On Heritage Day, 24 September, I joined in a photowalk at Jeppe High School for Boys in Kensington. I did have an ulterior motive behind it because I wanted to photograph the War Memorial on the property. It is one of the 3 school memorials that I am still pursuing (the others being at St Johns and KES). When I was ready to enter high school my parents actually considered sending me to this school instead of the local academic high school, however, as fate would have it I ended up in the local technical high school instead. Who knows what would have happened had I ended up at Jeppe?
The school was originally founded in 1890, but it’s present iteration in Kensington came about in 1911 when the school moved to its present site. The connection between Sir Julius Jeppe and the school is very strong and it is probable that he had a big influence in its formative years.
There is an old world feel about the buildings and its grounds, and listening to our guide speaking about the buildings it was evident that there was pride in its traditions, heritage and future legacy.
The War Memorial I was after is on the right hand side of the entrance, and consists of a dome with a portal over a plinth with the names of the masters and pupils who died during World War 1. The portal is supposed to allow sunlight to shine onto the name list below on 11 November, but that only really applies in the Northern Hemisphere.
On either side of the dome are facilities that are now used as the school museum and a recruiting centre. One of the names on the memorial is that of James Humphrey Allen Payne, who was the headmaster of the school from 1905-1917. He also lends his name to the magnificent “Payne Hall” which is inside the main building pictured above.
Sadly though the building is showing its age and is currently being restored to its former glory. I suspect that this is hallowed ground for those who work or study here, and the weight of tradition hangs heavily upon it. Continuing our tour, we headed down to the extensive sports fields, which are now an integral part of the suburbs around them.
It is difficult to really picture what this area must have looked like when the school opened, today it is heavily treed and suburbanised, in 1911 people would ride horses, and the home of Sir Julius Jeppe would be a prominent part of the landscape. The house, “Friedenheim” was demolished in the 1960’s, and was situated where the school now has it’s sports fields and swimming pool. Only the gates survive from this legacy, although there is a monument to Julius Jeppe not too far away.
The area by these gates is where some of the hostels may be found, and we were fortunate to be able to have a walk around in one of these old buildings. I must admit though, it was nothing like I expected, but it really was a glimpse into a different age.
With hindsight I should have asked whether this building was originally built as a hostel. I could however see the limitations of the structure when used in a modern situation, sadly, our desire for electronics has meant that in some areas the use of conduit and surface mounted reticulation has ruined its looks.
Our next destination was the main school hall, the foyer was also home to the Second World War Roll of Honour, and once again it was strange to read names on there that I had personally photographed the graves of.
The main hall had been in use for examinations and still bore the traces in its rows of desks lined up in the available space, it was quite funny reading school desk graffiti and trying to see whether it’s quality had improved since my days at school. Sadly, it has not.
Then it was time to go home. I made a short detour to Caledonia Hill to check up on the status of the Scottish Horse Memorial. It was recently restored, but all the name plaques and inscriptions have been removed. The view is still amazing and it is well worth the climb.
One last detour through Jeppe to photograph some old buildings and then home James. Jeppe High School does not have the prestige of a place like St Johns, but it is still one of the the top 20 boys schools in the country, and is also the oldest known school in Johannesburg. It’s motto is Forti nihil difficilius, meaning “Nothing is too difficult for the brave”, also translated as “For the brave, nothing is too difficult”.
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