Jeppestown

The Grand Station Hotel went up in flames on Friday evening, 2 August 2019 (main image courtesy of Eugene Ulman). This news reached the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation members at their AGM on the Saturday afternoon. Heritage  people gasped with shock, dismay and distress. The hotel was an icon of Johannesburg, it achieved the status of being Johannesburg’s oldest surviving hotel, although by the late 1980s it was no longer run as a hotel.

 

My maternal grandmother, Antonetta Elizabeth Cosslett, would have turned 100 on the 13th of December 2017. And it is this hypothetical centenary that has motivated me to record what I know about her. I am the third youngest of a very large brood of cousins on my mother’s side of the family, and only really came to know her in her last decade or two, so perhaps there is a sense of disconnection with history that I am trying to mend too.

Charles Thrupp arrived in South Africa from the United Kingdom in 1882 and made his way to King Williams Town to take up a job with a local wholesaler. As the gold fields of the Rand began to boom, the firm called on Thrupp to open and manage a store in Johannesburg. After a few years of solid trade, the branch hit hard times and had to close its doors in 1892. For most employees this would have meant looking for another job but Thrupp saw Johannesburg's potential and acquired the grocery side of the ailing business.

Five Jeppe men were prominent in the early history of the Transvaal and the Witwatersrand Gold fields. Three were brothers, two were the sons of the youngest brother.  Two played significant roles in state administration, two were entrepreneur-businessmen and one was a jurist. But by enunciating these men’s foundation careers, is to tell only part of the story, for they all pursued a myriad of interests, involvements and occupations. All appeared assuredly capable of operating in a broad professional and public arenas.

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