Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jeppe Boys. A Glimpse.

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 in that 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.

Playing fields viewed from Caledonia Hill
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.   


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". 

Links replaced 20/05/2015

Thursday, 6 September 2012

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. 

Main office.
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)
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.

Enoch Sontonga gravesite

Braamfontein Cemetery from the air.

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, Edgard 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. 

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".

Anglo Boer War Imperial Soldiers plot.

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. 

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.  

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. 

Links fixed 25/03/2016