Visiting Rebecca Street Cemetery: Pretoria

Pretoria has two really wonderful old cemeteries, and this post deals with one of them; namely Rebecca Street Cemetery.  Not as famous as the Church Street Cemetery, it has a charm and beauty all of it’s own and and is well worth the visit. I have made two visits to this grand dame, the first being in 2009, the second in 2012. This post combines both visits in one and the images are really a mix from both trips. This post does not reflect what the cemetery looks like now, and I believe that by 2021 it was badly over grown and in a poor condition. 

My 2009 visit was a fleeting one, we went in, drove around, I grabbed pics and we left. But it was enough to make me want to return whenever I was able.  The first thing I do remember was that it also had the first German War Memorial that I had ever seen, and it probably had to do with the fact that there was a large German community in Pretoria and there were also a number of German POW graves from 1942 in the cemetery. They all seem to have originated from Bavianspoort where there was an internment camp. 

German War Memorial (2012)

German War Memorial (2012)

The cemetery also has its fair share of famous South Africans, including the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa: Louis Botha.

Grave of Louis Botha

Industrialist and financier Sammy Marks.

Grave of Sammy Marks

Grave of Sammy Marks

and South African politician and intellectual in the years preceding Apartheid: Jan Hofmeyer.

Grave of Jan Hofmeyer

Grave of Jan Hofmeyer

It is also home to the rich, famous, not so famous, soldiers, children and other folk. Like so many cemeteries it is a microcosm of the town where it is. I only explored the older sections of the cemetery as they interest me more than the newer areas do. However, it is a big cemetery and I really only saw a small slice of it in the limited time that I had. On my 2nd visit I was not really dressed to go grave hunting, having just returned from a Remembrance Parade at the Voortrekker Monument.    The one thing that struck me the most about this cemetery was how raw it felt, although admittedly I had visited it in early winter of 2012 and my first visit had been early Spring. There were swaths of dry grass and sand, with masses of trees, but there was also the arid dry feel of the veldt that is so peculiar to South Africa. 

The trees in the cemetery are well established and they do make for interesting shadows and shelter from the harsh Pretoria heat. 

There are only 182 CWGC Graves in the cemetery, which is not a lot considering the importance of Pretoria as a military area, however there are dedicated military cemeteries in Pretoria too which is where many casualties were buried. 

There are a number of these military metal crosses in the cemetery, although quite a few had been replaced with CWGC standard headstones. Unfortunately leaving the crosses on the graves will result in them being stolen and I could not understand why they were not left in place or removed. Fortunately the grave now has a new headstone so it is not lost forever.

The cemetery was under the watchful eye of a security guard at the gate who did warn me to keep an eye open while I was there. He also came to check up on me while I was taking photographs and was very friendly and efficient. However, as in most cemeteries in South Africa it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your surroundings and to make sure that security guards are aware that you are in the cemetery

The “Gedenktuin” (Garden of Remembrance), is a very rustic affair, and I could not decide whether I liked it or not. It does take some getting used to though and I had to admit that it did have a definite “African” feel about it.

And, like all good cemeteries it has its share of angels and statues, and some are very impressive, although they have weathered very differently to the ones I see in the UK.

And of course there are the graves of those who died young and who never grow old. Sadly there are very few who remember these children which is probably why I am always drawn to children’s graves.

That angel has kept watch over this grave since 1922, even her parents are probably buried in this cemetery.

Random Images

The cemetery has been partly photographed and the images are online at eggsa.  

The one thing Rebecca Street does not have is the element of “heaviness” about it, I did find that it was quite a spacious place with regular rows and good paths between the graves. I think I liked it because it did not become part of the “tourist trail” of Pretoria, a sort of undiscovered country just waiting for exploration.  The cemetery is in Pretoria West and the Google Earth co-ordinates are: -25.738832°,  28.151355°

More Random Pics

And that concludes my brief retrospective visit to Rebecca Street Cemetery. It is definitely worth the visit if you have the time.  

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