Twas the week before Christmas and graves had to be found. On my schedule were Edenvale Old Town Cemetery and Edenvale New Cemetery as well as Alexandra. I wanted to do a recce at Alex because this was another of those major unknowns. Edenvale is easy, although the roads in Edenvale are really ridiculous with all their gated areas. I found the grave I was after easily enough and then headed for the old cemetery which is close to the Modderfontein offramp.
The unofficial resident grave carer in Edenvale said that this was originally a big cemetery, but they ploughed part of it under to build an old age home. I was a bit sceptical though, but she says that some of the marble grave surrounds were used to demarcate flower beds and some graves were in flower beds. The entrance is in 8th ave, although there is a locked gate in Van Riebeeck Ave. The graves all seemed to be from the 30’s and 40’s with some of my favourite slate stones. And, she was right, I did find marble kerbs and graves in some of the flower beds.
I do not know how true her story is about graves being ploughed under, but there is enough evidence that something did happen here. I found very old stones leaning against the wall, and there were those marble kerbs all down the one side, where else could they have come from?
I guess though it is one of those stories that cannot really be confirmed without access to official records. The cem is a pretty one, not too large and reasonably well looked after with a good spread of graves. There is one CWGC grave here, as well as two soldiers mentioned on private memorials.
Overall though it is a nice little cemetery, and not too well known either which does make a visit enjoyable.
Then it was off to Alexandra Cemetery.
I will be honest, I had no idea what I would find. Google Earth gave me some idea, but what you find on the ground is not always what can be seen on GE. The biggest concern was safety, so I was prepared to do a quick recce and if need be return with a companion at a later date. The cemetery where I ended up had a gate at Pansy Street off Zinnia Rd, and had a sign that read “New Alexandra Cemetery. General Section”.
My map however hinted at Alexandra West Bank Cem. The security guard was confident that the cem was safe and I headed inside. It was obvious though that section did not correspond with my map and I headed out again, using co-ordinates that were on the map. The problem with finding a cemetery blind like this is the GPS may be taking you to the co-ordinates, unfortunately you may have to drive through somebody’s living room to get there! This happened to me. The area I wanted to access was blocked off by a fenced off housing project, and the gate guard did not know how I could reach the area outside of going back the way I came, so I was forced to turn around and back I went.
I left my car at the end of the internal road and walked. My first grave was alongside a wall, and there was only 1 wall in sight so I followed it. The wall became a fence, which was what my map showed, and at that juncture was the grave. That grave was all the orientation I needed and I was quickly able to find the other 5. The irony is, there is an entrance to this West Bank area in Setswela Road. The last graves I was after were almost on this road, and I rued the fact that I still had to slog back to my car which was now almost a kilo away. Uphill. In the heat. With a sore leg.
Mission accomplished. These six were the last CWGC graves for the year as far as I was concerned. I had managed to tackle quite a few of the smaller cems with single graves in them. This was hopefully the last. As for Alexandra West bank and New Alexandra General Section: its difficult to really describe a cemetery like this. It’s big and sprawling and the stones are sparse in places. But there are grave markers so if you have a number it could be easy to find a grave, assuming you know the layout of the cemetery. Safety? The General Section did have gates and it seemed reasonably safe, the gate guard said there weren’t any problems.
West Bank towards the entrance may be problematic though, but generally the people I met were friendly if somewhat puzzled. It could be that the cemetery is quiet because of the holiday season. The area inside the cemetery where I walked was clean, the grass was cut and generally maintenance was very good. There were not a lot of toppled stones either. It would be interesting to know who is buried here, I did find 22 graves from the former Rietfontein 433 Farm, and that was interesting in itself.
Alexandra is done. And a mighty space it was.
In January 2012 I participated in a photowalk in Alexandra which was held by the Johannesburg Photowalkers. I was a very interesting experience, and there is an associated blogpost for it.
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 20/03/2016. Edited 12/03/2017, links recreated 03/03/2018