Colonial Commissioners arrived in New Rush on 17 November 1871 to exercise authority over the territory on behalf of the Cape Governor and by Proclamation dated 5 July 1873, New Rush/ Vooruitzigt was named Kimberley after then Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Kimberley.
Kimberley was the initial hub of industrialisation in South Africa in the late nineteenth century, which transformed the country’s agrarian economy into one more dependent on its mineral wealth. A key feature of the new economic arrangement was migrant labour, with the demand for African labour in the mines of Kimberley (and later on the gold fields) drawing workers in growing numbers from throughout the subcontinent. The labour compound system developed in Kimberley from the 1880s was later replicated on the gold mines and elsewhere.
The city housed South Africa’s first stock exchange, the Kimberley Royal Stock Exchange, which opened on 2 February 1881.
The rising importance of Kimberley led to one of the earliest South African and International Exhibitions to be staged in Kimberley in 1892, It presented exhibits of art, an exhibition of paintings from the royal collection of Queen Victoria and mining machinery and implements amongst other items.
South Africa’s first school of mines was opened here in 1896 and later relocated to Johannesburg, becoming the core of the University of the Witwatersrand. A Pretoria campus later became the University of Pretoria. In fact the first two years were attended at colleges elsewhere, in Cape Town, Grahamstown or Stellenbosch, the third year in Kimberley and the fourth year in Johannesburg. Buildings were constructed against a total cost of 9,000 pounds with De Beers contributing on a pound for pound basis.
South Africa’s first school of aviation, to train pilots for the proposed South African Aviation Corps (SAAC), was established in Kimberley in 1913. Known as Paterson’s Aviation Syndicate School of Flying, it is commemorated in the Pioneers of Aviation Museum (and replica of the first Compton Patterson Biplane preserved there), situated near to Kimberley airport. In the 1930s Kimberley boasted the best night-landing facilities on the continent of Africa. A major air rally was hosted there in 1934. In the war years Kimberley Airport was commandeered by the Union Defence Force and run by the 21 Flying School for the training of fighter pilots.
Work on connecting Kimberley by rail to the cities along the Cape Colony‘s coastline began in 1872 .The railway line from Cape Town to Kimberley was completed in 1885, accelerating the transport of both passengers and goods.The railway connected Kimberley with cheaper sources of grain and other products, as well as supplies of coal, so that one of its local impacts was to undercut (mainly African) trade in fresh produce and firewood. The railway reticulation eventually would link Kimberley with Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein in later years. The railway reticulation eventually would link Kimberley with Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Durban and Bloemfontein. The major junction at De Aar in the Karoo linked early twentieth century lines to Upington (later to Namibia) and to Calvinia. From the 1990s there was a decline in the use of the railways.
Robert Sobukwe started the first black-owned law practice firm in No.2 (Ghetto) a township in the suburb of Galeshewe in 1975 after serving a 9 year jail term for incitement, he was banished to Kimberley under a law called “Sobukwe Clause”which kept him exile here in Kimberley.