Johannesburg

In the article below, gold expert Neil Phillips looks at the origins, growth & decline of the greatest goldfield on earth. He also hints at hopes of new discoveries. The article was first published in the The Australian Geologist, issue 200, page 21.

September is Heritage Month but it is a downer when the news comes through that the museum and heritage site Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia has closed its doors permanently. The news of closure announced by the CEO and founder of the Liliesleaf Trust, Nic Wolpe, son of Harold Wolpe, comes as a surprise.

I appear as a man 
starting another story

I’m accelerating along the M2 West
heading for the Vaal
I’m gently swaying and clacking over 
the Fordsburg viaduct on the Trans Karroo
I’m on the R21 to OR Tambo 
for my Cape Town flight  

A migrant between the book ends of
my life; Johannesburg the library

Egoli, we grew up together, 
learned to love one another 
about you 
I waxed loquacious 
I was your scribe
delivered multiple tellings 

I have wondered for a while who the man behind the sauve and dashing whatsapp photo is. So, I called coffee, and discovered that heritage architect Brian McKechnie is a down-to-earth, relaxed bloke, passionate about the gracious old buildings in the city and still invested in one of them, Anstey’s in Joubert Street. He laughs when I ask about the photo, saying he was asked to model for Meghan McCabe, who needed images for her photography portfolio.

 

I would like to pay tribute to Clive Scott who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 84. He was a much loved and talented actor who performed on the stage and television during a long career. My tribute takes the form of writing about Dykeneuk, exploring the architect and the context of the grand home. Scott was Clive's professional name; his real name was Clive Cleghorn and he was married to Margie Cleghorn for over 50 years. Dykeneuk has been the Cleghorn home since 1982. It is one of those special heritage gems of Johannesburg.

The response below was prepared by Wynand Dreyer PrEng, on behalf of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, to the process initiated in September 2020, by the Transformation and Spatial Planning Unit of the City of Johannesburg, towards the review and update of the Spatial Development Framework 2040 (SDF).  The commentary deals with best practice and the requirements that legislation imposes on authorities, including the responsibility of the City to compile an inventory of its heritage resources, talks to practical steps required to give effect to the SDF and

The article below forms part of a larger piece by Kathy Munro on the Dix House in Kensington. Click here to read.

Langermann and the development of Kensington

Research into Herbert Baker’s domestic architecture in Johannesburg led me to return to Doreen Greig’s excellent book Herbert Baker in South Africa. Appendix B lists Herbert Baker’s projects and a house in Yeoville at 10 Yeo Street designed in 1910 under the names of Baker and Masey for Mrs G B Given-Wilson is listed. It belongs in the body of work labelled the “Transvaal houses” of Herbert Baker.

Harking back to Johannesburg's first gold mining boom, a rare stamp battery has been revived by a specialist restoration project. The centrepiece of an open-air mining display in central Johannesburg, this massive piece of mining machinery can be seen standing tall at the corner of Hollard and Main Street.

 

At age 6, while riding on the top deck of a bus to the German school I attended in Edith Cavell Street, Hillbrow, I noticed a white cylindrical post with black vane on the east side of Oxford Road just after crossing Glenhove Road.  I asked my older sister and father what it could be but they had no idea. Although seeing it daily intrigued me then, I thought no more of it and, in time, forgot about it after our family had moved premises.

The township of Parkmore was established in 1904 – making it one of the oldest northern suburbs in the Johannesburg Metro. Parkmore was proclaimed in the aftermath of the South African War (1899-1902). The ending of hostilities brought with it the expectation of economic stability and a rise in property prices in what had become the British colony of the Transvaal.

 

This article is about William English, (1875-1915), a miner originally from the North-East of England who through hard work became a mining engineer in the gold mines of South Africa. It is based on the website williamenglish.net which includes his journal, poems and additional commentary. Creating the website has been a project for William’s descendants, Hilary Norris and Larry Cunningham.

Just prior to the outbreak of the Boer War, the small mining and railway village of Hattingspruit, only a few kilometres north of Dundee, grabbed some reflected limelight. This was due to the incredible physical exertion of 7 000 Zulu workers who walked from the Witwatersrand Goldfields back to their homes in Zululand.

The South African Constitution of 1996 introduced new forms of local government and radically changed the map of governance structures throughout the country. As has been the case since 1910, the central and provincial governments play a controlling role. However, at a local level – towns, cities and even townships and suburbs – remain arenas in which citizens are empowered to make their voices heard directly, as happens almost daily with street protests about inadequate service delivery.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie describes one of Joburg's hidden gems, the camera obscura at Museum Africa. She also delves into the significance of the Bensusan Collection held by the museum. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on the 14 February 2006Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Did you know that there’s a periscope on the top of the Museum Africa building, looking down on the goings-on of Newtown?

Rosendal is a townhouse complex in the heart of Rosebank, designed by the Johannesburg architect, Michael Sutton, in 1988. With only 16 units in two rows of semi-detached double storey houses, the complex is quintessentially understated. It nonetheless represents a significant contribution to the architectural heritage of Johannesburg, being both a refined example of Sutton’s townhouse typology, and also an elegant synthesis of a South African style and postmodernism.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reveals the story of Dee Mashinini and his family's painful experiences in the aftermath of the June 16th uprisings. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on the 22 May 2007Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Life in exile for the teenagers who survived 16 June 1976 was hard. Some left their homes at 15, adrift in a strange country and without emotional support.

It is with regret that I inform the heritage community of Johannesburg that a special Robert Howden house has been demolished. No application for demolition was received by the Joint Plans Committee East of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and it would appear that an application for demolition was neither received nor approved by the Provincial Heritage Resources Agency of Gauteng (PHRAG).

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie reports on the illegal demolition of structures at Brixton and Braamfontein cemeteries. The piece was first published on the City of Joburg's website on 2 June 2011Click here to view more of Davie's work.

In mid-April 2011 two heritage buildings were illegally demolished in the city’s oldest cemeteries, Braamfontein and Brixton, resulting in a charge being laid with the police.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie uncovers some wonderful Joburg history. Read on for some of the city's fascinating 'firsts'.  The piece was first published on 24 November 2003Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Johannesburg is a modern city in every sense – tall skyscrapers, a complex network of freeways, a bustling metropolis of industry and commerce, and a hub to which people are drawn.

 

When Johannesburg’s august Mayor, Harry Graumann (later Sir Harry), welcomed the Duke and Duchess of Connaught on 28 November 1910 he presented the Royal couple – who had come to South Africa to open the first Union Parliament – with a lavish commemorative book. This described the Town Engineer’s duties in terms of roads, parks, gas, electricity provision and other grand projects, but there was not a word about sewage, such were the Edwardian sensitivities to this delicate subject.

Clive Chipkin passed away peacefully on January 10th 2021 in Johannesburg, aged 91. Clive was born on 21st March 1929 in Johannesburg, the city he made his own. He was an extraordinary person who lived a rich and full life and meant much to friends and colleagues in the heritage and architecture communities.

2013 Award of an Honorary D Arch

Approaching from “Old Melville” (Seventh Street), along Fourth Avenue, we cross Main Road, (which I think used to be called “the Muldersdrift Road”), where we find today a shopping centre, with a public swimming pool hidden somewhere in its bowels. This was where the Municipal Swimming Pool used to lie. The existing pool (pictured above and below) cannot meaningfully be compared to the wonderful facility that existed 50 years ago.

 

On a recent visit to the Resource Centre of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation at the Holy Family College, Oxford Road, Johannesburg, a new acquisition was on display, namely a brass name plate from the architectural firm “Kallenbach, Kennedy and Furner ARIBA  Architects“. The brass plaque had been donated to JHF by Ronald Sutherland of Durban.

 

The ice-cream cart or tricycle is not a new idea and goes back to the 1920s and to Mr Wall and Sons of London. They owned a butcher’s shop but the pies they made were only popular in winter. They got the idea to make ice-cream to use factory capacity during the summer months so they didn’t have to lay off workers when no-one wanted to eat hot pies. The First World War got in the way of their aspirations, but when finally launched Wall’s ice-cream, sold from ice-cream carts, the product was an instant success.

In all I have read about the Witwatersrand I have not come to know precisely when and by whom the name was coined. I am hoping that members of The Heritage Portal can throw some light on the subject, and also reflect on the reason for the given name.

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie sits down with the epic storyteller, Chris van Wyk. The piece was originally published on the City of Joburg's website on 4 August 2004. Chris van Wyk passed away on 3 October 2014.

Writer and poet Chris van Wyk says he loves to skinder - “I skinder more than most women.” And that skinder or gossip accounts for a large part of his success as a writer.

In 1896 Johannesburg had reached its tenth birthday. The astounding growth of the town in its first decade meant that the authorities (at that stage It was the Johannesburg Gezondheids Comite or the Sanitary Board / Committee) wanted to know about the population of the town, its origins, location, composition, religions, local industries and occupations.

The Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has around 12 000 items in its stores, with a strong southern African ethnographic collection of beadwork, drums, headrests, wooden sculpture, ceremonial and fighting sticks, dolls, masks, basketry, sculpture, wirework and textiles. The WAM collection contains many fertility ‘dolls’ from southern African cultures, and has 58 items which are named as ‘dolls’ made by Ndebele or the closely related Ntwane group.

Marian Laserson (nee Spilkin) architect, town planner, champion of wetlands and heritage campaigner passed away on 10 July at the Morningside Clinic of the Covid-19 Virus.

In July 1964 an International Congress of Surgeons was held at the Wits Medical School in Johannesburg. It was well attended by Surgeons from all over the world including South Africa.

At the time, I was a Registrar (a Surgeon in training and studying for a higher qualification) working in the Professorial Unit of the Johannesburg General Hospital just across the road from the Conference. It was a late Friday afternoon – July 24th 1964.

Having graduated with the double Bachelor's degree MB Bch in 1959 after 6 years of study, I was now a brand-new Doctor.

The Medical training program at the time called for 2 more years of practical work under supervision, in a teaching hospital of one's choice before being officially qualified to practice. This was a bit like an Apprenticeship but called an Internship. Ironically we were not called Interns but Housemen or House Surgeons.

Which of our city’s architectural treasures don’t receive the credit they deserve? During lockdown we explored Joburg’s most underrated historic buildings on our Instagram and Facebook pages, and we’re happy to share them here too! 

EBay has on sale a medal to commemorate the declaration of Johannesburg as a city in 1928. I was immediately intrigued. I have never seen one of these medals but I am not a collector of such items. An internet search reveals that this medal is not regarded as rare but that prices fluctuate from as little as R45 to about $10 to as much as £18. It is a bronze medal.

 

In 1920, St John’s College was still in its infancy. The school had been established in 1898 as a parish school of St Mary’s Anglican Church in downtown Johannesburg. Soon afterwards, the social upheaval caused by the Anglo-Boer South African War (1899-1902) – including the evacuation of many civilians from Johannesburg and the deportation of the school’s headmaster by the Boer authorities – had necessitated the closure of the school for some eighteen months.

Contrary to popular belief, the ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic of 1918 (which is thought to have caused as many as 50 million deaths globally) did not originate in Spain. Historians and epidemiologists are uncertain about the origins of the disease, which killed more people than had perished in the First World War, which was in its final phase when the pandemic struck. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins and spread of the 1918 flu. For example, it has been posited that the disease originated in military camps in France, the United Kingdom o

Herbert Maurice John Prins, distinguished architect, professional conservation and heritage architect and practitioner passed away on Wednesday, 15th April 2020, just 12 days short of his 93rd birthday. His was a long, rich and remarkably productive life. Herbert was a role model in his work and ongoing commitment to the heritage of Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa until just a couple of months before his death. It was a joy to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2017. His professional career extended over 72 years - surely a record.

The military art collection of the Ditsong National Museum of Military History includes a watercolour entitled, “HMS Kelvin – D-Day +6” by Francis Flint. The painting is noteworthy in that it portrays three important personalities of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) – Sir Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom); Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (Chief of the Imperial General Staff) and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts (Prime Minster of the Union of South Africa).

In the Curator’s Choice display of edged weaponry at the Ditsong National Museum of Military History, are Chinese double or paired swords from the early 19th Century. The swords are decorated with dragons that have five claws symbolising high rank. The museum’s Chinese paired swords may have belonged to either a Prince of the first rank or qinwang (Prince of the Blood) or a Prince of the second rank or junwang (Prince of the Commandery). 

We have two mulberry trees in our garden but I shall concentrate on one. The fact that the are two mulberry trees is an early indication that the mulberry tree readily seeds, saplings shoot and a new tree roots itself. Officially the mulberry belongs to the Moraceae family.

Today I browsed my recipe book collection and randomly pulled out a thin paper cover recipe book called The Caltex Recipe Collection (published in about 1983 by Caltex). The book is a compilation of recipes from the Caltex Recipe Calendar series over the period 1979 to 1982.

 

This tree is one of those eternal landmarks of my front garden. It creates shade and one can mark the seasons by the performance of the tree, whether it's the berries on the ground in autumn or the lilac flowers on the tree (spring) which then drop their small flowers in light off-white profusion (autumn). The falling blossoms create a floral carpet on the lawn. The flowers appear in the spring and have a light scent but by this time of the year (late March) have given way to the berry fruit.

This piece was written on Day 1 of our 21 day stay home in the fight against the Corona virus. I have decided to try to learn something new about our garden and home and to share my writing with Heritage Portal readers during this time of quiet introspection and anxiety. We may discover that the small things within our own multiple worlds matter more than the large events beyond our control.

A 1:48 scale model of the Type VIIC German U-boat “U-96” was donated to the Museum in September 2019. The model is a true representation of the original submarine used in the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and was constructed by the donor, Mr Brian Echstein (see image above).

The Importance of the Donation

You may have noticed a quaint stone wall with two decrepit wooden gates on Louis Botha Avenue between Acorn Lane and Death Bend. Or perhaps the row of magnificent plane trees just behind the wall caught your attention as you navigated this most notorious of Joburg roads. If you were brought to a stop in traffic, you may have even looked beyond the wall and the trees and seen an imposing double storey property in the distance, and wondered how it came to be built here.

 

The Stations of the Cross Sculptures in the St Andrew’s School for Girls’ Chapel were a donation from the Matric Class of 1978. The fourteen sculptures depict events in the Passion of Christ, from His condemnation to death to His entombment. Prayerful meditation using the Stations of the Cross through the period of Lent is traditional in many Christian churches.

The sculptures were originally in the Nuns’ Chapel of the Kensington Sanatorium, built in 1897.

 

I was very sad to learn of the passing of the architect Robin Fee a few days ago and especially sorry that I had not expressed to him in his lifetime my thanks for his role in the conservation of Joburg’s heritage.
 
I would like to pay tribute to Robin Fee for two extraordinary instances where he put Johannesburg’s old buildings above any profit he or his firm could make if they had upheld their clients’ demands for demolition.
 

We are honoured to publish a portion of the St David's Jubilee Book 'A Courageous Journey' revealing the fascinating early history of this well known Johannesburg school. Unless otherwise stated all photos are from the book. Copies of 'A Courageous Journey' can be ordered from Julie Egenrieder, researcher/archivist at St David's - egenriederj@STDavids.co.za.

During the reign of Queen Victoria the then British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once told the House of Commons, ‘More men have been knocked off balance by gold than by love” but to be fair to the man he also said on another occasion “We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end”.

I found Mike Alfred's article about Jonathan and Geoff Klass absolutely fascinating as I have known Collectors Treasury and the Klass Brothers from the time they started up in business at what we now known as 44 Stanley Avenue (click here to read the article). Those were the days when for a young collector recently returned to Johannesburg there were wonderful book bargains and a great shared joy in finding good books. I have watched the business grow to the pre

Lesley and I first met Helen at a party, when some woman with wild hair and very red lips rushed up to us and informed us that we would be buying a copy of her book and that she would be delivering it to our house that next day and that the price would be R50. At that stage I was still a student and her price took a fairly large chunk out of our savings, and for many years thereafter it remained the single, most expensive book on our bookshelves. As I soon came to realise, Helen Aron took no prisoners, and let no grass grow beneath her feet.
 

On the 14th of December 2019, Sydney, Australia, opened a new light-rail tram service between the CBD and Randwick which is to the south-east of the City. There is also another service to the south-west of the City which has been in operation for some years. The new service goes right past the famous Sydney Cricket Ground and the Royal Randwick Racecourse.

 I rode the full length of the new line recently and it is the trams themselves that I want to comment on.

Heritage activists have reported that the Rotunda in downtown Johannesburg is being vandalised. The iconic roof is being stripped and if action is not taken soon the condition of the building will deteriorate rapidly. Passionate enthusiasts are trying to get the owners (PRASA) to allocate more security to the site.

 

The author and poet Mike Alfred followed up his book Johannesburg Portraits: From Lionel Phillips to Sibongile Khumalo (Jacana, 2003) with a second series of writing about contemporary Johannesburg people a few years later. In a series of interviews and reflections Alfred captured the pen portraits of people who he encountered in Johannesburg, people who made a difference to and who had an impact on the kaleidoscope of Johannesburg in the first decade of the 21st century. Mike’s book is about their lives, their achievements and their relationship with th

In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie takes a journey around Lindfield House, one of Joburg's unique historic attractions. The piece was first published on the City of Johannesburg's website on 19 January 2011Click here to view more of Davie's work.

Back in Victorian times the wealthy didn’t mess with security: they posted an armed guard, in the form of the footman, to sleep where the silverware was stashed - in the butler’s pantry.

I snapped the image above from the Station Street entrance of the Braamfontein East Campus  - exiting the Wits gates. Photo taken on Sunday 17th November 2019. It reminded me of how much of a city university Wits is and how layered the city is in the buildings around us. 
 
In the foreground are the old corrugated iron semi-detached workers cottages (now the Performing Arts Administration of Wits’ School of Arts). This was once a home of an artisan - we know they were here as artisan’s residences of turn of the 20th century Braamfontein. 
 

In a test of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s reputation and approval rating in South Africa, a motion to remove the name and statue of the Indian leader from the city centre was debated in recent weeks by the Johannesburg City Council, the country’s largest municipality. The motion called for the removal of the bronze statue at Gandhi Square — sculpted by Tinka Christopher, it depicts Gandhi as a young activist lawyer in his legal gown — and the re-naming of the site after Sophie de Bruyn, a well-known anti-apartheid activist.

Saturday 5 October 2019 was a heritage cum book day of note at the library complex to be found at Solomon Street. The weekend offered booklovers the annual City Library book sale spread over two days, hosted by the Friends of the Johannesburg Public Libraries and the Johannesburg Library and information services.
 

No. 43 St David’s Road had a modest start, being built for one Edwin Hawkes in 1908 at the time of the gold rush. The architect is believed to be Robert Howden who was known for being a Classic revivalist and whose work shows a Beaux-Arts approach. Hawkes sold it to Julius Wertheim sometime around 1915. Wertheim was a solicitor and notary and was very much involved in the community (an attribute which seems to have rubbed off on the present owner). No.

Last month I attended the opening of the new photographic exhibition at Museum Africa: The Gift of Seeing History – The Legacy of Dr Arthur David Bensusan. The exhibition commemorates the 51st anniversary of the establishment of the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography. The exhibition runs until 21st September and has been curated by Ms Dudu Madonsela of Museum Africa.

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.

 

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.

 

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