Blue Plaques

On Saturday 3rd August 2019 I delivered a talk to members of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation entitled ‘Blue Plaques - Heritage History and Blue Lining our City.’ The Heritage Portal has had requests for at least some of the “take-aways” from this talk to help guide other South African heritage bodies. I will be delivering a talk on blue plaques in October at the HASA conference in Tulbagh. Meanwhile let’s skim over the subject of blue plaques and their possibilities.

 

In the short article below, an unknown author explores a few blue plaques in Cape Town including one commemorating Herbert Baker's last building in South Africa. The piece appeared in the 1978 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. today the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

7th November 2017 is the centenary of the Russian Revolution but also of the birth of one of South Africa’s greatest 20th century daughters, Helen Suzman. On Friday 3rd November a small group of Johannesburg citizens and family members of the Suzman clan gathered to remember and pay tribute to Helen Suzman, with the unveiling of a blue plaque on the pavement at 13 Eton Road Parktown. The plaque was unveiled by Helen’s daughters, Frances and Patricia (Francie and Patty).

Over the years I have photographed hundreds of plaques in South Africa and beyond. Most are easy to find as they are well documented and placed within easy view. Some, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky. Below is my list of five sneaky blue plaques...

1) Charles and Isabelle Lipp

Most Joburg citizens have some direct experience of the scourge of illegal dumping. Across the city, vacant pieces of land, once beautiful parks and even heritage sites are used by dumpers. Catching the culprits is difficult, cleaning up the mess is expensive and the negative effects on health, the environment and heritage preservation are massive.

On 5 April 2017, Keith Martin, who heads up the heritage community in Modderfontein, unveiled the first two heritage plaques to be erected in the area. This was done in conjunction with the Thornhill Homeowners Association and under the auspices of Joburg Heritage. The plaques are positioned at significant sites within Thornhill Estate.

One site commemorates the first granite rocks to be quarried at Modderfontein. These are located on a specially built platform at 8 Brussels Ave.

 

For many years, members of the heritage community have been talking about establishing guidelines for the blue plaque world. For a variety of reasons none have yet been set but renewed efforts appear to be emerging in Johannesburg. To aid the discussion we thought it would be helpful to publish the results of a survey we conducted during February and March 2014. 

[Originally published 11 March 2013] On Saturday 9th March the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation had a walking tour around Fordsburg looking at heritage buildings and talking of the dramatic history. At 3.30 pm the group reached the historic Fordsburg Square where a plaque was unveiled recording the final battle of the 1922 Strike which took place in the Square. Dino Badroodin, proprietor of The Train on the Square, and Flo Bird of the JHF unveiled the plaque as shown in the photograph above.

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