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Shacks built alongside the derelict top row of houses in Langlaagte Deep Village burned down leaving 80 people homeless and bringing further devastation to what was a National Monument which we used to visit on tours of the mining history of Johannesburg.

Rand Mines Properties which changed its name to I-Prop refused to maintain this row of houses, evicting the tenants and allowing them to be vandalized of all metals. PHRAG in its usual wimpish way failed to impose a Compulsory Repair Order, but did at least refuse a demolition permit.

It is not really surprising how often in Johannesburg heritage buildings including fully declared heritage sites which were national monuments are partially destroyed by fire. Rissik Street Post Office, Marshall Street Police Barracks, the Drill Hall, Kimberley House, the Mine Manager’s house at Crown Reef North…..

So now our last mining village is under terrible threat.  The new owner has cut off the proper access, demolished the crown which stood outside the Scout Hall, made for the visit of King George V1 in 1947 and transferred to the village when the original site was developed.


Heritage Day 2012
We celebrated Heritage Day in Midrand.

Two bus loads visited the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezk. Completed in 2003 it seems a transplant from the homeland. For those who are unlikely to get a chance to visit Russia it was a joy and a blessing to see the five golden domes against a brilliant blue sky. Gold is a very practical covering since it can be rolled so thin and it never tarnishes. Lovely material and Father Daniel estimated less than 1 kilo of gold was used to cover all five domes. The bell tower too has its own golden dome. The Church is relatively small and there are no pews. The congregation stands and stays awake! There is an iconostasis   - the screen which separates the altar from the body of the church. Only the clergy may enter the doors of the iconostasis. But the doors were opened so we could see inside. There is also a choir loft and the Church has a renowned choir. The ceiling is covered in traditional murals. The characters represented by the domes are depicted on the ceiling blow each one: Jesus for the centre dome, and the apostles for the four smaller domes.

Then we drove towards the minarets and entered the great Mosque which has been modeled on the one designed by the great Ottoman architect, Sinan. He proclaimed the Selimiye Mosque built in 1575in Edirne his masterpiece, achieved at the age of eighty.  The Nizamy Kullyes mosque in Midrand has been scaled down to 78 % of the one in Turkey. First we entered the great Courtyard with its central fountain and arcaded sides which house the art gallery, the offices and the ablution areas. Leaving our shoes behind we stepped onto the carpet and entered the prayer hall.  It is not simply size which impresses all who enter, but the space, its volume and the lightness. Myriads of tiles adorn the columns and walls, stained glass windows light three levels below the dome, the ceilings are adorned with murals and the floor is carpeted throughout ensuing peace and quiet.

The project engineer and the Imam explained about the construction and the use of the various elements and the Deputy Imam recited from the Koran in Arabic – the story of Joseph (The amazing coloured dream-coat). It was quite magical listening and absorbing the scale and beauty of the place. Afterwards we were given water and Turkish delight. Wee received such a warm welcome and the Imam assured us we would be welcome at any time to visit and bring other visitors.

So we celebrated Heritage Day welcoming and being welcomed to appreciate two new buildings which bring centuries old traditional architecture to enrich the cultural experience of Johannesburg.

Many thanks to David Forrest who organised this tour and who has been invited to celebrate the opening of the Mosque by President Jacob Zuma on 4th October.

Click here to view the pictures





  1. Excellent surveys of the City Centre were commissioned by the City Of Johannesburg and three areas have been completed. Now JHF is rating the buildings to clarify that heritage value has been attributed to them. At present most are protected by Section 34 of the National Heritage Resources Act which applies to all buildings and structures over 60 years old. We can’t change the law but we can make it easier for owners, developers and the officials to decide which ones are important. The Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust has already rated Parktown and Westcliff, Jeppestown, La Rochelle and Yeoville. So this work is going forward as the first step in conserving this heritage.
  2. Erecting Heritage Plaques which provide the public with information on the buildings. A number of Art Deco buildings have already had plaques erected and this work will continue. JHF will need to raise funds as not all owners are willing and able to pay for the plaques. The plaques are another step in protecting Joburg’s heritage.
  3. Commemorative paving block:

We have approached the Provincial Legislature for permission to lay commemorative paving blocks in the paving around the Legislature’s precinct. This is a way of reminding people of important events in Johannesburg’s past.

  1. On-going research into the old suburbs of Johannesburg to identify the heritage buildings and places which need to retained and especially to be considered in the development planning of the suburbs. Heritage sites make an important contribution to the sense of stability and of growth as well as increasing pride in the community.


 “A city without a past is like a man without a memory” warned Professor E.W. Mallows
 We need our old buildings to remind us of our roots and to measure our progress.

Contact us on: 011-482-3349  Weekdays (Mornings only)
                  e-mail : mail@joburgheritage.co.za 



On 4th October 2012 which is the City’s 126th birthday we’ll be launching the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation with a bus trip. We start at the Sunnyside Park Hotel (1896), one of the most historic places in the City and move to Pritchard Street, the heart of the retail centre to unveil a plaque at the Markham’s Building. We pay our respect to Captain von Brandis, the first Landdrost, travel down to Gandhi Square to see the statue of Gandhi who practised law here, look at the new billboard explaining Herman Charles Bosman’s association with the High Court Building and then drive down to St. Alban’s Church which has been restored under the auspices of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust thanks to the generosity of two sponsors.
Then back over the Mandela Bridge past the Fever Hospital, Berea Fire Station and Randjieslaagte Beacon recently enclosed and protected by the University of the Witwatersrand and return to the Sunnyside Park Hotel.     


Press Release - 15 July 2012

Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust changes its name

The Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust has officially changed its name to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation in order to reflect more accurately the work done by the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust and the change in circumstances in Parktown and Westcliff over the last 27 years. The name change was voted for by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust at the trust’s annual general meeting held at Emoyeni in Parktown on 14 July 2012.

Flo Bird, chairman of the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust says, “This is a turning point for the trust. We needed to change our name to reflect the role that we have been playing for many years now – protecting the heritage of greater Johannesburg.”

“There is huge sentimental attachment to our name. The Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust started up in 1985 when the houses of Parktown were being bulldozed for a new office park. At the time, we had already lost 55 houses to the College of Education, 30 for Pieter Roos Park and road widening, 17 for the M1 highway and 12 for the Johannesburg Hospital (now Charlotte Mxenge Hospital),” she reminisces.

The Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust won this battle though and today the Parktown Ridge Heritage Area protects the ridge of Rockridge Road above and the Valley Road below. There are16 Provincial Heritage Sites in Parktown and blue Heritage Plaques have been placed on many more sites in the area. Fortunately, the suburb of Westcliff has not experienced the same commercial pressures, and the attitude of the owners is overwhelmingly in favour of conserving the heritage – both built and natural.

The Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust has always relied on its historic tours for fund raising for its heritage activities and the last 18 years has seen these tours move well beyond the confines of Parktown and Westcliff. The weekly Saturday afternoon tours cover a variety of Johannesburg suburbs including: the Johannesburg city centre, Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville, Bellvue, Highlands, Mountain View, Observatory, Upper Houghton, Kensington, Alexandria, Belgravia, Jeppestown, Newtown, Fietas, Vrededorp, Sophiatown, Eagles Nest, Turffontein, La Rochelle, Troyville, Parkview, Emmarentia, Braamfontein, Brixton, and Soweto.

“We needed to recognise that Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust‘s efforts to save Johannesburg’s heritage have taken us well beyond the confines of Parktown and Westcliff,” says Bird.

“We have completed the restoration of St Alban’s Church in Ferreirasdorp; and we have successfully applied for Beacon Royal in Yeoville and Mike’s Kitchen in Parktown to be declared as provincial heritage sites.

“We are fighting to have the Rissik Street Post Office in central Johannesburg restored. We are part of the team fighting for the Department of Public Works to take action on the Marshall Street Police Barracks and we are fighting even more desperately to save the Crown Mines Primary School from eviction by I-Prop.”

While the name Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust has developed a formidable reputation over the years for upholding heritage conservation principles, many people associate Parktown and Westcliff with elitist areas and an unsavoury colonialist past. This has hindered some of the trust’s heritage work in recent years.

A case in point is that of the Crown Mines’ Primary School. When the trust applied for the Crown Mines’ Primary School to be declared a Provincial Heritage Site, officials were mystified as to the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust’s involvement and motives.

It is hoped that the trust’s name change to Johannesburg Heritage Foundation will strengthen the organisation’s efforts to save Johannesburg’s heritage for all its residents.

As an organisation, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation brings to the table 27 years of experience in fighting for the city’s heritage. It has a loyal body of members who are committed to saving Johannesburg’s heritage, an efficient administration, its own Research Centre, and it publishes the Johannesburg Heritage Journal.

“It was time for us to stop masquerading as a small, local suburban group, and officially take on the role that we have been playing anyway,” concludes Bird.

The aims and objectives of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation are to ensure that the valuable cultural heritage of Johannesburg is retained for future generations by:

  • Increasing public awareness of that heritage by creating opportunities for people to become familiar with this heritage and its special significance.
  • Identifying significant sites and areas, and motivating the protection of such heritage through the application of the National Heritage Resources Act and measures in the town planning legislation.
  • Restoring buildings, gardens and sites, and marking them appropriately with heritage plaques.
  • Offering tours and other activities for schools to ensure that learners get to know their city and take pride in their heritage.
  • Researching and publishing, both in print and on line, information on many aspects of Johannesburg’s heritage.


Flo Bird
Chairperson: Johannesburg Heritage Foundation
Tel: 011 726-7528
Cell: 082 891-7860
Email: flo.bird@parktownheritage.co.za

Den Adams
Deputy Chairperson: Johannesburg Heritage Foundation
Tel: 011 431 2109
Cell: 082 900 0426

Eira Bond
Mananger: Johannesburg Heritage Foundation
Tel: 011 482-3349
Email: parktown@intekom.co.za




Last Edit : 03/02/2014













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