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A small town about 80km north of Pretoria, actually not called by that name any more, it's Bela Bela. The reason of its existence is the hot water spring that feeds a complex of warm water pools for the general enjoyment of the public. GPS coordinates: 24.8855°S 28.2933°E elevation: 1131m.

I spent some time in the place, not enough to discover everything, but enough to make a start, to be extended when I get around to another visit.


Warmbath shopping streetThe history of Warmbath is closely linked to the existence of the hot water spring. First discovered by JA Grobler and C van Heerden they noticed mist rising from a swampy area and on closer inspection found the hot water rising from the ground. Van Heerden established the farm which incorporated the spring and got to work draining the swamp and clearing the vegetation. A small health spa consisting of holes in the ground and a couple of tents came into existence.
President Burgers visited the place in 1873 and proposed to the Volksraad that they purchase the farm from C van Heerden with the view of setting up a health spa. In the early 1880's JJ McCord obtained a lease and set up a store, a butchery and a lemonade factory. This possibly was the beginning of the town. Well not entirely, a false start was made in 1882 when the Volksraad (parliament) proclaimed the adjoining farm Roodepoort to be a town. It was named Hartingsburg, nothing much came of it because it was not near the spring.
In 1920 the settlement was re proclaimed as Warmbath and a health committee elected, 1932 the status changed to municipality. The pictures shows one of the early shopping malls, judging by the architecture it is from the 30th or 40th of the 1900's. A good summery of the history can be found on this website.

Old Cemetery

Warmbath JJ McCordBehind the municipality is the original grave yard of the town. Not in use nowadays, not big, but of interest.
JJ McCord (se above) is buried here, J.J.McCord lived from 1822 to 1909. There is an other JJ McCord resting here, that was James John who lived from 1863 to 1928, I presume that was the son of JJ.
Warmbath Christina PretoriusThe biggest monument here is to the wife Christina of AWJ Pretorius. He was one of the Voortrekker leaders, Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius. But lets not forget he is not buried here, it's his wife Christina Petronella de Witt. She lived from 1800 (my Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa states 1799) to 1848. And what is interesting she died whilst Andries was away to sort out the Free State to get rid of the British there.

Warmbath resort

Warmbath bath.jpgIt has grown from the holes n the ground to a fully fledged warm water resort with pool, slides, wave pool and other non-water actividies. I enjoyed my day at the pools and going down the slides and I'll go again. But we were warned repeatedly 'don't come here on a week end'. Apparently its crowded.
The original spring can still be observed, I tried to take pictures but only got a fuzz because of the steam being emitted from the water. The temperature of the spring water is given as 52ºC and the flow rate as 22m3/hr.
Interesting the analyses, the water contains 10ppm Fluorides, thus I would say when you go there rinse your mouth a few times with the pool water, it's good for the teeth.Warmbath water analyses
Warmbath sculptureAt the fountain is a sculpture by Tienie Pritchard, I think its a fantastic sculpture, very photogenic, I couldn't stop taking pictures.

Post script: there are more things to be looked at and this is a reminder to myself not to forget about them. There are some old graves where the municipality building is (that has been done now), there is a British block house, Buys Kop with an amusing story about Korrelkop Buys and a Voortrekker cemetery about 2km out of town.

1. Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, 1973
2. TV Bulpin, Lost Trails of the Transvaal, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1965

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