Newsletter No. 31 – February 2022

Hello everyone and welcome to 2022. With Covid numbers down and most things opening our landscape has brightened considerably. We are looking forward to taking school tours once again. They’ll be donning their pinafores and learning to write with dip pens, and he who blots his paper first will wear the dunce’s cap! Museum Africa is opening again so our special tours for Grade 5 will also be on the go. Government schools have to wait weeks for permission from the GDE, but private schools are already booking.

And of course our tours for members have begun. As David’s hike across Linksfield Ridge started the rain stopped and the skies cleared so they could see to the Magaliesberg. The weather was equally obliging for the workers in Braamfontein Cemetery. Our virtual tour with James Ball was totally absorbing so I didn’t notice whether it rained or not. James is such an amazing person and has accomplished so much with the Heritage Portal that every one of us owes him a huge debt of gratitude for 10 years of unfailing dedication and the most fascinating information on South Africa’s heritage.  It should be a weekly read for all our members.

There has been one major victory for Heritage Conservation won by the City of Johannesburg. Christ Church Mayfair is one of our oldest Churches having survived from the Nineteenth Century. Church Street Mayfair gets its name from this church, but it is somewhat isolated from the residential sector and right across the road from Dragon City – one of the major Chinese retail hubs. Dragon City obtained a lease from the parish priest of the old rectory with its expansive garden and installed a large group of its workforce in the house and then built a number of structures for storage and WALLS separating the rectory from the church. The storerooms were all built without plans or authorisation from the city or from the PHRAG and since all the buildings and land of the Christ Church had been proclaimed a National Monument, now a Heritage Site, this was major offence. The city obtained a court order for the demolition of the illegal structures and for the re-instatement of the rectory and the gardens.

The big question now is what will the Anglican Church do to honour this great victory? Certainly they haven’t revived St John the Divine which the JHF restored two years ago. Luckily with St Alban’s on which we are working at present there is a very active congregation with a choir who will appreciate and care for their very beautiful church. We are including a photograph taken by Andre Marais of the church without the partitions which concealed the south aisle so now you get the full view of this really fine building.

The restoration has been done with a generous grant from the B.R.O Trust through the kind support of Strilli and Nicky Oppenheimer.

Another happy product of our restoration programme is opening up the grounds of the Orange Grove Waterfall largely thanks to funding Brett obtained. David Fleminger has been working very hard with two gardeners to cut back the weeds and grass responding so luxuriously to the rain so now you can actually hear the waterfall. This work inspired the Police Reservists to re-occupy the old house and two new Blue Plaques have been installed recounting the history of both.

 Ten of our tour guides will be starting a course soon which should see them registering as Johannesburg Site guides. This is important for insurance purposes but also providing opportunities for these volunteers some of whom have been guiding JHF tours for years without any reward beyond the thanks of our members. The JHF is paying for the courses as an investment in providing guides to replace the older ones who are taking a rest.

 The sad news I have kept for last. Our very dear Eira will be retiring at the end of March after 14 years’ service to the JHF. All those who know Eira and have experienced her patience and kindness in dealing with every request for changes in the tours, more information, and a host of queries which aren’t always easy to answer. Her warm personality and sense of humour have made friends of many members and she is especially charming when collecting membership fees which have been overlooked!  She has sailed through many crises, seemingly unflappable yet only too aware of the problems. During Covid Eira was a shining star coping with bookings for Virtual Tours, learning to handle minutes for Zoom meetings and making sure members knew they remained part of a concerned community.

 I shall miss her support greatly. She corrects my grammar and many typos, tells me news of members and reminds me of all the matters that need attention.  I am thrilled to say that she leaves us to fly to Australia to see her daughter whom she hasn’t seen for three and a half years. But she has promised on her return to be on standby.

 So a HUGE THANK YOU Eira. Have a great time down under.

 We are hoping to find a successor to Eira from amongst our members who have the interest and commitment needed for the task. If you are interested in taking over, please let me know. Send me a mail at flo@joburgheritage.co.za  and I will send you a job description and conditions of service. Please also send your CV.    

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