Settlers from Northern Germany came into Natal in two main groups. The first to arrive was a group contracted to the Natal Cotton Company. This was a company established by Jonas Bergtheil, who had come from Germany in 1843 scouting for business opportunities in the region. He found one when he noticed cotton being grown.
In the article below, Dr J. Pringle tells the inspiring story of the preservation of the St Johns Presbyterian Church clock in Pietermaritzburg. The piece was first published in the 1980 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 history around photography and photographers active in South Africa during the mid-1880s to early 1910s remains a vastly untapped field of research.
In the article below, journalist Lucille Davie recounts the fascinating story behind Nelson Mandela's capture near Howick in the early 1960s. The piece was originally published on the Brand South Africa website on 2 July 2013. Click here to view more of Davie's writing.
Nelson Mandela’s head rises dramatically from the ground on a small plot outside the village of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. His face is sculpted in 50 thin steel columns, marking the spot where he was arrested in 1962.
The old Durban Railway Station is a much-loved landmark that plays a key role in Durban's tourism offering. It is hard to imagine there was a time when the powers that be planned to demolish the structure and redevelop the site. The article below which appeared in the Sunday Tribune on 10 October 1976, begins by describing the threat to the building and then highlights its architectural and historical significance. Thankfully the façade of the building was saved with a new office building built behind.
My five older siblings had all been to missionary schools and turned out exceptionally well. My parents probably chose Inanda because of the school’s reputation and the fact that family friends had sent their children there, so I would have older friends to look after me.
The short article below, written by an unknown author, tells the story of the restoration of the Old Ireland Building (Edgars) on Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. The piece appeared in the 1979 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.
As a callow teenager, Joseph Kirkman left an indelible mark on the annals of early Natal history. He is remembered for his efforts in assisting the American missionaries to establish a bridgehead in Zululand and his subsequent heroic exploits in assisting the evacuation of those missionaries following the turbulence consequent on the Retief massacre.
About four years ago I popped into the premises of Cannon & Cannon (auctioneers in Hilton) and, whilst looking around for nothing in particular, came upon a rather battered, leather covered box on which was embossed, if you looked very carefully, ‘His Excellency The Governor’. I asked the attendant if they had a key to the box and was told that they did but were having difficulty in opening it but duly handed it over. After several attempts, I found that if you pushed the key, turned it and then turned it back on itself again, the lock opened.
German missionaries and colonists left their mark in the form of churches along the northern border of KwaZulu-Natal. These were mainly the missionaries sent out by the Hermannsburg Mission Society (HMS), who entered Natal from the 1850s onward. Missionary work amongst the Zulus was their predominant aim. Later they spread out to the Transvaal.
In the article below, Lucille Davie unpacks the story of Kirti Menon, activist, educator and great granddaughter of Gandhi. Davie is a researcher, writer and passionate Joburger. Click here to view more of her work.
Main Pic: Kirti (centre) with her brother Satish and sister Uma, at Phoenix
In the brief article below, Arthur Bowland digs into the history of Durban's old Toll House and describes how it was 'rediscovered' in Kloof in the 1970s when many believed it had been lost forever. At the end of the article, Bowland talks about the 'shifting' of the house. Here's hoping it is still in existence somewhere. If any enthusiasts on the ground have current information please add details in the comments section below the article.
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.
We found the following article by B.I. Spaanderman in the 1991 edition of the old Johannesburg Historical Foundation's journal Between the Chains. It looks at a number of South African mills with a particular focus on Millbank, the closest to Johannesburg.
An ongoing task for heritage enthusiasts, history teachers, parents and others is to get young people excited about history and heritage. While browsing through the 1982 edition of Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa), we found a wonderful piece by Dr Ruth E Gordon on this matter. Her advice is still as relevant today as it was then. These days we have a spectrum of technological innovations to help us in this endeavour. We loved the letter from Claire Thompson by the way.
A few years ago we were involved in a battle to save historic Nedbank documents that were being thrown away by the company. For a while the future of the documents looked bleak but thankfully the story had a happy ending when top Nedbank executives got involved. The documents were moved to the Sandton head office and the execs committed to hire an archivist to go through the collection. The execs also committed to let the community know what was found and what would then be done with the documents.*
We are very grateful to Fred Smith for submitting this fantastic description of 'The Laurels' (Weston Street, Mooi River). The historic home and its magnificent garden are an integral part of the heritage of the area. [Originally published in 2013]
Toward the end of last year, team members at Africa Media Online were excited to take delivery of a brand new Phase One XF camerawith an 80-Megapixel CCD digital back. For some years now we have been looking for a more versatile high end medium format camera technology to boost our scanning capability.
A few years ago a wonderful collection of old documents was found in the basement of a Johannesburg inner city building while the tenant (Nedbank) was moving out. One of the boxes we looked at contained details of Nedbank's 50th anniversary celebrations (circa 1938). It was here we found a remarkable set of images of a few Town / City Halls around the country. It appears as though the photographs were taken in the late 1930s. Enjoy...
The Old Court House Museum is one the oldest buildings in the Durban CBD. It was built in the mid 1860s and has seen its fair share of history as revealed in the following fascinating article by G.W. MacDonald. The article first appeared in Bulletin, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa).