As part of the JHF’s on-going Restoration Programme, we are proud to announce that the stonework along beautiful Stewart Drive has been stabilised and repaired. Funded by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, this was a collaborative effort with Mayat Hart Architects, local activist Richard Holden, City Parks (who developed Stewart Drive Park and installed playground equipment) and City Power (who responded to our appeal and fixed the street lighting).
We trust that the local community and church groups who meet in the adjoining ravine will continue supporting this historic pass, and that the illegal dumping that once blighted the site will be curtailed.
A Short History of Stewart Drive
Stewart Drive connects Yeoville, Highlands and Bellevue to Bellevue Central, Bertrams and Lorentzville. It is Johannesburg’s longest pass, connecting two areas of relatively high density – greater Yeoville and greater Bertrams, but it traverses a wooded and scenic ravine unspoiled by development.
Construction of Stewart Drive started in 1933 and was completed in 1935. Anna Smith records a Council Minute for 26 September noting the petition from ratepayers to name the “proposed connecting link road“ Stewart Drive or Road to commemorate the public work over more than quarter of a century of Mr Joseph Stewart, a local man who lived in Judith’s Paarl. The decision was taken to name it Stewart Drive, although the ratepayers association of the Yeoville/Bellevue area had suggested “Bellevue Drive”. In 1937 the drive was lined with a low stone wall with open arches made of dressed quartzite quarried from the site. The stone wall is the culmination of a municipal programme that started in the early 1930s, providing unemployed white labour with the opportunity to learn stone masonry and providing them with public projects to earn a living.
Decline and Restoration
Demographic changes and poor urban management has resulted in the rapid decay of greater Yeoville and greater Bertrams since the 1990s. Stewart Drive did not escape this fate and, by the second decade of the 21st century, it had become a local dumping spot.
In about 2015, Yeoville resident Richard Holden decided the neglect of this historic pass could no longer be tolerated. When appeals for assistance from agencies of the City of Johannesburg proved unsuccessful, he decided to roll up his sleeves and get the job done himself. Between 2015 and 2018, he and Thulani Madondo removed tons of waste from the pass and ravine. This work has continued, with Holden taking on the responsibility for everything from mowing the lawn at the top of the pass, to continuing to keep the pass and ravine clean.
However, cleaning of the pass and ravine highlighted the poor condition of the stonework. Most of the damage is a result of missing mortar. This results in loosening of the dressed stone, and in some cases has resulted in the loss of stones.
Local stone masons, under the supervision of Richard Holden and Mayat Hart Architects, have now repaired much of the degraded mortar and replaced some of the missing stones. It’s a huge improvement and we sincerely thank everyone who got involved with this project.
In the last month, Richard Holden has also paid Boltson’s to repair the paving on the south end of the pass, which was in bad condition.
An enlightening article on the restoration of Stewart Drive recently appeared in the Citizen newspaper (see below).