St John’s College. 26-11-2011

In my quest to hunt down war memorials I have always had St John’s College in Houghton in the back of my mind. There is a link between the college and Delville Wood, and one of the 6 Delville Wood Crosses is inside the Delville Wood Memorial Crypt. Another tangible link to World War 1 is on the inscription of the SOE Memorial in Patterson Park.

“This cross erected in 1917 at the Butte
De Warlencourt was presented by the
Surviving Officers, NCO’s and Men of the
3rd S.A.I Transvaal and Rhodesian Regt
The names of the fallen are inscribed
In All Souls Chapel

Before doing the Saturday afternoon visit, which was arranged by the Joburg Photowalkers, I did some reading about the long history and tradition of St John’s College which can be found on their website The weather was reasonably good that day although clouds did scud across the sky while we were there and that messed up some of my pics. However, photographs aside, it is a magnificent structure and one that never really gets seen by the casual passer by.

St John’s from the edge of the playing fields

We had free rein to go where we wanted to, but that crypt and chapel was sadly not one of them, so I have to try make alternative arrangements to photograph it. However, there is still a lot to see in the extensive grounds of the school and I think I covered most of it. The blending of old and new has been very effective, and parts of the school had a distinct “English Public School” feel about them. I expected to bump into a master striding down the corridors in his black robes and brandishing a cane at every turn.  (I was able to photograph both the Cross and Roll of Honour in the Crypt Chapel in 2012)

The statue of “David” and the Bell Tower

I did learn that the exterior of the chapel walls do have the badges of the Infantry regiments from Delville Wood on them and I was keen to photograph those. The confirmation of my grandfather’s Delville Wood service was very much on my mind when I saw the 1SAI badge.

The South African Infantry Regiment badges.

In a modern context, I was in both 1 SAI in Bloemfontein and 3 SAI in Potchefstroom during my national service, although they bear no resemblance to those regiments that went overseas during WW1. 
Darragh Hall above was a beautiful space, and I suspect it was used for meals, but I could not help thinking that it had an almost church like feel about it with the flags and high windows.
While the hall I found with its exam room seating was more of a faded lady relegated to the occasion theatre production.
There are some beautiful open spaces in the school and artwork abounds, but during our time there it was comparatively quiet, but what was it like when school was in session? 
I liked to think I caught those two frozen in time, but again it was just another piece of artwork in one of the courtyards. 
There is a lot to like about the school. Its beautiful buildings, the shaded lanes, dormer windows, the artwork, the sense of history and tradition. 
The only thing that seemed to be missing was the “thunk” of a cricket ball on a bat. Oh, they have that too. 


  I loved the quirky things I found in odd places. Like this old school desk in a space under a building.
Or the old steam radiator on the stage where the exams were being held. We had those at my old primary school too, but they never seemed to work. 
However, one find brought it all back to me. It reminded me how some traditions will never die, no matter how prestigious the institution.
Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

It was an interesting afternoon. I did not complete my mission, but have not given up on the objective, and will still get those photographs of the chapel to make sense of the SOE memorial. To be honest I would never be able to go to a school like St John’s, but I think it is the type of school that instils a pride in where you came from. My high school only instilled loathing. 
DRW ©  2011-2021. Images recreated 20/03/2016
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