musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: West Rand

Changed Lives for an old church

While in the UK I have photographed a number of churches and cathedrals during my travels. They can be very beautiful buildings and the weight of ages does hang heavily on many of them. Back in South Africa I never really did pay much attention to the churches because in the pre-digital days photography was expensive and leisure photography was reserved for holidays or special occasions. However, I won’t pass up an opportunity to see the interior of a church, and of course take photographs.

The “state religion” prior to 1994 was the Nederduitse Gerformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) and their churches were to be found in cities, towns and suburbs throughout South Africa.  The older ones were very beautiful buildings but at some point the church design lost that beauty and reverted to functional and pointy instead.   The church above is in Heidelberg and is known as the “Klipkerk”. The foundation stone for this church was laid in 1890 by Cmdt-Gen PJ Joubert. 

The church that I visited on my way to the airport is a good example of the functional and pointy style of church design.

 

(The spire of the church does not lean at this angle, it is really a product of the camera lens. The tip of the spire has been added into the image afterwards).

The cornerstone of the church was erected in 1967, and it served the surrounding community for many years.

However, changes in demographics and falling congregations meant that at some point the church would close down or be sold or leased to somebody else.

A friend of mine was a member of the “Veranderde Lewens” church and with a growing congregation they we able to make this building their new home and place of worship.

It does help if you know somebody on the inside and that was how I managed to see the inside of the church as it currently is. I had been to it before but had not seen the interior, only the hall and exterior.

The NG Kerk was not really into the many trappings and ornamentation that the Anglican and Catholics have, there was a certain sparse functionality about their churches, and the building as it is now is probably very close to what it may have been when this was the church for the North Ondekkers congregation.

It is a very large space inside, and from what I hear the services are packed. We were kindly shown around by the “Pastorale Leeraar” (Pastoral Minister) Dr Berrie De Vos, Unfortunately I do not know the English terminology of  many of these terms and am learning as I go along.  

Looking from what is now the “pulpit” towards the organ and main doors.

The view from the main doors towards the “pulpit”.

There was not a lot of ambient light in the church and my flash really batted to cope, but my pics are really it is about the context of the church rather than specifics. 

There is no real ornamentation outside of what was on view, a more progressive church really embraces technology and visual aids and often uses music sources outside of the more traditional church organ. There are those who frown on guitars and drums in a church, but if that is why people do not attend then they were probably going for the wrong reasons anyway. 

“Tell, Deepen, Renew, Change”

The organ loft above the main door also has limited seating and may have been used by the choir at some point

 

The pulpit is more of a lectern, and it would be interesting to see what the original looked like. Because the church has been renovated a lot of interior detail may have changed, it is difficult to know what this space was like before.

 

There is new life in this old church, and that is a god thing because a building like this can easily be the target of vandalism and neglect. Many former churches get re-used by other religions and causes but realistically they are not easy buildings to reuse. Long may this building be the home of Veranderde Lewens.

Special thanks to Dr Berrie De Vos for the opportunity to see the interior of the building. 

Other Church buildings in South Africa.

As mentioned before, I never really took much notice of the churches in South Africa, many of then are unapproachable because of security measure or because they are always closed. Here are a few exteriors that I have seen in my meanderings:

Roughly 0,5 kilometres from the church is another example of that particular style of NG Kerk.

Gereformeerde Kerk, Ontdekkers

Ned Herf of Gereformerde Kerk Waterval Gemeente (1928)

NG Kerk Heilbron Moedergemeente

NG Gemeente Horison-Noord

Gereformeerde Kerk Pretoria (1897)

Nederduitsch Herformde Kerk. El Flora

Dutch Reformed Church Cottesloe (1935)

NG Kerk Moedergemeente Bethlehem (1910)

Former St Andrews Presbyterian Church Fairview (1903)

St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Germiston (1905)

Former NG Kerk in Fairview (1906)

Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Wits University (1938)

Regina Mundi Church Soweto

Methodist Church Heidelberg 1895

Former NG Kerk Langlaagte (1899)

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 14/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:49

Those last few days

Monday 03 April.

I am now in my last week in South Africa, and it has been an interesting trip with a number of things changed and different paths considered. My flight leaves on Thursday evening but between then and now anything can happen, especially given the political situation in South Africa.  I will not comment on what is going on, I do not have too much interest in it, instead I will concentrate on the aspects of the trip that are relevant. 

Amongst the changes that I saw were the decline in shops at what used to be my local shopping malls. A lot have simply closed their doors and no longer exist, while some have probably moved elsewhere. However I would like to put on record that in most of the places where I had to deal with staff behind counters the service that I received was excellent, smiles abounded and staff really went out of their way to help me. The other thing that I noticed was the increased cost of basics in shops. When I left in March 20132 we were already feeling the spike in prices thanks to the exchange rate, increased transport costs and overall greed and lack of ethics. Petrol was sitting at R13.31 pl of 93 octane, although it was supposed to drop slightly on Wednesday (as at 05/07/2018 95 Octane is R16.02 per litre).  I tried to make some comparisons with prices that I could remember and frankly I was shocked. Once I get the images off my cellphone I will post some of the more drastic ones that I encountered. 

I revisited three cemeteries in the time I was here, (Brixton, Florida and West Park), and of course I visited my mother whose condition is of major concern. Unfortunately I do not have an answer to her situation, it is beyond my experience, I do not know what can be done. The plus side is that somebody has cracked the whip at the place where she lives and the disgusting corruption that has gone on there has hopefully been stopped and some heads will roll. That is long overdue. It is very sad to see how the corruption thrived there, almost everybody knew about it but nothing was ever done because it was rotten all the way down.

And, during my last few days there were a number of things that happened that may be worth remembering: a series of earthquakes happened, one being centred in Botswana and another in Klerksdorp, the finance minister and his deputy were recalled and fired by the president and a new (and more compliant?) one appointed. Consequently South Africa was downgraded to “Junk” status by S&P Global Ratings. and naturally the Rand has started to wobble, and at the time of writing (04/04/2017) it was  R13.80 to the $, R17.21 to the £ and R14.72 to the € (as at 05/07/2018 the rates are 13.55 to the  $, R17.98 to the £ and R15.87  to the €. As at 09/09/2018 the £1 will buy you R19.66 and $1 will buy 17.57). There is a mass protest planned for Friday, and I like to think it will bring about change, but already I am hearing the voices of those who have been “captured” or are just too plain stupid to read the writing on the wall. Who was it that said “May you live in interesting times”? (Fitch has subsequently downgraded South Africa to junk status too).

I also moved the remaining bins of my possessions to a new storage area, and took pics during the drive there and back. As usual Johannesburg was traffic laden, something made worse by the metro police who should spend less time holding roadblocks or sitting behind cameras and more time policing the roads.

I also revisited the shopping centre where I used to work, formerly a Drive-In it used to still have a screen in the parking lot. That is now gone too.

There have been a number of superficial changes to the public side of the centre, but it was like a morgue on the day I was there. 

I went around to the back of the centre and it was quite sad to see the building where I worked from 2005 till 2011. It is now part of the Action Cricket industry, and the Bosch Service Centre is no longer there either. I remember how much time, money and effort we put into making that building a safe and better workplace, but once we were bought out it was obvious to us all that our days there were few. I specifically recall how we had that section of fence erected but with hindsight it was really a dumb idea. 

I revisited my friend in the building where I used to stay and am happy to report that I finally saw the Rietbok in the Kloofendal Reserve. Unfortunately my flat used to face the street instead of the reserve.  

 The nitty gritty of prices.

As I mentioned before, prices were crazy, and I noticed it already in 2014 when I last visited SA. Unfortunately I did not write down the prices of items back then and this time around I photographed a lot of advertising leaflets to keep if one day I want to make the comparison. I drew R1000 at an atm in SA and it cost me £64.60.

Old Gold Tomato Sauce R22.79/700ml

Sedgwicks OBS R34.99 750ml

2 litres Clover milk R29.79

Eskort streaky bacon R33.99

Forex (06/-4/2017)

Rama R32.99 (500gr)

Butter: R84.99 (500gr)

Beacon Easter Eggs R68.99

These are just a few examples that I spotted, and some items may have been on sale. The items are not indicative of my own personal preferences and are sourced through leaflets and shops I visited in the West Rand. The prices below come off leaflets and have no illustrations: (I will be adding to this list as I go along)

Milo 500gr tin R51.99

Enterprise Bitso Bacon 200g R29.99

Stork Country Spread 1kg R29.99

Dewfresh milk 1 Litre R14.99

Gordons Gin 750ml R99.99

Hunters Dry 12x440ml Cans R129.99  

30 Extra large eggs R44.99

Ultra Mel Custard 1 Litre R22.99

Enterprise Back Bacon 200gr R23.99

Fresh chicken breast fillets R59.99/kg

Nature’s Garden Cuntry Mix frozen vegetabkes: R24.99  (1kg)

Sea Harvest Oven Crisp fish portions (6 portions)  400gr R35.99 

Sea Harvest Haddock fillets R59.99 500gr (4 portions)

Pot o’ Gold garden peas 400gr tin R9.99

Black Cat plain or crunchy peanut butter R24.99 (400gr bottle)

Selati white sugar 2,5kg R64.99 

Snoflake self raising flour 2,5gr R29.99

Hisense 299 litre fridge/freezer R3999

Defy 196 litre chest freezer R2599

Parmalat 6×1 Litre long life milk R69.99

Coca-Cola 2 litre bottle R13.49

Frankies old style root beer 500 ml R15.99

Sansui double solid hotplate R249

Bakers Romany Creams R17.99

Cadbury chocolate slabs 80gr R10.99

Lipton ice tea 1,5 litre R15.99

Ferrero Rocher 16 pack R59.99

Joko Tea 100 tea bags R26.99

Steers Wacky Wednesday R45.00, King Steer R61.90 (burger only), Regular chips R15.90 

and finally, an indication of prepaid data prices from a service provider.

20MB? gee, you can do so much with it, even Telkom dial up was more affordable.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 08/04/2017, added in 2018 petrol price and exchange rates 05/07/2018.  

Updated: 09/09/2018 — 11:34

Photo Essay: Return to Florida Cemetery

Florida Cemetery was one of the many that I went to when I was photographing war graves in and around Johannesburg. There is one CWGC grave, one Border War grave, and two private memorials in it. It is also not too far away, and while I was in the area I decided to stop for a quick visit to rephotograph those graves.

It is a pretty cemetery with a mix of headstones and a number of family plots. It is hard to know when it opened, but it was certainly busy in the 1920’s. I photographed two graves that date from 1889 and 1891 respectively, both headstones were of slate and very legible.

Sadly the little office at the gate was vandalised many years ago and when I was there it was being used to stash some of the tools of the guys cutting the grass. 

There are quite a few children’s graves in the cemetery, and the small china statues that are often used on those graves are broken. Some of those small graves are very old, and the mortality rate for young children was very high in the era when this cemetery came into being.

This particular example dates from 1948.

The one thing I did not like seeing was the detritus from people; litter, tins, broken glass, paper etc. Even though the cemetery is fenced it is reasonably easy to climb the fence or just open the gate. The area around it has deteriorated too, and that leads to all sorts of undesirables using the cemetery as a place to do what they do best. 

Florida was also a mining area many years ago, and I am certain that many of the graves here will tie into the mining industry, although there is no real way to extract some sort of data on who is buried here. The odds are that there are graves that are reserved for family members although who knows if they will ever be filled.

And, like so many cemeteries there is a population of birds and small rodents that live in and around it. I think the bird is a “Spotted Thick Knee”, and I encountered them in most of the cemeteries in South Africa that I visited. They are quite aggressive during the breeding season and given the haphazard scrapes that they build I can see why. Unfortunately they are easy prey to marauding cats, and there are quite a few around given that this is a residential area.

And then it was time to go…

Florida will always stick in my mind as it is such a unique cemetery in an area of ever changing demographics. How much longer it will remain relatively intact remains to be seen, things can change very quickly in South Africa, hopefully it will all pass by and leave no impression on this small haven of tranquility. 

Random Images.

Private memorial in a family plot

CWGC grave

Marklew family plot

1902 grave

 
 

1891 grave

 

1889 grave

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 03/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:50

Going home

Early on Monday I started my long journey to South Africa. It entailed 4 train rides and an 11 hour flight. I am doing a direct flight this time around so won’t have that long layover in Dubai to deal with and two flights. Frankly I do not mind flying Emirates but really dislike that airport and I am struggling with my lower back and hip pain.

It is worth noting that my destination is no longer what I consider “Home“. 

Why am I doing this? My mother is 87 and doing poorly. My original intention was to head down there next year, but I am sufficiently concerned to change my plans. I do not know what the outcome of this trip will be. Actually, if things do not go well in the future I will be flying back anyway. 

The chances are I won’t be posting many updates until I get back in April, so till then keep the powder dry, and boil the kettle!

And don’t forget to put the cat out, although I did not know he was on fire.

Getting underway…. 

I left Tewkesbury early on Monday 20th from Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. It was a cold and gloomy day and from there I traveled to Cheltenham Spa and boarded the GWR train to London Paddington Station.  I had last been at Paddington in June 2016, so was more confident of what I could do or not do from the station. 

Our loco; 43187, was one of the recently repainted GWR operated vehicles, and she was  branded as “The Welshman”. My plan was to leave my luggage at Paddington and grab the tube to South Kensington and then go visit the Science Museum as well as photograph the interior of the Natural History Museum. I had allowed roughly 3 hours to do this before I had to get back to catch the train to Heathrow,

However, before I did anything I went to the War Memorial on the station that has really taken on a deeper meaning since I read the book (Letter to an Unknown Soldier) that is based on this famous statue.  

I then caught the Circle Line at Paddington, heading west towards South Kensington Station.

There is a subway that runs under the streets from the tube station to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and that saved me a long walk through Kensington Gardens in what could have changed to wet weather.

Emerging from the subway I was at the Natural History Museum.  I had seen the building in 2016, but had not really taken much notice because I am not really interested in a museum like that, however, the building is magnificent and unfortunately the entrance where I emerged was closed, and at that point alarm bells started to ring in my head.

The museum was boarded off and my heart sank when I realised I was not going to be seeing the interior of the building. I had seen it briefly in the Paddington Movie and that is what really spurred my interest in seeing the interior. Unfortunately, this part of the museum was closed and I had to make do with a few long shots and not much else.

Around the block I schleped… thoroughly browned off at this happening, a similar thing had happened when I first arrived in London in 2013 and went to visit the Imperial War Museum.

My walk around the block did reveal one interesting object worthy of photographing:

Known as the “Queen’s Tower” it is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The unveiling stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 4 July 1881,  The Imperial Institute building was demolished between 1957 and 1967 and between 1967 and 1968 work was carried out to enable the tower to stand on its own and the lower portion of the tower was substantially rebuilt. (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/history/queens-tower/)

The London Science Museum

The London Science Museum

My first Science Museum visit in June 2016 was by necessity a short one. I had missed the entire flight exhibition and I really wanted to explore it further.

The London Science Museum

I have created a post dealing with the Science Museum visit but I will expand it when I return home in April, This post is really a quickie to establish some sort of continuity, and as such we will jump forward to Paddington Station where I boarded the Heathrow Express  and headed off to the airport to board my onward flight to South Africa with Virgin Atlantic.

It cost me £22 for the one way trip, while the trip from OR Tambo airport to Marlboro Station in Johannesburg on the Gautrain set me back R150. It is an interesting comparison. (£1 = ±R15)

Check in was easy although I kept on dropping everything, and after a shortish wait I was on board the Boeing 787, with a row to myself. This particular aircraft is called “Birthday Girl” and it would be the first time I have flown in a “Dreamliner”. 

As far as flights go it was not too bad, the food was ok, the onboard video service was reasonably good, although I only watched 3 movies. What I did find poor was that that they did not come around with beverages often and luckily I had a small water bottle with me. Service wise Emirates wins hands down, but I was not as sore and tired after this flight as I would have been had I done the stopover in Dubai.  The interior of the aircraft changes colour which explains the pinks and purples, and the windows do not have blinds, instead they have a button that either lightens or darkens the window when needed. I was however concerned that there were not as many toilet facilities as on the other aircraft I have flown on. 

Because I had a row to myself I was able to indulge in some photography too as we headed south.

And then we were on final approach to OR Tambo, and I saw Johannesburg in the distance. I had last been here just under 3 years ago, and considering how much I had read about the economic and political situation in the country I was not too sure what I would find.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

Because it was “Human Rights Day” the airport was relatively quiet, and by 8.30 I was on my way to Marlboro where I was collected by my brother.

24/03/2017

My mother is doing very badly and drastic action has to be taken and tough decisions made and I do not have any quick and ready answers. To be frank I was shocked, and at times I still cannot believe it. However, we can only do our best with what resources we have and then take it from there.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21-24/03/2017.

Updated: 20/03/2018 — 20:33

What a shock.

On the morning of 17 September 2012, somebody woke up; got dressed, picked up their saw and headed out to the substation in Roodepoort with the intention of cutting the electrical cables to steal them. They probably gave no thought to the fact that what they were about to do was dangerous, illegal and downright stupid. Their motivation may have been hunger, boredom or they needed money for whatever reason, or they were looking for a quick thrill. That piece of cable they cut would end up at a scrap metal dealer who would give them a fraction of the copper price for it.
They entered the premises of the substation and oblivious to the humming transformer close by, cut the cable. 
The results were fatal to the thief, he was probably charred beyond recognition and may never be identified. The subsequent fire plunged vast portions of the West Rand into darkness.
His actions were felt throughout the Roodepoort area because this happened during peak hour traffic. The robots were all out. Westgate was in darkness, Clearwater Mall was running generators, the local doctors office was using torches and the x-ray dept was down, bread was not being baked at the bakery,  industries came to a halt, and who knows how much production was lost as a result of one person with a saw.
Cable and metal theft is competing with corruption and incompetence to kill South Africa.
One of the first things I learnt when I worked on section in Germiston in the early 80’s was that you do NOT cut a cable, especially not with a steel hacksaw. But then I was trained to deal with instances like that. These opportunistic thieves are not. Their motivation is very different to what mine was. However, I do not have a lot of sympathy with this person or any of his ilk, just like he had no sympathy for the thousands of people who would end up having to be inconvenienced through his actions.
And, as long as there is a demand, and people who will buy these lengths of ex copper cable so there will be willing thieves with saws.  
I have witnessed the destruction of over 40 heritage locomotives by metal thieves, I have seen complete cemeteries stripped of anything metal, I have seen the World War 1 Roll of Honour destroyed by metal thieves at the Union Buildings, I know of at least 3 other memorials that have been rendered obsolete by metal thieves, I have heard of countless incidents where lives were put in danger because of metal and cable theft. It is an epidemic in South Africa, and I believe in other parts of the world too. 
World War 1 Roll of Honour. Union Buildings Pretoria.

World War 1 Roll of Honour. Union Buildings Pretoria.

So, on that night somebody did not go to bed with his ill gotten Rands.
And today people had to catch up with production that was lost yesterday. And business had to count the cost of the days lost production and will pass that onto the consumer. 
And maybe tomorrow some other scrap metal dealer will encourage some poor or homeless person to go cut a cable, and they will acquire a hacksaw, and…… 
It never ends.
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:47

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

At the end of June I posted an entry about my first snow, little expecting that the 7th of August would bring snow and icy conditions to South Africa.  I live out on the West Rand and generally the wind just blows like mad, but yesterday was to prove to be an interesting day. 
Suddenly everybody was talking about heavy snowfalls in Vereeniging and the Free State, but all I could see out of my window was a layer of dirty clouds and birds trying to fly while being blown backwards. I was secretly hoping that my nemesis, the mad pigeon, would head South too and never return. I kept watch for most of the morning and not a flurry was to be seen until about 1 pm when flurries started. Grabbing my camera I dashed outside and nearly blew away. Light puffs that could also have been severe dandruff, were flying haphazardly through the air, but there was no real coverage at all.
 
But by 1.30 it was a different story altogether as the flurries became much more than the occasional puff or 2. 
 
The wind was still howling though and it was seriously cold. I went down to our parking and everything was turning white. The usual view across Kloofendal was of a large white lake, although that was mostly mist. Our “lawn” was looking good though, rapidly disappearing underneath a blanket of snow.

 

The wind was still screaming and it was decidedly unpleasant to be outside and  I was about ready to pack it all up and head indoors again and mutter sweet nothings to my heater.

 

This whole escapade had taken the grand total of 10 minutes! That was the end, and probably in 20 years time we may hit snow once again. But, it was fun and when I ventured out just after 3pm there were only small patches of ice in corners and on objects, but no sign of any more forthcoming snow.

 

 

 

What fun! but the real drama was still to come as our power went phut! and from then on we were on and off until I gave up later that night. Even my UPS quit on me and this fine morning I was unable to make my usual excursion to Pretoria. A visit to Westgate revealed large puddles inside the hyper, and teams with mops working themselves into a sweat. 

The weather person assured us that no more snow was forecast, which was a pity because it was a great seeing those white flakes hurtling downwards once again after so many years I believe in some areas snowmen were being built and traffic was standing still on some of the main roads, (although that is the usual state of traffic), and I am just grateful I was not on the roads yesterday,  it’s hard enough driving on our roads when it isn’t raining.
 
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 15:05

Northcliff Ridge. 24-10-2011

In all my years of living in Johannesburg I have never been up Northcliff Ridge (aka Aasvoëlkop), although it has been on the back of my mind since I started taking pics on the West Rand. You can see it quite well as you go down Golf Club Terrace, although the hill at Quellerina tends to dominate the view as well.

Northcliff Ridge from Fairlands.

 
View taken from 14th Avenue area towards Norfthcliffe. (1500x498)

View taken from 14th Avenue area towards Norfthcliff. (1500×498)

I had originally planned to do the trip on the Sunday before, but changed my mind and set my GPS to the closest place I could find to the water tower and off I went. I was grateful for the GPS because getting up there is a real twist and turn route. At times I felt like I was heading away from it instead of getting there. Eventually “arriving at destination on left” was heard and I had arrived at the base of the 1939 built water tower, some adept parking and a short climb and I was on the ridge. Out of curiosity, Northcliff Ridge is the second highest koppie in Johannesburg (1807m) while Observatory Ridge where the Indian Army Memorial is , is the highest at 1808m.  
The view is spectacular, especially out towards Muldersdrift area, sadly though, only a portion of the ridge is accessible because the ever encroaching developments are slowly cutting away and restricting the view from here. I was not able to see South East towards Johannesburg from there with any real clear view, but had managed a view on my way to the top of the ridge at an open area of road.  Being Jacaranda season the tree canopy is spread with purple and its only here that you can really get a feel for just how many trees there are in the Johannesburg forest.
 
Jacarandas in all direction. Looking towards Fairlands

Jacarandas in all direction. Looking towards Fairlands

Looking East towards Sandton area

If I looked out towards the West Rand I was able to see the area where Golf Club Terrace comes down and where you can see this particular spot from.
 
To get a real feel of the view, I did make some panoramic images of the view. They are not perfect but do give you some idea of what I saw (all open in a new tab/window)
 
Beyers Naude looking North. 1494x538

Beyers Naude looking North. 1494×538

Looking slightly southeast towards JHB 1494x445

Looking slightly southeast towards JHB 1494×445

Looking towards Hillfox and Weltevredenpark 1491×386

Looking slightly North of Sandton 1492×409

Looking downwards towards the base of the Koppie 1830×506

Looking up towards Northcliff Ridge 1491×373


Be wary, the files sizes are large. What amazes me is how much potential this has as a tourist attraction, if you compare it with The Peak in Hong Kong we could do so much more, but as usual these sites just don’t make it to the tourists, it is always assumed they just want to see shopping malls and Sandton. Of course the bad reputation that the koppie has does not help either.
Then it was time to try find my way home, again with a GPS or I would still probably be driving around. Unfortunately my car wasn’t too impressed with our destination and I had some problems with it on my way home. But, all in all the trip was worth it. My next destination is the Quellerina area, but I doubt if you could even get close to the top of it. I will see how it goes. All I do know is, it has been a scorcher of a day, and venturing out there is not a great idea.
 
© DRW 2011-2018. Images recreated 19/03/2016
Updated: 26/12/2017 — 14:12

Davidsonville Cemetery

Continuing on my retrospective grand tour of the West Rand Cemeteries, one of the many smaller cemeteries I visited was Davidsonville (Google Earth -26.161200°, 27.852150°).  Situated slightly west of Roodepoort a look at the map will show that this may have been a former mining area, and when mining was completed it was abandoned and left to become a low cost housing area. For want of a better description it was probably classed as a “Coloured area” by the previous government. 

This is however a dodgy area and I was unable to park inside the cemetery but I kept as close to the gate as possible. 

It is not a large space and you can see it from end to end. It was relatively sparse from a headstone point of view, and those empty spaces are probably occupied by unmarked graves. 

 

There was only one grave to find here, and it was a strange one at that. The grave is of a Corporal Harry (Henry) Schoeman, and he appeared to have three separate graves! He is listed as being buried in Old Roodepoort Cemetery, and on that headstone he is listed as being buried “Elsewhere in this cemetery”. However, he also has a headstone in Davidsonville! 

A quick look at his record reveals that he was the son of John and Hilda Schoeman; husband of Gladys Schoeman, of Roodepoort. The connection to Roodepoort is there, but I have no idea as to why he has two headstones. 

I had my pic and I split out of there very quickly. It was a Saturday when I was there so lots of people were about, and I tend to prefer sneaking in and out without too many people asking questions.  And, once the grave is photographed I rarely need to go back again unless there is another reason. Images of the graves are on the eGGSA cemetery website.

At some point between 2009 and 2011 I returned to the cemetery, as I was really redoing some of the CWGC graves. The same rules applied though, keep a low profile, park close to the gate and try not to be seen. 

I really wanted to get more headstones for eGGSA too, as many of these small cemeteries tend to never be visited. The pano gives a reasonable idea of what the cemetery looks like. 

Naturally I had to check up on Cpl Schoeman, only to find that a mound was now on the spot where his headstone was which meant that a family burial had probably happened recently.  More pics and once again I was out of the door and down the road.

However, I needed to watch this grave to see what headstone was erected. and I returned in 2011 only to find that the CWGC headstone was laying flat behind the grave and a new headstone was in its place.

The names on this headstone are not amongst those named at CWGC as being his next of kin, although he is named on the new headstone; however it could be that this was the daughter of Corporal Schoeman (Headstone engraving not shown). We will probably never know for certain unless the family comes forward with additional information. I never did get back to Roodepoort Old Cemetery to see whether there had been a change in that headstone too. We did submit the new information to the local agency of the CWGC but I do not know whether any recent changes were made to his record. Reading between the lines his headstone was replaced in 1993 with the one that was in Roodepoort Old Cemetery. Could it be that the original headstone was relocated to Davidsonville? And, where is he really buried? We may never know that answer, but the fact that he was listed on our lists meant that I went and photographed his grave, and as a result he has not been forgotten. Certainly somebody in his family remembered him and had him added to the new headstone.  

The search for Corporal Schoeman also drew me to yet another small cemetery in an area I would otherwise never visit, and that expanded our knowledge just a bit more. The frustrating thing is that we know so little about these places or the people who lived and died there. These cemeteries really give us a tantalising glimpse into the past and hopefully will remain important spaces within the communities around them. Sadly though they really become the place where the ne’er-do-wells congregate and convenient dump sites for rubbish. What a pity. 

And that was Davidsonville and I was out the door. A mighty space it was.

DRW © 2011-2018. Retrospectively created 17/07/2017, link recreated 03/03/2018

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 19:42

Graves at Hillfox. Weltevreden Park Cemetery

I used to work in an area called Weltevredenpark near Florida and many years ago this had really been farmland and vegetable gardens. Then industry came in, as did little box houses and a host of other odds and ends, and suddenly it was no longer a desirable place to stay, but rather yet another typical suburb of Johannesburg. 
 
Yet, there is a secret hidden amongst the matchbox houses, and it relates to one of the original farms in the area. I searched for it for quite awhile, and eventually found it hidden away in a back street. The original graveyard for the farm Weltevreden. 
 
On my slightly oldish map (1887), the farm is outlined in purple, although it is hard to distinguish where it is in relation to modern day Roodepoort. 
 
The area today bears no relation to what it looked like way back when, although the original farmhouse still exists, but it is not really accessible (I did try, but got nowhere) and I did take pics from outside, but unfortunately I do not know how the area I photographed relates to the house.
 
The image above I found in a local library, but cannot specifically tag it to where it originated from.  The house does have a Blue Plaque but most people have no idea that it still exists, as does the graveyard.
 
The graveyard is not a big one, and being so isolated it does not get regular attention from the usual crop of vandals and ne’er-do-wells, and we were able to photograph it during our lunch break and still be back in time for tea! 
 
 
We photographed all the graves and they can be seen on the Egssa Gravestones in South Africa page.  It is however, really difficult to know how many graves are unmarked here, just because there is no headstone does not mean there is no grave.  
 
For me the most poignant grave is that of Anna Maria Smit and Cecilia Maria Smit who were probably struck by lightning on 1 Dec 1876.
 
It is difficult to understand what their families must have felt when they discovered their girls were killed, and how they felt when they buried them in this quiet place. We are so far away from the lives of these two girls that it is possible even the descendants of their siblings are unaware that they even existed.
 
I like to think they ran and played around this area, and that their short lives were happy ones. This grave is also one of the oldest I have seen in Gauteng, and somehow I have never forgotten it. Today their playground is probably a parking lot, and the building where I worked was unthought of so long ago. At night the surrounding area would have been pitch dark, and the long climb up the hill would not have been made easier by the road that finally winds its way up to the area that is now Roodepoort and Florida. 
 
In the image above the graveyard is behind the row of buildings, and the farmhouse is behind the single large red and silver structure. The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is dated 17 January 1873 and is that of Nicolaas Franssoa Smit, who only lived for just over 2 years.
 
 
Quite a few of the graves here are of children, it was difficult to raise children back then, while isolated farms like this one probably did not see many of the childhood diseases like measles or chicken pox, there was no help if your child caught pneumonia, diptheria or tetanus, or was bitten by a snake or got injured while playing. The children that survived their early years would be strong and healthy and would have walked this area, free from the restraints of roads or fences. 
 
I must admit I enjoyed finding this small cemetery and experiencing a bit of the history that was in this area. Unfortunately there is not a lot written down about the Smit and Badenhorst family that lived in the area. We do know that the house was built in 1861 as a three roomed structure, and was added to in 1870.  It escaped destruction in the Boer War, and was inherited by Martha Smit, daughter of Cornelius Johannes Smit who was the original owner. 
 
 
It is possible this is his grave, and that of Martha is below. She had married into the Erasmus family and died in 1919 from the flu. It is possible that the year is incorrect on the grave.
  
 
It is all part of the history of  this area, and sadly very few ever discover it and it is their loss. This little piece of history is a gem, and well worth visiting if you can find it.It is also one of many small farm graveyards that are associated with early Johannesburg, and one of the better preserved ones too. 
 
DRW © 2011-2018. Images recreated 17/03/2016, link recreated 03/03/2018
 
Updated: 04/03/2018 — 19:34

Witwatersrand Plaque

Coming back from the West Rand one Saturday, I was in the area of Witpoortjie Station, and on that day my favourite steam engine was returning from her day trip to Magaliesberg. I decided to see whether I could catch her coming through the station on her way back to Germiston.  That short video may be seen on my youtube channel
 
On my way out of the station I found a plaque that very few people know exists.
 
 
This plaque ties into the geological formation and area commonly known as the Witwatersrand (Ridge of White Water)
 
Witpoortjie is one of those small sleepy stations that exist serving a dwindling number of train commuters on a train system that is no longer in tune with demand. This is probably its only claim to fame. 
 
 
Not too far from here are the mining areas of the West Rand as well as Confidence Reef.  However, very few people are really aware of this tiny bit of information that is relevant to understanding more about the geology of Johannesburg.
 
© DRW 2011-2018. Images recreated 17/03/2016
Updated: 24/12/2017 — 10:31
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