While the discovery of coal may have first put Newcastle on the map, the subsequent developments in industry continue to drive this famous town in KwaZulu-Natal.Ideally situated midway between Durban and Johannesburg, Newcastle was originally known as “Post Halt Two”, and was founded in 1897. The town is awash with military history and was used by the British as one of their terminals during both the first and second Anglo-Boer wars. Named after the British Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, the discovery of coal brought a new era of prosperity to what until then had been regarded as a small town, changing the face of the settlement forever. Although famous for its coal mines, industry now dominates the area. Today Newcastle is the largest producer of chrome chemicals in Africa.As with any town that has boomed, there has been a large amount of residential development in the area. Similarly, the commercial sector is set to grow dramatically with the news that construction on the Newcastle Mall costing R400m has begun. The first phase of the project will boast an area of 35,000sqm of commercial space. This is the first major regional shopping centre in the town and will feature a large number of well-known anchor tenants. Residential sales in the area have dropped quite dramatically over the past few years, due mainly to the recession and consequent fallout in the property market. The latest statistics released by Lightstone indicate that four sectional title units priced below R400 000 have been sold during the last 12 months. Similarly four units priced between R400 000 and R800 000 were transferred in the same period.Freehold properties appear to be a far more popular choice with buyers. Sales recorded in the last 12 months indicate that three sales for property priced under the R400 000 mark were sold. There were nine sales of residential property priced between R400 000 to R800 000, while eight transfers took place on properties priced between R800 000 to R1.5m. The high end of the market with properties valued between R1.5m and R3m saw a total of three transactions.The area is home to a number of highly-regarded schools including Ferrum High School that hosts the famous Newcastle Brass Band and the Northern KwaZulu-Natal Youth Choir. Newcastle High School and St Dominic’s Academy are housed in buildings that have been declared National Monuments.Battlefields in the area include Laing’s Nek, which witnessed one of the largest victories for the South African Republic fighting in the first Anglo-Boer war and which still attracts a large number of visitors and tour groups.
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