Van Reenen - Northern Drakensberg
Frans Van Reenen, after whom the Van Reenen Pass is named, farmed at the
base of Van Reenen Pass and trekked his oxen inland using the paths worn
by the migrating animals. In the mid 1800’s he assisted the transport
riders with laying out a route for the wagons carrying supplies to the gold
The area traversed
by Van Reenen Pass was originally known as Underberg and there was a settlement
9 km south of the present village around Wyford where the border post was
between the Orange Free State and KwaZulu Natal. This was manned by Customs
officials, a Dipping Officer and a Police station. There was also The Good
Hope Hotel, a boarding house and two blacksmith shops.
1891 the railway line was opened and the present village of Van Reenen came
into being as all the services were taken to the top of the Pass. The railway
line was a massive engineering feat to negotiate the steep incline and involved
a series of tunnels and reversing stations. The latter were later replaced
by more tunnels which is the route to-day
A green lantern
was hung at the top of the pass to signify that travellers had reached
the summit as it was often very foggy. At this time near to where the Caltex
garage is to day, a guard from 6 a.m. manned the border post until 6 p.m.
No movement was allowed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Van Reenen Hotel
was built in 1892 which in 1948 was renamed The Green Lantern Inn. At the
time of the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899 the Van Reenen Hotel was commandeered
by the British as their headquarters for the troops stationed on Gun Hill
which gave then a commanding view of both the Orange Free State and KwaZulu
Natal. They also built a blockhouse, which has since been demolished.
the 2nd World war Van Reenen was a great tourist destination with some 4
hotels in the area. Guests arrived by train and many activities were organized
such as tennis and cricket matches. The Little Church or Llandaff Oratory
was built in memory of Matthew Maynard’s son who was killed
while trying to rescue others in a mining accident in 1925. The Moorddraai
monument was erected in memory of 9 people murdered in 1865 who were transporting
merchandise from Durban to Pretoria.