Randlords were the entrepreneurs who controlled the diamond and gold mining industries in South Africa in its pioneer phase from the 1870s up to World War I.

A small number of European adventurers and financiers, largely of the same generation, gained control of the diamond mining industry at Kimberley, Northern Cape. They set up an infrastructure of financing and industrial consolidation which they then applied to exploit the discoveries of gold from 1886 in Transvaal at Witwatersrand — the "Rand". Once based in the Transvaal, many set up residence in the mansions of Parktown.

Many of the Randlords received baronetcies in recognition of their contributions.

Notable RandlordsEdit

Industrial legacyEdit

Gold Production on the Witwatersrand
1898 to 1910[1]:134
Year No. of
Gold output
(fine ounces)
Value (GB£) Relative 2010 value
1898 77 4,295,608 £15,141,376 £6,910,000,000
1899 (Jan-Oct) 85 3,946,545 £14,046,686 £6,300,000,000
1899 (Nov- 1901 Apr) 12 574,043 £2,024,278 £908,000,000
1901 (May-Dec) 12 238,994 £1,014,687 £441,000,000
1902 45 1,690,100 £7,179,074 £3,090,000,000
1903 56 2,859,482 £12,146,307 £5,220,000,000
1904 62 3,658,241 £15,539,219 £6,640,000,000
1905 68 4,706,433 £19,991,658 £8,490,000,000
1906 66 5,559,534 £23,615,400 £9,890,000,000
1907 68 6,220,227 £26,421,837 £10,800,000,000
1908 74 6,782,538 £28,810,393 £11,700,000,000
1909 72 7,039,136 £29,900,359 £12,200,000,000
1910 63 7,228,311 £30,703,912 £12,400,000,000

As the first generation of Randlords died or retired, the next generation concentrated on the process of consolidation and corporatisation, developing the mining companies into integrated quoted companies. Cecil Rhodes's first round of diamond mine consolidation with De Beers Consolidated Mines was continued by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer (1880–1957) best represents this phase, with his strengthening of the market power of De Beers and his development from 1917 of the giant Anglo American mining company (whose gold interests are now held by AngloGold Ashanti. Other Johannesburg mining houses formed the basis of other corporate mining giants which still exist. For example: Porgès and Eckstein's "Corner House" became Randgold Resources; Rhodes's Consolidated Gold Fields became Gold Fields Limited; George and Leopold Albu's General Mining and Finance Corporation became Gencor; Barney Barnato's Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company or "Johnnies" became JCI Limited.

Philanthropy and cultural legacyEdit

The Randlords came largely from humble backgrounds, and many used their fortunes to elevate their position in society. A significant number overcame the prejudices against nouveaux-riches and Jews to gain entry to the English "establishment" and received knighthoods.[citation needed]

Their architectural patronage has left a legacy across South Africa and in England. In Johannesburg alone, structures such as the Randlord mansions on Parktown Ridge sprang up, many designed by Sir Herbert Baker. The Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert Park was championed by Florence Phillips, wife of Sir Lionel Phillips. Across the UK, many public collections and mansions bear witness to the wealth of the Randlords, including the Wernher Collection, formerly at Luton Hoo and now at Ranger's House.

Amongst many philanthropic ventures by Randlords, the Beit Trust established by Sir Alfred Beit built over 400 bridges in southern Africa;[3] the Rhodes Scholarships at the University of Oxford were endowed by Cecil Rhodes.

Other usesEdit

Randlord may also be used loosely as a term for any wealthy South African businessman. The phrase gained extra meaning when the currency of South Africa was renamed the rand in 1961.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Yap, Melanie; Leong Man, Dainne (1996). Colour, Confusion and Concessions: The History of the Chinese in South Africa. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. p. 510. ISBN 962-209-423-6.
  2. ^ Measuring Worth, Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount - average earnings, retrieved on the 27/01/2011
  3. ^ "HISTORY". www.beittrust.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-06-29.


Further readingEdit

  • Michael Stevenson – Art & Aspirations, the Randlords of South Africa and their Collections
  • Geoffrey Wheatcroft – The Randlords: The Men Who Made South Africa (Weidenfeld, 1985) ISBN 0-297-78437-4

External linksEdit