2021 – the year In (brief) Review

Despite the many challenges resulting from Covid-19 restrictions, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has had a successful 2021 and is looking forward to an even better 2022. We encourage everyone with an interest in history and a love of Joburg to get involved by becoming a member, a volunteer, or joining one of our fun activities.

Tours

The JHF is best known for our very popular and diverse programme of guided walking tours, led by local experts. Regrettably, these tours had to be curtailed due to the various lockdown restrictions. However, a series of Virtual Tours (run over Zoom) was initiated to keep up the momentum. These virtual tours have both expanded the geographical reach of the Foundation (with many people joining in from all over the world) and allowed those who are less physically active to get involved. Going forward, we will continue to offer selected virtual tours into 2022, planned for the last Saturday of every month. Recordings of past virtual tours will also soon be available through the JHF website.

Happily, with the reduction of lockdown to the current Level 1, walking tours are resuming (with some Covid-related restrictions) and the response has been really supportive. People clearly missed these entertaining and enlightening excursions, and most of our tours sell out very quickly. A full programme for walking tours for the first quarter 2022 will be released shortly on our website and social media pages.

School tours and bus tours will resume sometime in 2022, when lockdown restrictions permit.

We are also very proud to announce that online bookings through the new website are now available.

New Website

Following months of work, a brand new JHF website was recently launched. This updated platform has a modern look with greatly improved navigation that allows visitors to explore the many facets of the Foundation. Additional functionality includes online bookings for tours, online membership application and renewal, searchable databases and other invaluable resources for anyone interested in the Foundation and its activities. The new website is still a work in progress so please let us know your thoughts.

Restorations

The JHF is currently working on two major restoration projects, funded by grants administered through the Foundation. Both of these projects were approved some time ago but had to be delayed due to the pandemic. We are very pleased that work on these important projects can now begin and look forward to working with our stakeholders and local communities to ensure their long-term success.

The Orange Grove Waterfall project, initiated by Brett McDougall, seeks to clean up and reclaim the beautiful but little-known waterfall that runs through a property adjacent to Death Bend on Louis Botha Avenue. The site has been neglected for several decades and work has now begun to clear weeds, rubbish and invasive specie. Once the initial clearing has been completed, we will be working with landscapers and gardeners to establish an attractive and accessible public space where people can admire this perennial water feature. Public participation will be necessary to ensure the ongoing maintenance of this site. For more information, please visit the Friends of Orange Grove Waterfall Facebook page: www.facebook.com/friendsoforangegrovewaterfall

The Stewart Drive project, also initiated by Brett McDougall, is a winding pass that leads from Yeoville down to Bez Valley. Graced with beautiful stone walling that dates back over 80 years, the pass has seen better days and the JHF made some money available to stabilise the old walls and replace some of the missing stone. Ongoing consultation with the local community and church groups who use the valley for worship sessions will also be necessary to clean up the site and prevent illegal dumping, which is currently a huge problem.

We will also embark on a restoration of St. Alban’s Church in Ferreirastown, which was frequented by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. Work will include repairing the pews, fixing the floor tiles, patching the roof and repairing other damage caused by leaks. This work is being funded by the Oppenheimer Foundation.

Blue Plaques

The JHF Blue Plaques programme identifies important historical sites around the city and awards them with a prestigious blue plaque that outlines and promotes their significance. In 2021, we installed about 20 blue plaques honouring sites and personalities as diverse as theatre great Gibson Kente, architects Hermann Kallenbach and Gerald Gordon, St. Mary’s School, Villa Mayfair, the original Nando’s restaurant, several historical houses in Westcliff and Soweto, apartment blocks in Rosebank and Killarney, and many others.

In 2022, we aim to install another 40 blue plaques. Local communities are encouraged to nominate new sites for Blue Plaque status and can reach the Foundation through the website.

The Research Centre

The JHF Research Centre has made great strides in their ongoing digitisation project whereby important historical documents and photographs are carefully scanned, catalogued and saved for future generations. These digital documents (along with a wealth of rare information about Johannesburg through the years) is now being made available to researchers and the Research Centre has become an important archive of Joburg’s history. The digitisation project will be ongoing into 2022. The Research Centre is supported by a generous grant from the Oppenheimer Foundation.

Heritage Association of South Africa

At the recent Heritage Association of South Africa (HASA) conference, held in Swellendam on 15 October 2021, two JHF members were recognised for their outstanding services.

Sarah Welham was awarded a National Award of Merit for the tireless work done by Friends of the Cemeteries, which she established. It’s a well-deserved acknowledgment for many years of hard work.

Former JHF chair Kathy Munro was also appointed the Chairperson of HASA, which has a national perspective and responsibility. We wish Kathy all the best in her new position at HASA.

Other Activities

Throughout the year, the inestimable Friends of the Cemeteries has continued with their work to maintain the old graveyards of Johannesburg. Volunteers meet regularly for clean-ups and we are always looking for new faces to help in this important task. Get in touch to find out how to get involved.

Our Applications and Planning committee continues to work with Residents Associations, developers and Joint Planning Committees to ensure that heritage principles are maintained across the greater Johannesburg metropolitan area.

To remain sustainable, book sales and other fundraising activities are ongoing. And we are about to embark on a membership drive to bring in new faces and new ideas going forward. We encourage anyone who is interested in the city and cares about protecting its heritage to get involved with the Foundation. It’s very rewarding work and really makes a difference to the lives of all Joburgers.

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