Tag: Primrose

The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (3)

Following on my posts about Cemetery Statuery in December 2011, I decided to devote another post to some of the statues I saw in Primrose Cemetery early in February 2012. This cemetery has some magnificent statues in it, but there does seem to be a concerted effort to vandalise as many of them as possible and a lot of the smaller angels have lost their limbs. However, the statues that remain are wonderful, and there are just so many. I am also covering a few of the one offs that I saw in other cemeteries in South Africa, so technically this post should not be very long. 
The oldest areas of the cemetery are the closest to the entrance and when I was there the grass had just been cut and it was looking wonderful.
I do not understand the mentality of those who would push a gravestone, or a statue off its pedestal. Unless the family makes a plan this poor angel will remain like this.
There are a lot of smaller cherubs and angels in Primrose, but they too have suffered under the vandals and weather. But some are still intact. 
The little china angel is sadly nearing its end, unless something is done about the cracked base it too will join the ranks of the broken.
This grouping is unusual, and both are in a good condition.
Of course statuery is not limited to angels and cherubs, many headstones are elaborate creations too. Nature still provides the best statues around,  and in spite of all the marble and granite beauty I cannot help but think that the trees are really the best examples of beauty that you can find.  
Primrose is the grand dame of Germiston. She has many moods and there is just so much to see and experience here. This cemetery is not just a resting place, it is an archive of history, and a glimpse into a different age altogether.  
Moving further afield, in Bethlehem I found this beaut, and it is the first time I have seen one like it. 
Closer to home is Burgershoop in Krugersdorp, and it had a lot of children’s graves in the one section, and they had been decimated by vandals.
Its not all doom and gloom though as some statuery has survived in this neglected place.
And that was Burgershoop.
The final cemetery I am visiting is Heidelberg Kloof. This grand old lady is wonderful, and she popped up a few surprises too.
I have always thought that this angel is slightly miffed at having been dislodged from their perch.
and Mariana Botha will be the last of this iteration of the art of Cemetery Statuery. I moved to the UK in 2013, and the angels I saw there are just as unique and beautiful as those I saw in South Africa. In fact, some were the same! which goes to show that you could buy them out of a catalogue.
The cemetery angels are often of museum quality, and all evoke their own reactions in a visitor. I enjoy seeing them, because they just add to the beauty of the cemetery,  and some have been watching over the graves for over a century, and hopefully will watch over them just a bit longer.
© DRWr 2012-2018. Images recreated 21/03/2016
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:43

The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (2)

In which we visit a few other cemeteries to see what they have in the line of Statuery. This page is a continuation from the first part of this post.
  Westpark is a relatively “new” cemetery (that is what Brixton Cemetery was once upon a time), and as such the mania for large memorials does not really show up here, although there are a lot of the smaller mass produced children figures to be found. It is a big cemetery too, and of course it may be that I may not have found the really big angels or statues.

This pretty short and out of proportion girl I discovered in Westpark long after this blogpost was made, and she has a wonderful expression.


Also in Westpark, this is a more modern iteration, and it is possible that it was made to reflect an image of the person buried there.

The traditional large winged angel does not feature much in this relatively modern cemetery, but I did find one fine example.

There are a number of Saints and  Virgin Marys in the Catholic section of most cemeteries, and they don’t really have that sense of individuality about them, although there is the occasional gem.

I would guess that he is a patron saint, or a monk, but which one? I do not know.

Our journey in the quest for statues and angels now takes us to the East Rand where there is a particular gem of a cem called Primrose Cemetery. There are a lot of angels here, and a lot have been vandalised too

This particular piece pretty much dominates the angel experience of Primrose, she is huge, and dates either from 1909 or 1937 judging by the inscription.

This statue looks over a large family plot, and it is difficult to say what gender it is, interestingly enough, it is wearing shoes! many angels and statues are barefoot.

This classic beauty is on a grave dated 1904, and is really a beautiful work. Whether it is an off the shelf statue or not I do not know, but it is not a statue of mourning, it is more a celebration of a life.

A 1937 off the shelf angel with a missing hand graces this pathway. She has somewhat of a disapproving look about her, but maybe it is because of her missing hand?

The example above is on a 1930 grave, and she has a very different look to the conventional off the shelf angel, it is a very attractive statue, and not one that I have seen in other cemeteries.

While technically not a statue, this wonderful headstone is a work of art on its own. The grave dates from 1927, and considering how long it has been standing is in a remarkable condition. I have seen a number of similar ones in the UK, and they are beautiful.

Of course cherubs and children are well represented in Primrose, and I do have a few favourites. I am very fond of this work, but I am afraid that the stability of the piece is very poor. She is on the grave of a 15 year old who died in 1923. I suspect that she too may only a photograph in a family album, and a long forgotten grave in a cemetery.
And who knows how long ago it was when this pair were dislodged from their perch.
And it is time to leave Primrose and the many graves, angels and statues that make it their home.
The cemetery is in a mining area and as such reflects the lives and deaths of the working class people who lived around it. It is an old cemetery, and one of those faded ladies that has been a part of the landscape for many years. I won’t say it is a favourite of mine, but I did enjoy gravehunting in it because there was a lot to find, and of course it had beautiful pieces of funeral art in it.
We now head north and west once again towards a cemetery called  Panorama Cemetery which is near Wilgeheuwel. It has probably the best collection of newer artwork that I have seen. It’s a well maintained cemetery too, and one of my favourites. Unfortunately it does have a subsidence problem, so it seems to no longer be in regular use, but it has some wonderful imaginative work in it.


It is also home to what I call “the Panorama Ladies”. Modern statues often done out in hues of brown or gold. The sort of thing Victorians would have frowned upon.

 There are at least 8 of these life sized statues in the cemetery, and if that’s not enough, one of them has a sting in her tail. A swarm of bees has set up home in the pedestal she stands on. I will not disclose which one it is though. Then there are “the sisters” which don’t really need any explanation.
I have seen smaller cherubs in pairs on graves, but never a pair of full sized angels. In fact Panorama has another grave with twin angels on it. I think that is what I like about this cemetery, it has an eclectic mix of statues, ranging from the naked ladies right down to lions, cherubs and large eagles.

My tour heads west once again to Randfontein and to Greenhills Cemetery which is more prone to headstones in the shape of rugby balls, cars and tires. Occasionally there are cherubs and this little chap in a curious state of undress is a puzzle. Just how did he manage to loose an elbow?

and, more importantly, where are his pants?

And, as I was driving away I could not help noticing that somebody had turned her back on my attempts at photography.

A look that is becoming quite popular is the large eagle. I have seen it in a number of cemeteries, as well as outside houses. And while it looks really impressive I don’t know what the neighbours have to say about having a giant budgie next to them.
I want to make a quick diversion to Pretoria to show off one of the real gems that you can find in the old Church Street Cemetery. You cannot help but admire the magnificent statue of Burgher Desire De Villiers. Its a magnificent piece of work and should really be in a museum. There must be a story behind it somewhere.
He is in good company in Pretoria, because Paul Kruger is scowling close by. Unfortunately he is difficult to photograph at the best of times.
And then there is the debating squad. It is always great to see a group like this, especially when they are all different.

And of course there is this magnificent work below, which is actually quite intimidating now that I take a close look.


It is amazing what you can find in these cemeteries. I have not even touched on headstones in all their weird and wonderful shapes and permutations. Neither have I shown my complete collection, because space limitations on these blogs does become an issue, especially when the page is image intensive as a photo page tend to be.

I do not always profess to understand the reasoning and motivation behind these statues and monuments, but the reality is that you need to view them in the context of the family and mourning. It is also about never forgetting, although one day when everybody is gone only that statue will remain to bear silent witness. This is very true for  the grand Victorian garden cemeteries in the United Kingdom where complete mausoleums were built for a family and it is now a derelict ruin in an urban forest. I am still working on those pages, and it will take some time to get them finished.
Sadly the reality in South Africa is as such that many of the cemeteries are rapidly becoming no-go areas as safety becomes more of an issue and municipality inefficiency increases. Already we are seeing the wholesale theft of ironwork and masonry, and vandalism is on the rise. That is also true of the UK.

And on that somewhat depressing note I will leave you with this cute find out near Fourways, a modern fairy, and indicative of the inroads non traditional figures are making all over.


Don’t run away though, I discovered that there was a page 3 here too! don’t miss it.

© DRW 2011-2018. Updated 19/05/2015. Images recreated and moved to allatsea 20/03/2016

Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:39

The Art of Cemetery Statuery. (1)

I recently joined a facebook group that has an interest in Cemetery Statuery, and it is one field I have an interest in. There is something majestic about an angel, or sad about a time worn cherub that just appeals to the senses and calls to the photographer. The oldest Cemetery we have in Johannesburg is Braamfontein and it is here that some of the older examples are to be found, but I am finding more modern examples in other cemeteries that are equally as beautiful and which are just crying out to be captured forever on film (or whatever the modern equivalent may be). This is my tribute to some of the Cemetery Angels and statues that  I have seen in Westpark, Brixton and Braamfontein cemeteries.
I call her "the Bathing Angel". From Braamfontein.

I call her “the Bathing Angel”. From Braamfontein.

And in her bath...

And in her bath. November 2011

Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg is also the oldest existing municipal in Johannesburg, and technically should contain the largest proportion of the angels and statues of the three cemeteries I am visiting in this post.

This small porcelain chap was quite a popular angel and I have seen him in a number of cemeteries, mostly on children’s graves and in various states of disrepair. And while he is cracked he was still hanging in there the last time I saw him in 2012.

Many of these memorials have been standing here over 100 years, and are in a surprisingly good condition too. Although it is a precarious existence because there is always the possibility of damage through vandalism, or subsidence.

I have always considered her to be a bit too melodramatic for my taste, but she is quite unique and well made, although she seems to have been cut off just below the knees.

The more matronly angel below is in a  remarkable condition, and I have never seen another like her. Could she be modelled after the person she in memory of?

The strange thing is that right up till the end I was discovering statues that I had missed on previous visits. This one is also dated 2012, and I had never seen her up till that point,  she does seem disappointed though.

This enclosed area has a number of small angels, and this larger full winged version dates from 1907, Surprisingly she has not lost her wings, but that could be because she is relatively safe from destructive hands in the enclosure. Unfortunately she is weathering a lot, and I expect the proximity of the highway may be a contributing factor.

And this full winged seated thinker dates from around 1908. Strangely enough I know exactly where this angels is in the cemetery, but have very few photographs of it.

Leave Braamfontein in the capable hands of the angels and cherubs we head west to Brixton cemetery, leaving this beaut to raise its stone eyes to the heavens.

Braamfontein Cemetery (1500×391)

Brixton Cemetery has its fair share of angels as well, but a lot of its real gems are in shaded areas so they do not photograph very well. The one piece of cemetery statuery that really stands out in the cemetery is known as “The Organ Grave”.  The surname on the grave is Murley, but I often wonder if there was any connection to a pipe organ player.

Often, the most simple of statues is the most poignant, like this very weathered lamb in a children’s plot. It is quite a common motif, and I have seen it in a number of cemeteries, but I have yet to find one that is in a good condition.
Brixton has a lot of hidden treasures, and this small baby has slumbered here since the late 1930’s. His parents are probably long gone, and it is unlikely that any of his modern relatives are even aware of his existence.  May he rest in peace.

Cemetery Statuery easily lends itself to black and White photography, and all angels seem to look magnificent in stark colours. sadly though, they are very prone to vandalism, like this handless statue in Brixton.

This is “Little Winnie”, and she lives in the shade of lots of large trees, and consequently is very difficult to photograph.
Every so often I will find one displaced off her pedestal, this one seems to have taken up her final repose leaning against the headstone. The question arises, did she fall? or was she pushed?

And this reasonably simple angel prays that she does not become the subject of vandalism. Given her proximity to the fence I am surprised that she has survived as well as she has.

The loss of the middle part of her wings has proved to be somewhat odd, but otherwise she was intact when I last saw her, although she was not looking too pleased.

Most of the angels that I have examined closeup have various expressions, ranging from mourning right through to disdain. And, of course they are usually genderless, although I do suspect most are female. This particular example is definitely female.

And yet another handless angel. I have often pondered on this loss of limbs, and it is not always attributable to vandalism, but may be a weak part of the statue, without knowing how these were constructed it is difficult to say how it actually happens. But an upstretched arm could easily be blown off by wind or a flying tree branch. I have just seen too many broken arms and hands to be able to attribute it to the moron with a thing for stone hands. I have also never found one of these arms or hands below a statue, so who knows where those go to.

The Christ figure is a popular one too, often being found in the Catholic areas of a cemetery, and this fine example dates from very early the earliest days of the cemetery.

It is time to leave this cemetery of contrasts and head north along Beyers Naude Drive towards Westpark, which is the youngest of the three cemeteries.

Brixton Cemetery (1498x528)

Brixton Cemetery (1498×528)

Space and bandwidth does not allow me to show off all the angels from all of these three cemeteries, suffice to say there are many more just waiting to be seen.  I continued in this theme on page 2 where I will explored some of the modern (and not so modern) angels I have spotted in other local cemeteries.
©  DRW 2011-2018. Updated 19/05/2015. Moved to allatsea and images recreated 20/03/2016
Updated: 10/01/2018 — 20:40

East Rand and Elsewhere. Rand Revolt Graves

[ Braamfontein Cemetery ] [ Brixton Cemetery] [ East Rand and Elsewhere ]
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The images in this gallery are mostly taken in Primrose Cemetery and Benoni Rynsooord Cemetery with some others that we have managed to pick up along the way.

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Updated: 14/02/2018 — 07:30
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