Hidden graveyards and heritage history

Heather1

The funny thing about history is that it has tendency to trip you up when you least expect. Literally.

My friend Heather Oosthuizen tripped over a gravestone.

She got a nasty bruise too.

No doubt the long forgotten inhabitant of said grave had a good chuckle in the hereafter.

The funny thing is a lot people go to the Field and Study Centre in Johannesburg yet these final resting places lay in obscurity until sweet Heather landed arse over face on top of one.

Now most people would hop up and down on one leg curse and then forget all about.

Not Heather.

She’s started a one-woman crusade to find out more about the graveyard and the people interred there.

She reported her finding to James Ball of the Heritage Portal who sent her off to Mimi Seetelo at the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Eventually landing up with Joburg City Parks who couldn’t find any records of the cemetery at all.

The ghostly graves were largely inaccessible until recently when a section on fence was stolen and the area became a thoroughfare for the local Zionist church groups and sangomas.

Sadly, the increased traffic means that the graves are degrading daily. The sangomas dig new sweat huts and use the gravestones and slowly but surely this little piece of the past is disintegrating.

A Braamfontein Spruit Trail booklet from the 1980’s places dates these graves to the early 1800s when farmers began to settle there.

According to the book ‘Wagon Tracks and Orchards’, a book about the early farmers in Sandton, German immigrants, the Wilhelmi’s bought Driefontein Farm in the late 1890’s, however the graves may have been from a previous African settlement in the area or labour from various farmers over time. The ruins of the Wilhelmi’s stables still exist on this site and the family is buried just a short way up the hill.

It may not seem that a couple of old graves are worth preserving, but they are. They are repositories of the past and deserve a little respect and dignity.

Heather wants SAHRA to motivate for adequate and effective protection of the area to preserve our heritage for generation to come.

Retired archaeologist Revil Mason visited the area and suggested that archaeologists clear the greenery away and clearly document what is present.

If you in the mood for a moonlight walk in a mysterious spot, maybe spot a ghost or two, why not take a walk through the Field and Study Centre? If you follow the the fence between the stables and the park towards the river, you’ll find an opening close to the storm water drain. Tell me if you see any apparitions!

 

Coordinates:  26*05’10.41″S and 28*01’39.23″E.  (* degrees)

 

About Heather

 

Heather is a talented make up artist and social entrepreneur.

 

She features often in the local papers protecting the heritage and environment of the area.

 

Read more about her local efforts for Parkview

Exposed graveyards left for ruins

Bark stripped off Field and Study Park trees

Riverside Park a dumping ground for rubble

 

You can find her make up blog at: http://aboutface.co.za/

And her funeral planning guide at http://funeralguide.co.za/

 

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2 thoughts on “Hidden graveyards and heritage history

  1. You are SUCH a brilliant writer Vicky. I’m quite introverted and squirm when I’ve seen my name in the paper, your blog was the opposite. You’ve told an exciting story and with all the facts intact.

    A little additional warning to those who go in search of apparitions at the Field & Study. When we walked there with the fascinating 85 year old Revil the archaeologist, he told us all about the complex as it was many years ago, with the tannery nearby. After our walk-about, we nicknamed the grave yard the ‘turdery’. If you go for a little grave adventure, watch where you walk, and for good measure, use old shoes.

    If you visit the site and want to thrill the kids, throw a bit of left over meat/chicken bone, or such into the storm water drain & go for a walk, when you come back you’re sure to find some pretty large crabs competing for the scraps. The stables also do pony rides through the park for R25 & it’s always cool if you’re lucky enough to spot a rabbit around the stable area.

    xoxoxo Thanks so much for this Vicky.

    P.S. If you’re in the area and want to take a stroll, gimme a buzz, I’ll meet you down there any time

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