Western Cape

In 2020 Arderne Gardens turned 175. This wonderful, 4.5 hectare arboretum in Claremont, Cape Town, is filled with trees of great girth and height, together with plants from all over the world, some over 100 years old. For many decades wedding parties have posed for photographs under the great Moreton Bay Fig with its enormous surface root system spreading in all directions like a nest of huge Boa Constrictors. This mighty tree is known throughout Cape Town as The Wedding Tree. The Gardens are a picnickers’ paradise.

Hermanus, everyone agrees, is a seaside town. The names tell you that: the Old Harbour, the New Harbour, Voelklip Beach, Harbour Road, Poole's Bay, Kwaaiwater, the Klein River and Onrus lagoons – the list goes on.

In raising this issue I wish to point out that many attempts by both De Rust Heritage and the Joint Heritage Permit Committee in Oudtshoorn comprising Heritage Oudtshoorn Erfenis and the De Rust Heritage Conservation Association have largely proved unsuccessful in getting the Greater Oudtshoorn Municipality to prosecute guilty parties over a number of years.

102 years ago, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” arrived in South Africa, there was no national health department, and no official guidance on what to do. By mid-October the death rate was so high that town councils decided to close cinemas and schools. Some schools, such as Benoni Central School, Vogelfontein school in Boksburg, and the Springs government school were converted into emergency hospitals to treat the overflow of patients who could not be accommodated in official hospitals.

I had the privilege of attending a memorial gathering for Gawie Fagan at his world-famous house DIE ES, designed by Gawie and built by the family. When the Drakenstein Heritage Foundation visited their house last year we were treated to a humorous and eloquent account of the circumstances and details of the building of Die Es by his daughter Helena. There Tom Robertson, a junior architect in Gawie’s practice in the 70’s, paid moving tribute to this great Architect on our behalf.

 

On my visits to Cape Town, I often find myself drawn to this attractive little stone church and attendant graveyard situated on the little knoll above Main Street, Rondebosch. It is hard to explain my interest. It is not because of devoutness, since I am not very religious. It may well be due to the association of this church with two of the Cape Colony’s important official appointments: the first Surveyor General and the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town.

Memorials in the modern era have sometimes taken on different aspects, because public opinion has moved from the original lionisation as more awareness has been given to differing opinions and views.

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.

With the demise of so many magazines during the Covid-19 pandemic, it brought to mind one which sadly disappeared a decade ago this month, Village Life.

Beginning life (sorry) as a community newspaper in Stanford in the Cape, it quickly expanded to the surrounding towns, then the Overberg region, when Annalize and Maré Mouton took over. It subsequently became a very respected and useful glossy magazine.

 

JC Smuts was born on the farm Bovenplaats, part of Ongegund near Riebeek West, in the then Cape Colony, and what is now the Western Cape, to parents Jacobus Abraham and Catharina Petronella (nee de Vries) on 24 May 1870.

 

William Froude was born on 28 November 1810, in Dartington, Devon in the South West of England. After graduating from Oxford University he worked with Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a railway engineer and was responsible for several innovations. He was what today would be called a “lateral thinker”, but with a rigid scientific approach.

Although Cape Town has had a port for hundreds of years, it has never been a port city like, for example, Istanbul. It was started as a result of human necessity by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th Century as a half-way house and watering hole on the long voyage to India. However, by the fifties, the richer, mostly white population had moved away from the exfoliating atmosphere of tar and sea- winds of the docklands and made for the more salubrious suburbs with their welter of lush green lawns and stench of privilege.

We are used, now, to the rugby players of Western Province and the Stormers visiting Hermanus for training at the start of the annual competitions. Like any other sporting codes coming to our town to exercise and train, they bring revenue into many businesses and boost the image of health, outdoors and ‘clean air’ that attracts many other tourists as well. 

Around the town stone age tools are found on the disturbed, agricultural lands, and more so alongside the Diep River and streams, telling us of human occupation over many millions of years.

The San also left evidence, in paintings on nearby Kasteelberg, and even though a transhumant people, the Khoekhoe too left similar indications of their presence. In today’s aware world, these people altered the environment little and must be considered to have had a balanced existence.

 

This photograph has been in my wife’s Goles family since it was taken by Ravenscroft in about 1919 (click here to read more about Ravenscroft). Standing in the doorway of the Olympia Café is my wife’s Greek grandfather Athos (Arthur) Goles – who owned and ran it from the day it opened. To the right is the Olympia Picture Palace the then new bioscope that, as can be seen, is advertising the film The Vigilantes released in the USA in 1918.

Between 1910 and 1943, five “Governors-General” represented the British reigning monarch in South Africa. Each Governor-General played the role of the personal representative of the British King, while the “High Commissioner” interacted with the South African government on political, economic and diplomatic issues. 

One of the obvious features of Hermanus history is the large number of famous and well-known people who visited the town during the 20th century. Some came only once, for instance the internationally known English woman pilot, Amy Johnson, who rested for a few days at the Marine after her record-breaking solo flight from London in the 1930s.

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