Month: October 2007

Hill Street Cemetery, Emmarentia

This is another of my retrospective blogposts that I should have done years ago, but considering how many times I tried to photograph this cemetery it is amazing that I am able to post this at all. The cemetery I am dealing with is in Hill Street in Emmarentia and is the family cemetery of the Geldenhuys Family who settled on the land around here. I discovered it one day while trolling through my streetfinder and promptly went to have a look. I used to pass this point most Sundays on my way to visit my mother, but again it is one of those places that you will not notice unless you actually go looking for it. My first impressions were not good at all. There was a high wall facing the road, and a gate set into the one side. It was a veritable fortress. 

Don’t think that the wall is a low one, it was higher that I was tall and I could not see over the top of it. It was also a very broad wall and it was made of stone, possibly from when they were excavating nearby Emmarenta Dam? The view of the cemetery behind the gate was limited. There were lots of graves and that was it. But, there was no real way of recording those graves unless you managed to get inside the place. 

I pondered the problem. Who had the key? My one alternative was to jump the wall, but given how paranoid South Africa is as a rule I would have ended up being shot or arrested as a potential burglar. I am not however of the athletic persuasion so jumping the wall was out unless I had a ladder.  The other alternative was to  climb on top of the wall and photograph from there using the zoom capabilities of my camera (which was probably x3 for that particular camera). That sounded feasible enough and I set a date, got my goodies ready and off I went.  I had planned to do the photography on my way home so as to have lots of time. I had not really considered that on the day i chose somebody else decided to hold a race! 

The traffic was bedlam, as most of the roads were clogged with people and cars parked haphazardly wherever there was a free space. None of the marshalls knew which roads were open or closed and I ended up in a nose to tail traffic jam that was taking me nowhere really slowly. I could not even get out of the area as the usual routes were blocked off and we were in this ever continuing spiral. Eventually I was near the cemetery again and I grabbed a gap and hightailed it for an empty space next to the cemetery wall. For once the advantage of a small car was evident; those smarmy 4×4’s could not park where I could! Everywhere were these cheerful happy people shouting at their cellphones and gesticulating and taking selfies. It made me feel ill. I found a handy dustbin and managed to clamber onto the wall and hauled out my camera. 

The whole cemetery in one shot (1500x561)

The whole cemetery in one shot (1500×561)

Unfortunately there was not much I could do about the flat headstones, my camera could not get those but I photographed as many of the vertical headstones as I could, I would make sense of them when I was at home.  The chaos around me was just too much and I headed out of there.

But what about the people who are in that small cemetery? According to Wikipedia “… The land was bought in 1886 by Lourens Geldenhuys for its mining rights as it was hoped that the Confidence Reef would extend into his farm but it did not. The land remained as a farm and by 1891 it was divided, along what is now Orange Road, between his son’s Frans and Louw where the brothers had already built two farm houses. Frans’ farmhouse still exists as the clubhouse at the Marks Park Sports Club and Louw’s which exists close by at 14 Greenhill Road.

Mark's Park Sports Club

Clubhouse of Mark’s Park Sports Club

14 Greenhills Road

14 Greenhill Road

After the Second Boer War,  Louw Geldenhuys  decided to help some landless and unemployed Boer War veterans and used them to construct Emmarentia Dam; named after his wife Emmarentia Botha. Louw died in 1929  while Emmarentia died in 1938 and was buried at the family cemetery in Hill Road.”

The big question was: which grave is that of Louw and Emmarentia Geldenhuys? My best guess was one of these, and it turns out that it is the raised arched black ledger stone in the middle, but I was not to know that until I returned to this cemetery in 2013. 

At some point I climbed the wall again, and I suspect it was in 2011 going by the exif data on some of my images, Between 2013 and standing on the wall in 2011 I found the name of somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody else who had a key. I emailed them, explaining that I wanted to record the cemetery and asked if there was a way to facilitate it. They explained that a gardener regularly went in there to cut the grass and tidy up and it was really a matter of organising with the gardener when he was at the cemetery. She also said she would call me back with those details but by 2013 I had still not heard from her. I was due to leave South Africa in March 2013 and time was running out. 

And then I got a break… and we will continue the story somewhere in February 2013

DRW © 2007-2020. Retrospectively created 19/08/2016, link recreated 05/03/2018

Voortrekker Memorial at Emma Park in Linden

Update 28/05/2018

When I first got interested in photographing memorials and monuments, I started to take a whole new interest in the Johannesburg Streetfinder, because often these would be listed on the maps. However, trying to find them was always problematic, especially the Voortrekker Memorial in Emma Park in Linden. I was living close to Linden at the time and I had no idea that such a place even existed in the first place. The location was given as Emma Park, but frankly I really had to search to find it. The weather in 2007 was overcast and I revisited in 2011 so most of my images date from 25/11/2011

Once the Emma Park Koppie was found it was a different story to actually find the memorial and  I was not even too sure what I was looking for. Fortunately I bumped into the local cat lady who pointed me to the path that was in the undergrowth. 

Emma Koppie in Linden (2011)

Emma Park Koppie in Linden (2011)

A quick search revealed a bit more of the story behind the memorial. “The (oxwagon) Johanna vd Merwe was dragged up the Emma Park Koppie by members of the church (The NGK in Linden) and the Laerskool Louw Geldenhuys. At the top of the koppie the hoofs of the oxen were imprinted in stone and on the other side at the Voortrekker Hall, the wheels were also imprinted. Afterwards there was a party at Emma Park.” (Special thanks to Mignon and Hendrik at “Wamakerskloof” for the information.)  

During the 1838 Trek, a group under the leadership of Dirkie Uys was attacked.  Johanna van der Merwe survived with multiple assagai wounds to her face. Against all odds she managed to warn the other “Trekkers” of the impending danger.  To honour her heroism a wagon on the centenary trip was named after her.  South Africa also named a submarine after her (

There is a replica bronze wagon at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria; it was designed by Kobus Esterhuizen in 1971 and was based on the Johanna Van Der Merwe. It was originally donated to the National Cultural Museum in Boom Street, Pretoria who donated in turn to the Voortrekker Monument in 1995. Unfortunately I was not able to find the original wagon when I was at the VTM.

Bronze wagon at the Voortrekker Monument

Like so many places in South Africa the koppie was very run down and overgrown when I was there, and there was evidence of people sleeping in the bush. In fact, in 2007 there was an extremely drunk guy having a nap next to the memorial. 


Translated as:  

This was erected to commemorate the receiving of the Oxwagon.
‘Johanna van der Merwe’
 on 10 December 1938.
It was consecrated on 16 December 1939,
by Aunt G.M.E v.d.Merwe” )

But what about the hoofprints?

I returned to the monument in November 2011 to see what state it was in, and all I could see was that the koppie had been fenced and was more overgrown than before.

Close by is the local Voortrekker Hall, and it was there that a similar set of imprints were made, but I was not able to even get anywhere close to the building as it was fenced, however I did manage to zoom into the plaques against the wall.

Interestingly enough there is another Voortrekker Memorial at the Waterval Gemeente in the Newlands area and I photographed it in 2012.

And that was Emma Park, a little known piece of history that has been all but forgotten over the years. If it was stolen tomorrow the odds are that nobody would even notice.  Who was Emma? your guess is as good as mine, although it may refer to Emmarentia Geldenhuys, wife of Louw Geldenhuys who is buried in nearby Emmarentia

David Batzofin visited the monument in 2016, and you can read his impressions on his blog

In March 2018 I was contacted by the South African War Grave Society  (Registration No.: 203-374 NPO) who were looking at restoring the Emma Park Monument. They are currently in consultation with Councillor Mrs. Nicole van Dyk with a view to cleaning up the area in and around the monument. It is hoped that the community in Linden will get behind the initiative and help to fund the restoration.

*Update 28/05/2018*


This monument commemorates the 1938 symbolic oxwagon trek from the Cape that visited the koppie. It continues to hold significance for Afrikaans youth. The koppie itself is also of historical and cultural significance. The monument is an expression of the strong historical presence of Afrikaans speakers in Linden, which developed as a predominantly Afrikaans area in the midst of the mostly English-speaking northern suburbs of Johannesburg.

Legal Status (Decree/Act):

Protected under Section 37 of the National Heritage Resources Act (Public Monuments and Memorials). “Public monuments and memorials must, without the need to publish a notice to this effect, be protected in the same manner as places which are entered in a heritage register …” Since the Voortrekker Memorial in Linden is older than 60 years, it is also protected in terms of Section 34 of the same Act.

Authority Responsible: Provincial Heritage Resources Authority – (Gauteng)

Use: Previous: MONUMENT Current: MONUMENT

Source(s) of Information

  1. Site visit and clean up
  2. Johannesburg Sentrale Volksfeestekomittee, Gedenkboek: 1838 Voortrekkereufees 1938, p. 104

Current Activities:

The South African War Grave Society formed an Association with the Youth Organization “Die Transvaal Voortrekker”, Linden Bowling Club and as friends the Residents Association of Linden, Risidale and Montroux and Ward Councillor Nicole van Dyk with the name “ Johanna van der Merwe Voortrekker Monument Association (JvdM VT).

JvdM VT is in the process of adopting the Emma Park Koppie with the Monument and will maintain it in future. The Emma Park Koppie needs to be restored, therefore we need funds and buildings material to make this project a success.

On the 19th of May 2018, SAWGS and the JvdM VT organised a cleanup of the Koppie where the Monument is situated. A group from the Youth Organization “Die Voortrekker Linden” along with members of SAWGS, Resident Associations, JvdM VT and Ward Councillor Nicole van Dyk helped to clean the site. The Chairman of SAWGS and JvdM VT is in contact with the Johannesburg Arts, Culture and Heritage Service as well as with the Provincial Heritage to carry the project forward.

Cleaning up the mess….

(Heritage Linden Report and images, supplied by the South African War Grave Society May 2018)

DRW © 2007-2020. Retrospectively created 18/06/2016.  Edited 28/05/2018, added in material from recent cleanup of the koppie. Edited 10/02/2018 with more information courtesy of Diederik Johannes Cloete, Some information from