Western Cape

There is an American saying, “You can’t fight City Hall and win!” There is also an ancient legend of a pipe-smoking pirate named Jan Van Hunks who challenged a sinister stranger to a pipe smoking competition on the slopes of Table Mountain. They smoked for days until the stranger gave in and Van Hunks was still puffing. At this point Van Hunks saw the cloven hooves and realised that his competitor was none other than the Devil himself. The angry devil incinerated Van Hunks and they both disappeared but left their smoke.

The Cape Government Railway (CGR) from Cape Town was opened to Matjesfontein (192 miles 66 chains. Altitude 2966 feet) on 1 February 1878. From Matjiesfontein [today’s spelling] the alignment followed the course of the Bobbejaan River eastwards. The next passing loop was Whitehill (199 miles 27 chains. Altitude 2715 feet).

Exploitable manganese deposits in the Cape Peninsular were known from around the late 1670s, and indeed many of our hikes pass on or close by manganese deposits of one kind or another.

Hike Kasteelpoort or Skeleton Gorge and you will walk over the stuff. At Mont Rochelle the link trail from Uitkyk  to the summit of Dutoitskop is known as The Manganese Trail.

Contrary to popular belief, Knysna’s colonial history did not begin with George Rex in 1804, but over 30 years earlier with the arrival of a young man from a well-connected family, Stephanus Esias Terblanche. He was granted the grazing rights and permission by the VOC [Dutch East India Company] to live at ‘Melkhoute Kraal gel. in ‘t Niqualand aan de grootse en laatste Valley’ on 14 September 1770. So who was this young man and where did he come from?

The Simon van der Stel Foundation recently expressed concern that Heritage Western Cape (HWC), the local successor to the National Monuments Council, is allowing the history of old Bantry Bay to be destroyed by permitting the demolition of structures of heritage importance. This concern was raised when permission was granted by the HWC to demolish four early 20th century buildings situated on Saunders and Bantry Roads.

Long before man ever travelled up the pass, herds of eland, searching for greener pastures, crossed here in the winter months. Traditionally migratory elephants led by the herds matriarch, would make their way down to their grazing grounds on the Cape Flats. A Khoi tribe, known as Gantauwers (People of the Eland) also followed this pass. They called the path T’kanna Ouwe or Gantouw, ‘Gan’ being the Khoi word for eland and ‘touw’ the Khoi word for path. Later travellers also took up this meaning, calling it the Elandspat (path of the eland).

Laingsburg is a small Karoo town 250 km inland from Cape Town. The Buffels River flows along the western side of the town, with ‘flow’ being a rather abstract term most of the time. In 1981, this river flooded with catastrophic results and the suddenness with which the small town was annihilated by flood waters still resonates today.

I thought this would be a gentle essay featuring a well-loved Cape Town heritage landmark. But between my first site visit and an interview with ‘Friends of the Mill,’ John Hammer, Devils Peak blazed, roared and leapt with a great fire. A UCT library/reading room filled with treasures, burned, structures and woodlands were consumed in spectacular fashion and the Mill and adjacent houses became forlorn, smoking ruins in the process. Now the task of Friends of the Mill is not so much about mollycoddling and preservation, as about resurrection and restoration.

It is unusual for a middle-class British couple to be celebrated for their respective achievements over half a century. The female partner in this relationship, Dame Agatha Christie, Britain’s bestselling author since Shakespeare requires little introduction. Her husband, the late Sir Max Mallowan, an eminent archaeologist who excavated several important sites in the Middle East, may be somewhat less familiar.

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.

Saldanha Bay, with its perfect setting for a harbour, was always constrained by the lack of fresh water. With the Khoekhoe's transhumant existence, the Vredenburg Peninsula formed part of seasonal grazing, which was dictated by the seasons, with summer providing little rainfall and winter being the opportunity to graze cattle and sheep. The early seafarers and explorers who entered the safe haven found that the lack of a permanent fresh water source restricted any concept of settlement.

At five o clock in the afternoon of Saturday 19 December 1925, a wisp of smoke was seen to rise lazily from the thatched roof near the kitchen of the Groot Constantia Manor House. Moments later the huge thatch roof caught fire creating an uncontrollable inferno. With no brandsolder to contain the flames, the blaze crashed through to the boarded ceilings of the rooms below and through that to the main floor.

The Adelphi Cinema was built by the Allen family in 1916 and was owned and managed by Simon Allen, one of the sons of David Allen and a grandson of the original Allengensky. The first member of this family to come to South Africa was Adel Allengensky, who arrived in Hermanus from Latvia, via Cape Town and Greyton early in the 1890s.

Does anyone remember Pyott Biscuits? They were the makers of Salticrax, Romany Creams, Iced Zoo and many other SA favourites. Today they’re all branded under the Bakers label and the Pyott name has largely been forgotten.

A public meeting held at the Castle of Good Hope on Saturday 16 March, which, attended by residents and members of SAHRA to discuss the heritage declaration of the Bo-Kaap, was stimulating and productive.

 

Cape Town in the early 1950s was a place where we grew up, and spent weekends rambling and scrambling over Table Mountain. My brother Adrian, a friend and I soon got to learn of the existence of quite a few caves in the Wynberg area, and decided to explore. The first time we entered Wynberg cave was a bit scary, mainly because we had no torches, and we were not properly equipped at all. Later that afternoon round the campfire, we discussed the possibilities of continuing with this – the answer was a definite YES.

It is fortunate for posterity that Group Captain Rupert Taylor, a Johannesburg businessman in 1964 became interested in the old Simon’s Town Seaforth Cemetery or the ‘Old Burying Ground’, as it is called. Like his war-time contemporary ‘Sailor’ Malan he began his service career in the Navy before switching to the Airforce during the Second World War. While in the Navy he used to occasionally sit under a plaque to Midshipman Hammill in this cemetery admiring the sea view.

What do names such as ‘Astoria, Regal, Plaza, Victory, Pigalle, Empire, Roxy, Odeon, Vaudette, Regent, Apollo, Ritz, and Bijou’, mean to you?

Generation Z will probably think they are apps and Millennials that they are computer games. Generation X will think of them as names of men’s suits, restaurants or maybe small-town hotels. Only the Baby Boomers will recognise the evocative names of long closed and largely forgotten bioscopes.

Sometimes an interesting question is asked. ‘Which Cemetery is the most venerable in South Africa?’ Not so easy to answer as one may think. There are some strong contenders but the Tana Baru in the Bo-Kaap, the oldest Muslim Cemetery in Cape Town, can certainly stake a very credible claim. This is the only historical cemetery in South Africa of which an informative book has been written, The History of the Tana Baru, by Achmat Davids.

I first met Lady Anne Barnard (1750- 1825) when she was in her mid forties. It was a brief encounter, in fact only a passage in the text of “The Table Mountain Book” by Jose Burman, that master storyteller of early South African travel. Lady Anne was reported to be the first European woman to climb to the top of Table Mountain (in July 1797) and I was resolved to find out more about her life and why a high born lady was living in Cape Town (Kaapsche Stad) at the end of the eighteenth century, during what became the first British Occupation (1795-1802).

A soldier who would one day retire in Hermanus surprised himself by earning the highest British military award. He is William Henry Hewitt who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917 and who lived in Natal, South Africa between 1905 and 1915 and in Hermanus in the 1950s. He returned to the UK only when he was terminally ill early in the 1960s, but left instructions that his body should be cremated and the ashes cast into the sea at his favourite resting place along the Hermanus Cliff Path.

 

Markhams Building, located on the corner of Eloff and Pritchard Streets in Johannesburg, is a landmark of the city. It is striking because it has survived. Built in 1897, it is nearly as old as the city itself.

 

The Balcony Building (numbers 58-62 Main Road) is today mainly associated with The Factory Shop, which was opened in this building in 1983 and has expanded over the years to occupy most of the building. It was owned by a Swiss national, Jörg Friedrich, who managed it until 2013. The present owner, Fransien Koegelenberg took over at that time and has expanded the business further.  Fransien was kind enough to show me the interior of the building.

 

In the article below, James Walton tells the story of the soap houses of the Karoo and their importance to the local economy for many years. The article was first published 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.

It was wonderful to stumble across this article on one of the first surveys carried out by a non-professional group in South Africa. The piece was 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.

In the wonderful article below, James Walton traces the journey of Johannes Cornelius Poortermans through the Piquetberg. The piece first appeared in the October 1982 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).

Archaeology, and especially maritime archaeology, has always been viewed as a male-dominated field in the past. Here at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), however, we know that there are many women who have specialised in archaeology - in fact, the women in SAHRA’s Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) unit outnumber the men, and this has been the case for the past four years. It is important to highlight the important role of women within the heritage sector and maritime archaeology.

 

On 8 August 1938, eighty years ago, a re-enactment of the Great Trek began at the foot of the Jan van Riebeeck statue in Cape Town, wending its way through many small towns and villages en route.

One of those was Riebeek Kasteel in the Swartland, where a team of riders with wagons was greeted enthusiastically, as they were everywhere they traversed. 

 

Below is a superb article on the history and restoration of the famous wine farm Boschendal. It was written by Gwen and Gawie Fagan and appeared in the August 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.

Heritage encompasses all that we experience in everyday life. It is far more fluid in how it is experienced by society than what we perceive it to be. It is where ideas of individual identity and the role of nation states connect. It is who we are as individuals and how we relate to one another in society.

In the article below, Frank R Bradlow looks at the architectural and historical significance of the Old Synagogue in Cape Town. The piece first appeared 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 for giving us permission to publish.

In the short article below, an unknown author explores a few blue plaques in Cape Town including one commemorating Herbert Baker's last building in South Africa. The piece appeared in the 1978 edition of Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. today the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA). Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

Distinctly superior compared to many other photographs, the lady in the photograph is elegant and clearly a well-to-do individual. The name inscribed in the album – Hilda Duckitt - Who is she? 

In a pre-1910 photographic family album recently acquired by the author, two images were found of Hildagonda (Hilda) Duckitt taken at different stages in her life. 

Standing beside a provincial road, the R44 just outside Wellington in the Western Cape, is a blockhouse, a remnant of the Anglo-Boer War, one of those erected on the instigation of Lord Milner. There are a number in the area which followed and provided security on the vital link for the British, the rail line between the Cape and the north.

The Wellington blockhouse is the southernmost in the chain. It was constructed of stone with three tiers of loopholes under concrete lintels, with an open, corrugated iron roof.

Over the years I have photographed hundreds of plaques in South Africa and beyond. Most are easy to find as they are well documented and placed within easy view. Some, on the other hand, are a bit more tricky. Below is my list of five sneaky blue plaques...

1) Charles and Isabelle Lipp

In recent years, the coastline of the Overstrand Municipality has become closely linked with whales. The ‘Cape Whale Coast’ logo appears on virtually every website for tourists from Pringle Bay to Danger Point and beyond. Hermanus has promoted itself as having ‘the best land-based whale watching in the world’.

In this article, first published in 1976, Patricia Storrar does a masterly job debunking the myth that George Rex, the founder of Knysna, was the illegitimate son of King George III. She also reveals fascinating biographical information on Rex and provides details of the spaces and places associated with him. The article was published in Restorica, the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Thank you to the Univerity of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

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.

In the article below, originally published in 1975, Gwen and Gawie Fagan look at the history and restoration of Schroder House in Stellenbosch. The article appeared in 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 holder) for giving us permission to reproduce here.

History

Fifty years after van Riebeeck landed at the Cape, the Tygerburg hills were occupied by loan farms. Within these farms was an outspan with a good strong spring of sweet water that became an important stopping place on the road to the north.

Another process of research, another unlikely link uncovered between Hermanus and events of world significance a long way away. This time it is the “Burma Campaign” that took place in the country we now call Myanmar between 1942 and 1945. It started with the Japanese invasion of Burma in preparation for the final target – the invasion of India and access to natural resources to sustain the Japanese military campaigns.

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. 

 

Ganzekraal is a farm dating back to the early 1700s. It was a key farm in the Groene Kloof (as the area north of Rietvlei and all the way to Geelbek on the Langebaan Lagoon was referred to in the time of the VOC) and is significant as part of the network of farms and buiteposte that stretched the VOC influence all the way from the Castle to Saldanha Bay.

In April this year the charming Victorian village of Matjiesfontein will host a weekend of talks and events commemorating the history of the South African / Anglo Boer War (click here for details). One of the speakers is Dr Dean Allen who has written the definitive history of Matjiesfontein and its founder James Logan (many readers will be familiar with his book Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa). In the article below, Allen explores key aspects of Logan's remarkable life and

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.

 

Fifty five years ago Hermanus experienced its longest and most high profile contact ever with the Royal Navy. The famous aircraft carrier HMS Victorious officially visited the town for two incident-packed days that galvanised the whole population.

 

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.

Hout Bay is the third oldest surviving formal settlement in South Africa, only Cape Town and Simon’s Town are its seniors. Its early existence was largely due to its abundance of timber, however, that valuable resource disappeared within 30 years of van Riebeeck’s arrival and agricultural activity was quickly established as a sustainable living for those who settled there.

Forest Hall is an historic estate located in The Crags near Plettenberg Bay. It hosts a spectrum of high end functions including grand weddings and corporate events (click here for some recent pics). In the article below, first published in Restorica in 1977, Patricia Storrar delves into the history of this unique property. Thank you to the Heritage Association of South Africa and the University of Pretoria for giving us permission to publish.

In the following article Patricia Storrar provides a brief history of the Harker graves in Plettenberg Bay. The piece was published in the 1977 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.

Among the finished compositions that Berdine Luyt left in her papers is a file titled “Letters from Hermanus: 1942-1945”.  The file contains 36 lengthy letters from Berdine Luyt, the eldest daughter of P John and Joey van Rhyn Luyt, owners of the Marine Hotel, Hermanus (hotel pictured above). Many servicemen stayed at the hotel while on shore leave from Cape Town and the Luyts (two other daughters were also involved in running the hotel) went way out of their way to entertain the men.

About 50 kilometres from Cape Town, just off the busy R27 West Coast Road, lies the town of Mamre. The town itself is unremarkable, being a dormitory town whose inhabitants work in Cape Town or nearby Atlantis and Darling. However, there is a most remarkable Moravian Mission Station on the western side of Mamre.

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.  

This group of structures still survives. But in what form? They came on my heritage radar more than a decade ago but I would like to review the situation now. Originally established as a mission church in the town, there was an attached pastorie, plus school building divided between boys and girls. In the grounds behind the group is one of the wells that helped sustain the early town.

In the article below Cathy Robertson tells the story of the meticulous restoration of Onze Molen in Durbanville in the mid 1980s. The article was first published in the 1986 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.

Dr Bruno Werz from the African Institute for Marine and Underwater Research, Exploration and Education (AIMURE) is leading a team to try and find the wreck of the Haerlam (or Haarlam) - click here for details. The wrecking of the Haerlam is recognised by many as the catalyst that led to the establishment of a refreshment station which later developed into the City of Cape Town. In 1975 Mervyn Emms used various archival sources to estimate the location of the wreck.

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.

Het Posthuys (also known as De Post Huys) in Muizenberg is considered by many to be one of the oldest structures built by European settlers in South Africa. For many years the secret of its age and significance remained hidden until the keen eye of an estate agent and the skills of an historian uncovered the remarkable details in the late 1970s. The article below was written shortly before restoration of the property began (+-1979) and appeared in Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa).

We always get excited when we find detailed information on the story behind a blue plaque. The following article about Joachim Nikolaus Von Dessin, whose book collection became the foundation of the first public library in South Africa, was published in a December 1974 edition of The Argus. We stumbled across it in the archives of the Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA).

In 1979 Elizabeth Lankenhall, Public Relations Officer for Gordon Verhoef and Krause, penned an article for Restorica, the journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). The piece looked at aspects of the history of the landmark Old Town House in Greenmarket Square Cape Town. Thank you to the University of Pretoria (Restorica copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish.

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