Retrospective: Pretoria Old Cemetery

Yesterday, while looking for a suitable image for Facebook, I came across my photographs of Pretoria Old Cemetery or Church Street Cemetery as it is sometimes known. For some strange reason I never did a blogpost about it, although did post about Rebecca Street Cemetery.  My images from the cemetery are tagged at 2010 and 2012 so it is likely that I made two trips to it. Actually I have made three because we went there when I was still very young and I have vague memories of it but nothing concrete. 

The cemetery may be found at Google Earth co-ordinates: 25°44’47.21″S, 28°10’30.13″E, the vehicle entrance being in DF Malan Drive.  The cemetery is also known as “Heroes Acre”, although I do not subscribe to that view. The image below is from Google Earth.

As far as I was concerned I really wanted to have a look at the military graves and of course take a look at the grave of Paul Kruger. Unfortunately the grave was heavily vandalised in 2018 so it is possible that it no longer looks the same as it did in 2012 and 2010 when I saw it.

Paul Kruger is not the only South African/ZAR President/Prime Minister buried here. TF Burgers,  JG Strydom and Hendrik Verwoerd have all been buried in the cemetery. However, I really prefer the company of soldiers and there are combatants from both Boer Wars buried here as well as 3 casualties from the First World War.  The Imperial military graves are well maintained and their regularity makes them easy to find. 

The graves of the Burghers are not always that easy to spot, although there is one that stands out in my mind as one of the more impressive memorials that I have ever seen.

The grave is that of Desiré De Villiers who died in Natal in 11 December 1899 at the age of 18.  The statue is just one of many that grace the well tended grounds. 

Of course there are many graves of ordinary citizens in the cemetery, and the sad children’s graves that are often found amongst them.

There are a number of family plots too, the plot below is for the members of the Thiel family.

The cemetery also has one of the smallest offices I have ever seen, or is it a chapel? I never did find out.

There is also a “Roman Catholic Circle”, and judging by the engravings many buried here were nuns. 

No trip to the cemetery would be complete without finding the grave of Harry “Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock. Both of whom were convicted and executed for murder during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

As well as  Christian Victor, Prince of Schleswig Holstein and grandson of Queen Victoria, who died of enteric fever on 29 October 1900, aged 33.

How safe is the cemetery? No cemetery in South Africa is 100% safe, and I was alone on my first visit so was very wary. It is a very open cemetery so you can see quite far around you although you could not take a car very far into it. As usual it is best to not go alone and make sure that security is aware that you are in the cemetery. 

Cemeteries are historic places and I try to view them from that aspect. There are heroes and villains in every cemetery, and often those buried in them are long forgotten. This is particularly true in a cemetery such as this. It is really a microcosm of Pretoria when the town was the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (aka ZAR). I have no idea when the first burials occurred here but the cemetery is older than Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg.

When you walk through an old cemetery you are visiting the past, you are in the company of ancestors, and you are acknowledging the existence of those who are buried here. I like to see it as visiting the dead and finding those that have been forgotten. As many of my fellow “Taphophiles” (aka Tombstone Tourist) will attest, this is where we find peace and where we too may rest one day. Pretoria Old Cemetery was well maintained when I was there, but I cannot say that it is true so many years after my visits. It is better to see for yourself.

And that was Pretoria Old Cemetery. It was great to remember my visits to it so many years after the fact. As usual I always wish I had made another visit but I never did. Images of the many graves in the cemetery may also be viewed at the eggsa page for the cemetery.

DRW © 2020. Created retrospectively 06/09/2020

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