(Cwb, according to the Koeppen climate classification), with warm summers and cool, dry winters. It borders on a humid subtropical climate (Cwa). The average annual precipitation is 639mm (25in), with most rainfall occurring during summer.


 The Soofi Mosque on the banks of the Klip River was built sometime between 1895 and 1910 and extended in the 1960s. The Siege Museum, originally built in 1884 as a marketplace and the Town Hall, damaged by the Boer artillery during the Second Boer War, are also buildings of interest.