Tag: graveyard

Finding Crossbones Graveyard

I first heard about Crossbones while talking to somebody at Southwark Cathedral, but got my lines crossed and ended up at  St Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey instead.   This time around my information was provided by a helpful attendant at The Clink Prison Museum.  He gave me a handy map and off I went. The site wasn’t too far away either and I would have missed it had I not known where to look.  The area is mostly fenced closed except for a single gate that is adorned by tributes from locals. A plaque confirmed that I was at the right place.
The history of Crossbones is one of those complex histories that probably is best left to those who know more about it that I do. But as far as graveyards and cemeteries go, it is an old one, and a very full one too. With estimates of up to 15000 people buried there. 
Described as a “non-place” it was inevitable that somebody would decide to erect some glitzy chrome and glass monolith there, however, as is the case with most cemeteries, there are things you can do, and things you can’t. And excavations at Crossbones were conducted in the 1990’s. Local opposition also prevented any development and Crossbones was able to sustain its tenuous existence.
The site is really an overgrown plot of land, with no headstones or visible signs that it is a graveyard, however there is a sense of aura about it. I was drawn to the site and part of me wanted to scale that fence and just absorb what there was. I haven’t felt that strange feeling in years, and that’s probably why I am writing this at the moment.  My internet reading did provide an video that satisfied some of my curiosity though. The People of Crossbones Graveyard just made me more curious to see and experience this place.
The conditions that the people lived under all those years ago are not really the sort of thing we can imagine so many years down the line. The question I have is: what was the extent of this graveyard? it seems to be very small for 15000 burials, even given the haphazardness of these burials all those years ago. How much documentation is there about it? and just who were they?
 
Crossbones may be found on Google Earth at  51.503973°  -0.093477°. I had hoped to return again when there was sunshine and take more photographs, and I definitely felt that my sojourn here had not come the full circle. The next vigil was scheduled for the 23rd of March, and I hoped to be there.
Unfortunately I came down with a chest infection and ended up in bed instead. I relocated from London early in April and never did get to return, so the images I have are all that I have to remember of this strange place.
Update 2017.
I believe Crossbones is now available as a tourist destination and is “open” to the public, however you probably need to double check on which days tours are done.
 
DRW 2013-2020. Images recreated 26/03/2016 

Gravehunting in Magaliesburg

Lets face it, Magaliesburg is a small town stuck in a slightly different era. Its history isn’t really written down and finding anything about its past has been a pretty fruitless exercise. Looking at the area through Google Earth reveals heaps of abandoned and derelict structures, large tracts of open land and no way of knowing what it looked like before. 
My reason for the trip was two-fold. Firstly I wanted to photograph Susan on her day trip out to Vlakdrift. Although for some reason part of the video I shot did not come out. Still, I did get some great material. 

 
The second aim of my trip was to head out to the small cemetery I found last time I was in the area. I was defeated that time around by bees and thorn trees. 

Between then and now a fire had decimated the undergrowth so I could at least see the graves. This little cem is part of the farm Steenkoppie. Almost within spitting distance is yet another Steenkoppie relic, and a bit further than that a much larger cem perched on a downslope on the same side of the Blaauwbank River as my old Zuickerboschfontein nemesis is. We were able to see 63 graves in that cem, but 95% were without markings. 

This graveyard is identified and posted at Egssa as “Zuickerboschfontein 151, farm cemetery 2”   We had to cross the river (Blauwbank?) to get to the cem, and it has a strange other worldliness about it, almost like an alien landscape.

I also managed to get down to the Jennings Family cem (identified as “Zuickerboschfontein 151, Blauwbank farm cemetery 1”).  and the fire had revealed all the graves, it seems as if I had missed at least one during my last trip. I think I have them all now. The comparison between before and after the fire is quite amazing.
 
This is what the grass looked like before the fire. 
 
 
And after the fire. What a difference it made.  I have also had a better look around that rambling old derelict house, its amazing how the undergrowth is trying to bury it. From what I heard the place was intact not too many years back, but it has since been stripped of everything. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday, especially the interiors as some of the rooms are tiny. 
 
  

 
There was no sign of my dropped camera either, so I was still very peeved at this place. I am going to have to go back to Magalies soon, probably this next weekend. Susan is rostered again, and I have a cem up near Bartons Folly to go photograph, and I need better GPS co-ordinates for Steenkoppie. Its all good fun though, and I have to admit that Saturday was a real scorcher. Is that a portent of the weather to come this summer? Its enough to drive me indoors. 
 
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 18/03/2016, links recreated 03/03/2018
 

Chartwell, Nooitgedacht, Fourways and Larsens Farm

A fine day of gravehunting today. There were 4 tasks to be completed. Firstly, check out Larsens farm, then onto Nooitgedacht 534 to get proper GPS co-ordinates, then to Chartwell to get new pics and finally pop in at Fourways Memorial Garden to have a look.
Turns out Larsens Farm is actually called Rietfontein 189, and is one of the many undocumented cems in this area. There were over 100 graves there, and they were generally in a good condition. 3 new additions since it was last photographed in 2008, and I enjoyed this visit. Camera though has something stuck inside the lens that caused a dark spot in RH corner, that shifted once I got to Nooitgedacht. I hope that it doesn’t happen again because that could prove to really cause havoc. (interestingly enough, I pensioned off the camera in February 2016 and between then and now never had this spot re-appear)
 

Larsens Farm (Rietfontein 189)


Then onwards to Nooitgedacht 534. This one has also been done before, but the existing pics at eggsa are not great because of the weather in JHB at the time. Not a lot of deterioration though, considering. Graves in the veldt, an amazingly common thing in South Africa, what amazes me is that this area is riddled with graves, but finding them is a whole new ball game. From here onwards to Chartwell. 

Nooitgedacht 534

Finding Chartwell Rietvallei wasn’t too difficult, for once the GPS didn’t decide to take me miles away, but for some odd reason it reverted to Afrikaans. I have no idea why it does that! The graves in question have also been photographed before, 2 marked graves, one being an ABW casualty, the other is apparently one of the original Voortrekkers, born 1825? Ok, maybe one of the original settlers in this area. Between now and the original photographs the inscription on the stone has disappeared. Possibly delaminated? I also got accurate GPS co-ordinates now, so it’s not lost. The question does beg asking, why are these graves on this open stretch of veldt next to a road? was there a farm here that got subdivided?  
 
My final destination was called “Fourways Memorial Garden”, a private cemetery out in the nether regions of Fourways. Its a professionally run private cemetery, and parts of it are really beautiful, but I don’t know, its not the sort of place that I get any sense of atmosphere from. Lets put it like this, I wouldn’t be caught dead in it. Still, it does make me wonder, if the powers that be in Johannesburg got their act together they could do something like this really easily. The problem is, it’s easier to do the bare minimal in some of the more marginal cems and then create new eco-friendly ones elsewhere, instead of taking historical sites like Brixton and Braamfontein and making them great. I didn’t take many pics here because of the private ownership issue, but it was an interesting look at “how the other half die”.  

 

The cemetery does have a separate are for pet burials, and there is a memorial to the 104 people who died in the Afriqiyah Airways disaster in Libya on 12 May 2010. There is also a memorial stone to the novelist Bree O’Mara. 

  
 
Then it was “home James” on the highway. Oy! do they think that 4 lanes will solve the traffic problem? bearing in mind the left lane is unusable because of slow trucks, the next one is unusable because of slow trucks overtaking other slow trucks. the right one is unusable because of fools in overpriced car with no manners, so that leaves the third lane, and that always has the “40 kilos below the speed limit” school of thought drivers in it. Wait till the tolls come into effect, its going to be very very interesting.
 
Postscript.
My comment above about “Wait till tolls take effect” is an interesting one. Since the tolls were brought into effect they have proven to be a large white elephant. The refusal by motorists to pay them has been ongoing since then. The fact remains that large portions of money get spent to collect and process the fees with very little actually going to SANRAL who in turn end up having to prop up the company overseas who had a finger in the pie. Add to that the bad publicity, extortion tactics and a poorly managed publicity campaign it has really be a failure. The fact is that no new roads were built, they really just added in an extra lane utilising the emergency lane. Congestion is still rampant, the traffic is just as bad and those smarmy new roads have only really addressed issues that date back to the 1980’s!
 
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 18/03/2016, links recreated 03/03/2018