By: Edward Dye
Pilgrim's Rest, located on Panorama Route of Mpumalanga in South Africa has been retained as a living museum, ever since it was announced as a national heritage site in the year 1986. The shops in the Uptown and Downtown areas are comprised of buildings that have been built during the gold rush period, or restored to appear like the buildings of that time. The African craft shops offer curios from the entire South African region. There are interesting historical sites in other parts Pilgrim's Rest.
Above the village, up on a hill, a historic cemetery is located. Its peculiar location is connected to the popular Robber's Grave. A banished tent robber who had been caught while he was back, was shot dead and buried at the site from the North direction to the South, marked as a thief. This cemetery was constructed at the burial site. Due to the steep climb, relays of pallbearers carried the coffins. It is supposed that some had stronger drinks in their pockets for encouragement.
Looking around the gravestones, the varying characters of diggers from different countries was visible, along with the hardship faced during those times. The cemetery is among the quiet areas of the village, and gives a splendid view of the valley from above.
Joubert Bridge is a stone bridge across the Blyde River located at the entrance of the village. Mr Galetti, an Italian engineer built it in 1896, and it is named after Mr JS Joubert, the mining commissioner who inaugurated the bridge in 1897. It is still used, but traffic can go through only a single direction at one time.
The Catholic Church located in Downtown was built in the year 1928, in order to replace the church building of wattle and daub that Father Walsh had built. Father Walsh, an Irish priest came to Pilgrim's Rest during the year 1875 to form the former Transvaal's earliest Catholic Church.
The Methodist Church in Uptown was constructed in 1911. The Methodist minister started the first christening as well as wedding registers in the village in 1895. St Mary's Anglican Church, located at Uptown was constructed by volunteers in the year 1884. A storm caused severe damages to the building in 1891, and was roughly repaired. When the village was announced as a museum, the building was restored to its initial beauty through photographs and descriptions, and the original church bell is retained still. It is still a famous venue for weddings.
The Police Station that was built in the year 1902 is still the same. There is a Post Office Agency which houses its Post Office Museum. It is free for visitors, and brings an understanding of the quick development in the field of communication, over the past century. Various telegraph sounds that were used for Morse code telegrams are displayed. There is also the older manual telephone exchange that is used in Pilgrim's Rest village.
War Memorial and Oak Tree, a monument in Uptown is a memorial for the men of the village who lost their lives in the first and second World Wars. An acorn taken from Delville Wood, (one of the sites where most bloodshed took place during World War I) was planted beside the monument in 1965. Lowveld Memorial Order of Tin Hats or MOTHS presented six acorns, and only two of them survived.
Pilgrim's Rest had its first school in its Town Hall from 1903 to 1905. Later the building was extended and used as the town hall. An aperture in its back wall for using a projector shows that movies were regularly screened here.
The Masonic Lodge, formerly a private residence, also served the purpose of a hospital during Anglo-Boer from 1899 to 1902. It has been the venue for meetings of Blyde Lodge from 1905. Other museums in Pilgrim's Rest are Digging's Site Museum, Alanglade Period House and village museums.