Cape Town

In the article below, Norah Henshilwood traces the early history of Claremont and reveals some of her memories of the suburb. The piece first appeared in the 1976 edition of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation, today the Heritage Association of South Africa. Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

In researching this article, it became evident that hardly any photographer active during the Anglo-Zulu War (AZW) period has been written about. In the majority of sources consulted, photographers also generally have not been acknowledged where their work was used – be that as photographers out in the field or studio based photographers. This may be a simple matter of us not being aware of who the photographers were in the majority of instances.

I was recently given four photographs of early 20th century Cape Town. They are all in sepia brown shades. The dimensions are 8.5 x 11.30 inches. The edges of the photos are in poor condition but the main scenes are clearly visible. I would love to date these photographs.

They are clearly from the photographic studio of TP Ravenscroft and the one of Sea Point has a stamp on the reverse TD Ravenscroft. 

 

Few visitors driving through Hout Bay on the way to Chapman’s Peak Drive will have failed to notice in the sea below the road a curious concrete and steel jetty - usually the resting place of a number of cormorants drying themselves in the sun! This marks the most immediately visible remnant of one of the Cape’s most remarkable early mining ventures, the Hout Bay manganese mine.

 

Strubenheim is a majestic historic mansion in Rosebank, Cape Town. It belonged to Harry Struben who, along with his brother Fred, played a crucial part in the story of the discovery of the largest goldfield on earth. Although they cannot claim to have discovered the Witwatersrand's main reef, it was their pioneering efforts on the Confidence Reef nearby that drew others to Langlaagte where the big discovery was made (click here for further details).

In 1996 Michael Scurr penned the following article on the restoration of the Old Cape Archives (today the Centre for the Book). It was published in Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. Thank you to the University of Pretoria and the Heritage Association of South Africa for giving us permission to publish.

In 1983 J. G. Brand, City Engineer of Cape Town, penned this brief article about Government Avenue, the oldest pedestrian thoroughfare in South Africa. The piece appeared in the 1983 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.  

The following article on the history and restoration of the landmark Martello tower in Simon's Town appeared in the September 1973 edition of Bulletin. Thank you to David Erickson from the Simon's Town Historical Society for providing many of the museum photographs. See comments section for more recent details on the Tower.

[Originally published in 2014] In the following powerful opinion piece Richard Bryant, Chairman of the Kommetjie Heritage Society, takes a critical look at some of the City of Cape Town's development policies and how they are impacting the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (World Heritage Site). He argues that not only is the Word Heritage Site at risk but people's lives and properties as well.

While paging through an old copy of Bulletin, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa), we came across this short but fascinating article on the origins the Chavonnes Battery. It was written by Mervyn Emms and was published in June 1975.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of the great South African adaptive reuse case studies. Below is an in depth article on the work conducted during the first phase of this landmark project (completed 1990/1). The piece appeared in the 1992 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

Lion Battery is a richly layered historical, social, architectural, aesthetic, scientific and technological landscape. The battery and its historical layering was influenced by significant international events. It is today the site from where Cape Town’s famous noon gun is fired from. Construction started in 1888 and was completed in 1890. By June 1890 both No. 1 and No. 2 emplacements were ready for the mounting of 9 inch RML Guns. All work was done by pick and shovel.

 

[Originally published in 2014] This is the last installment on the Robben Island Garrison Church. Just to recap. In January 2011 Robben Island Museum (RIM) had cash in and wanted to facelift the obvious visible parts of the main street before the proposed visit by World Heritage in February. As this series is about poor research this part really highlights the absolute value of good research. Good research and good observation on site is critical. The two should go hand in hand in a reiterative process.

[Originally published in 2014] The restoration had proceeded reasonably to a conclusion in November 2004 ready for handover from the contractor to the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Robben Island Museum (RIM). In July the tower and particularly the NE buttress had been partially stripped to the brick, re-plastered and painted. Six months later in early January 2005 the then Heritage Manager for Robben Island reported to SAHRA that the paint had started to blister in places on the tower. By February 2005 the paint had started peeling.

[Originally published in 2014] I ask some very simple questions when doing research and writing subsequent reports for restoration, renovation, repair or, maintenance on a heritage site. What, Where, When, Who, Why and How [the golden six]. I often find that the Why and How is missing or very brief when reports are written before and afterwards. This complicates things of course so reading between the lines becomes an art.

[Originally published in 2014] What happens when poor or no research is done when decisions are made for restoration, repair or maintenance to a heritage site is ably demonstrated by the history of the Garrison Church on Robben Island. For more than 150 years the church was and still is a landmark in the Village Precinct on the Island. In this series of articles I will track the restoration attempts over this period.

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