Bloemfontein (situated on the N1 route between Johannesburg and Cape Town)is the capital city of the Free State Province of South Africa as well as one of the nation's three capitals, the judicial capital. The city's Sesotho name is Mangaung, meaning "place of cheetahs" . Bloemfontein is popularly and poetically known as "the city of roses", The city is situated on dry grassland at an altitude of 1,395 metres above sea level. The city is home to 369,568 residents, while the Mangaung Local Municipality has a population of 645,455. Bloemfontein is served by Bloemfontein airport.
Though historically a predominantly Afrikaner settlement, Bloemfontein was officially founded in 1846 as a fort by British army major Henry Douglas Warden as a British outpost in the Transoranje region, at that stage occupied by various groups of peoples including Cape Colony Trek Boers, Griqua and Basotho.Although modern day Bloemfontein has a reputation for its flowers in an otherwise arid region, the origin of the city's name is unclear. Popular legends include an ox named "Bloem" owned by one of the pioneer farmers that was taken by a lion near a fountain on his property, while another story names Jan Blom (1775–1858), a Korana KhoiKhoi leader who inhabited the area. Bloemfontein literally means fountain of flowers or flower spring in Dutch.
With colonial policy shifts the region changed into the Orange River Sovereignty (1848–1854) and eventually the Orange Free State Republic (1854–1902). From 1902–1910 it served as the capital of the Orange River Colony and since that time as the provincial capital of the Orange Free State (now Free State). In 1910 it became the Judicial Capital of South Africa. The writer J. R. R. Tolkien was born in the city on 3 January 1892, though his family left South Africa following the death of his father, Arthur Tolkien, while Tolkien was still a child (1896). He recorded that his earliest memories were of "a hot country."
Second Anglo-Boer War/South African War
In 1899, the city was the site of the Bloemfontein Conference, which failed to prevent the outbreak of the Second Boer War. The conference was a final attempt to avert a war between Britain and the south African Republic. With its failure the stage was set for war, which broke out on 11 October 1899.
The rail line from Cape Town provided a centrally located railway station, and proved critical to the British in occupying the city later.
On 13 March 1900, following the Battle of Paardeberg, British forces captured the city and built a concentration camp nearby to house Boer women and children. The National Women's Memorial, on the outskirts of the city, pays homage to the 26,370 women and children as well as 1,421 old men(including 14,154 black people, though some sources feel that the records are unsatisfactory, and that this number could be as high as 20,000) who died in these camps in various parts of the country.
Until 1994, the city was the sole judicial capital of South Africa. It remains the seat for the Supreme Court Of Appeal (formerly the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court) and is therefore generally regarded[who?] as the judicial capital. It is also an administrative centre with many private hospitals and educational institutions.
Geography and Climate
Bloemfontein is located in central South Africa on the southern edge of the Highveld at an elevation of 1,400 metres (4,600 ft), bordering on the semi-arid region of the Karoo. The area is generally flat with occasional hills (koppies in Afrikaans) and the general vegetation is Highveld grassland. Bloemfontein experiences a continental climate, with hot summer days (Jan: max:31°C min:15°C; frequent afternoon thunderstorms) and cooler, dry winters, often with frosts (July: max:17°C min:-2°C). Snow is rare but as recently as August 2006 it snowed in the city, with snowfalls occurring again at the airport on 26 July 2007.
The Free State Stadium and the surrounding sports complex is the main sports venue in the city and province. The venue will be the hosting stadium of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa matches played in Bloemfontein. There are several other sports venues however in the city, including facilities belonging to the university, schools and sports clubs.
One of the most active soaring communities in South Africa and the world is using the New Tempe Airport north of Bloemfontein.
Bloemfontein offers many institutions of learning, from pre-schools to Universities and colleges. Classes are taught in different schools in different languages, some schools even teaching all classes in two languages. These languages are mostly Afrikaans, English or Sesotho.The largest tertiary institutions in Bloemfontein are the of University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology.
Boyden Observatory, a unique astronomy research and educational centre outside the city, offers public open evenings on certain nights during the year, arranged by the Friends of Boyden Observatory. Groups can also visit the observatory for exclusive evenings on appointment.
Atop Naval Hill is the Franklin Game Reserve. It was named after John Franklin, South African Senator, attorney and Mayor of Bloemfontein in the 1930s.
Bloemfontein has a large and diverse Christian population. The city houses several churches and denominations:
- It is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of the Free State
- Afrikaans Baptist Church (Afrikaans: Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerk)
- Dutch Reformed Church (Afrikaans: Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk)
- Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bloemfontein is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bloemfontein
- Seventh day Adventist church Southern African headquarters.