Tag: Rand Revolt

Beautiful Braamfontein

Somebody once asked “which cemetery do you consider to be “home”?” I didn’t really have to think about it because Braamfontein Cemetery in Johannesburg is probably my “home”.   It was the second cemetery where I went to photograph war graves, and I keep on coming back to it. 

It was not the the first cemetery established in the fledgling city of Johannesburg, that honour goes to a short lived cemetery that was bounded by Bree, Diagonal and Harrison Streets. The “inhabitants” were relocated to Braamfontein Cemetery in 1897, although the grand dame of Johannesburg was established in 1888. 

I suspect that when it originally opened it must have been a dry dusty place, trees were sparse in the early Johannesburg, so these would have been planted much later, leaving the legacy of green that we have today. The cemetery is laid out along a single road that heads west towards the railway lines that ran from Braamfontein yards through to Sturrock Park.
Cemetery Plan (JHB City Parks)

Cemetery Plan (JHB City Parks)

On either side of this road the various sections are laid out. Turning right at the Dynamite Memorial,  the cemetery extends Northwards before petering out at the fence at Enoch Sontonga Ave. On either side of this short road is the  African and other “non white” sections. An extensive Anglo Boer War Plot is also found along this road.
 
At some point in our history the African section was ploughed under and all that remains now is the Enoch Sontonga Memorial and a green field.
The grave site of Enoch Sontonga

The grave site of Enoch Sontonga

The cemetery filled up very rapidly, and by 1910 the “New Cemetery” was opened, and burials in Braamfontein were scaled down. However, this the place where the founders of Johannesburg have come to rest. Within it’s walls are soldiers from the ABW, Rand Revolt, 1907 strike, WW1, WW2 and the Border War. There is a VC holder, the Foster Gang, a Titanic victim is mentioned in it, there are at least 4 baronets, a cartoonist, Edgar Wallace’s daughter, 6 unknown Indian soldiers, the writer of our national anthem, a famous artist and her family, the 1896 dynamite explosion memorial, 3 conscientious objectors, a Muslim cemetery next to a Jewish cemetery, a famous poet, a family of stone masons who made many of the monuments in it, the founder of a pasta company, and a burgher from the Boer War. And those are just the things I can think about off the top of my head. 
 
Braamfontein from the air

Braamfontein from the air

It has some magnificent artwork in it, and a collection of headstones that are still legible 100 years after they were erected. In some areas the trees have grown into each other and make some areas dark and dingy. During a storm it can be a fearsome place,  yet it can have moods that make you gasp in amazement. 
                                                                   
I have seen the early registers, and from what I can see the first person officially buried there was a little boy called John, who was buried 9 April 1888, in grave number 1. He was only 1 year, 11 months and 10 days old. The grave is close to the office, in the area set aside for “Pioneers graves”.
 
The Coffin Rest

The Coffin Rest

The cemetery has seen a lot of strife too and contains 77 Commonwealth burials from the Second World War and 11 from the First World War, with roughly 400 Boer War graves within its walls.  There is also a large Police plot where many of the casualties from the 1922 Rand Revolt are buried. And, I believe many of the miners that died in the revolt are also buried in unmarked graves along the fence. 
The Police Plot

The Police Plot

There is also an extensive Jewish area in the cemetery, which was always maintained in an immaculate condition up till recently. And in my recent explorations I have been able to see so many of the graves of the early Jewish community from Johannesburg.  
The Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish Cemetery

It is very difficult to show the cemetery in all its glory. Cemeteries are the type of places that you only visit on rare occasions, and only those who explore them can really appreciate the history and beauty inside of them. Taphophiles generally understand the nature of places like this, and Braamfontein is a very popular destination for day tours. As morbid as it sounds, there is no other place where you can experience your own mortality when in the midst of so much death.  
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Updated: 05/03/2018 — 07:25

Cottesloe and Fordsburg. 08-11-2011

I had one objective in my mind during this trip and that was to photograph the Rand Revolt Plaque at Fordsburg Square after I first saw it in September 2011. Naturally I was also interested in the coaches that are now used as a restaurant, and I wanted to try get pics of some of the old buildings. However, I had a delivery to make in Northcliff so ended up going through Cottesloe first.    
There is a connection between Cottesloe and the Rand Revolt, and there is also the Oud Stryders Monument that is worth a visit. Unfortunately the area around there has been fenced so access is via a convoluted route, but I soon found what I was after. I never really understood the context of this structure, but I am sure it exists somewhere. It hadn’t changed much since my last visit in August 2007 though.  
Oudstryders. Unveiled 3 December 1938

Oudstryders. Unveiled 3 December 1938

The other interesting structure visible from this point is the Dutch Reformed Church that was built in 1935 as well as the old gasworks and a reasonably good view out towards Johannesburg.
 

Cottesloe Dutch Reformed Church


Then it was onwards to Fordsburg. I was very familiar with this area as a youngster, living a mere 6 blocks from it. I was also a regular visitor to the Oriental Plaza as it expanded. When I did my apprenticeship our training centre was a mere 2 blocks away across the railway lines, and we were forever messing around in that area. I have to admit it though, this is a beautiful church, something that we see often in the older suburbs, but not in the newer areas that have sprung up to the extreme north of the city. A lot of these churches have also lost their congregations as the demographics have changed around them.
Fordsburg Square became famous because of its role in The Rand Revolt of 1922. It was on this spot that the trenches were dug and soldiers faced military trained strikers in a mini war. At one point the trenches were outlined in bricks on the square, and the toilets still had bullet holes in them. Sadly the trenches were removed because of safety concerns and somebody patched the bullet holes!  However, if you are in the area, pop into the Pappa D’s Mediterranean Kitchen on the square and ask to speak to Dino. And while you are there you can get to admire the 2 ex SAR 3rd class coaches that have been modified into Diners.  
 
The toilets are on the edge of the square, while the 1922 plaque is next to the semaphore signal by the restaurant.
The 1922 era Gentlemens toilets on Fordsburg Square

The 1922 era Gentlemens toilets on Fordsburg Square

A quick walk around to photograph some of the older buildings  and it was time to split. Many of the buildings were very changed from when I was young, they seem familiar, but unfamiliar. I probably have my identification slightly confused too.

The 1922 Rand Revolt Plaque on Fordsburg Square

Corner of 7th Ave and Mint Road

Another oldie. (Cnr Main and Lilian)

Another oldie. (Cnr Main and Lilian)

Vastly refurbished former Sacks Hotel (Cnr Central and Main)

Vastly refurbished former Sacks Hotel (Cnr Central and Main)

Another oldie. Cnr Main and Central

Another oldie. Cnr Main and Central

I knew it as Brigadiers.

I knew it as Brigadiers.

I had done my photography and now it was time to leave for home. A last pause at the Oriental Plaza, although I skipped the samoosas for once. This structure doesn’t really change, it just seems to shuffle shops around, but I didn’t really stick around because time was not on my side, besides, I kept on being accosted by people insisting that I “come inside, we have a suit/shoes/shirt/trousers just for you.”
Oriental Plaza

Oriental Plaza

More images from Fordsburg and Mayfair are available on my gallery 

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Updated: 08/04/2019 — 19:14
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