Bertrams & Lorentzville generla view early 1900s

Bertrams and Lorentzville

Bertrams

1896 Map of Bertrams and Lorentzville

1896 Map of Bertrams and Lorentzville

On 9 May 1889 Robertson Fuller Bertam (estate agent and stockbroker) leased  a portion of land from the Bezhuidenhouts. The township laid out on the leased land was known as Bertram, and later as Bertramstown, appearing as such on a 1896 map. The suburb was meant to cash-in and catch the overflow from New Doornfontein. The streets didn’t line up and the grid like pattern of the suburb did not have any space allocated for open spaces. It did initially attract wealthy buyers with the first stands selling in August 1889. Bertam left for the Cape in 1893 where he began the wine firm Bertams that still exists today. In June 1897, Bertramsville was incorporated into Johannesburg. The suburb then had 350 stands of varying sizes. The area including Judith’s Paarl and Lorentzville was previously used as farming land to produce vegetables for the town.

Bertrams & Lorentzville generla view early 1900s

Bertrams & Lorentzville general view late1890s looking south toward Kensington & Troyeville

In 1902 the township was re-surveyed and soon became an affordable residential area. In time, parts of the area started to degenerate into slum conditions. In the late 1930s a housing scheme was set-up on the southern portion. White residents were re-settled and in 1938 a complex of 70 houses and 48 flats were completed between Bertram, Frere and Queen street to become the Maurice Freeman Housing Scheme (named after the major who planned the slum clearance). Slum clearances happened around the same time in Doornfontein. These new housing schemes were predominately earmarked for poor white Afrikaners. These are almost identical the the municipal houses in Jan Hofmeyr behind Brixton tower (and the location of Die Antwoord video shoots). It seems that the council approved slum removals in the 1930s with its forced removal and relocation of black and coloured residents to outside the city limits to make way for poor Afrikaner whites also paved the way for the forced removals of the 1950s – 1970s (like Sofiatown)

Examples of Maurice Freeman houses

Examples of Maurice Freeman houses 2014

Example of the flats in the Maurice Freeman Housing Scheme 2014

Examples of Maurice Freeman flats 2014

Chapman cottages Queen & Ascot

Named after property developer F. J. Chapman, this row of semi-detached houses was designed by H. Ibertson. The plans are dated 5 February 1905 around the heyday of suburbs like Kensington and Jeppestown. Note the gables for each house. This practice would fall away in coming years.

Chapman Houses 2014

Chapman cottages 2014

Chapman cottages 2009

Chapman cottages 2009

Semi-detached houses in Queen street

Semi-detached houses across the road from Chapman cottages. Not sure which of these get reffered to as 'pepper pot houses'

Semi-detached houses across the road from Chapman cottages. Not sure which of these get referred to as ‘pepper pot houses’ in some of the books.

Baden-Powell house corner Fuller and Berea

Scout founder Lord Baden-Powell is said to have stayed in Bertrams for a short time during the early 1900s after the Boer war. I suspect this was the house but have not found any supporting evidence. Baden-Powell has a fascinating military history. This piece on his connection with the Modderfontein Dynamite factory and early scouts by the South African Military History Society is a good read.

Baden-Powell house 2014

Baden-Powell house 2014

Baden-Powell house 2009

Baden-Powell house 2009

House with dome – Berea & Lang street

House with dome

House with dome 2009

Fitzgerald Home for Aged – Gordon Road

Fitzgerald home for the aged 2009

Fitzgerald home for the aged 2009

Bertrams Junior School

Some school

Bertrams Junior School 2014

Bertrams Synagogue

Like Doornfontein, Bertams had a massive Jewish community due to the influx of immigrants as explained in the piece below:

Despite such official anti-Semitic immigration sentiments, between 1924 and 1930 there was a noticeable rise in the immigration of Jewish refugees from Lithuania, Poland and Latvia to Johannesburg (Adler 1979:71). That a high percentage of these immigrants settled in the eastern suburbs of Johannesburg is clear from a 1936 survey which listed Doornfontein, Bertrams and Jeppe as home to the single largest Jewish community on the Witwatersrand (ibid). What makes this significant is that almost twenty percent of workers in the area were manual labourers (ibid, 72). This was predominantly then a community of workers, not owners.

“Thus it can be established that between 1920 and 1940 there was a concentration of Jewish immigrant workers living in the Johannesburg suburbs of Doornfontein, Bertrams and Jeppe. Their greatest significance however lies in the fact that they were immigrants and that a large proportion of them were manual labourers of the artisan class” (ibid, 74).

As the second generation of better educated and entrepreneurial Jews moved away from Bertrams to the northern suburbs, the usage of the Shuls and Synagogues  in the areas dropped. The Bertrams Synagogue in Kimberly Road closed in 1984

Bertrams Synagogue

Bertrams Synagogue

The Wedge

This is a collection of 17 houses in Erin Street that have been restored. Four houses backing on to Bertrams Road were demolished to make way for the Rea Vaya bus route. The houses date back to 1910-1914.

The Wedge cottages Erin & Fitzroy Streets

The Wedge cottages Erin & Fitzroy Streets

Lorentzville

Just to the east of Bertrams is Lorentzville which was named after the Pretoria family who settled in the valley. The suburb dates back to 1892 when J. A. Muller leased part of the farm from F.J Bezhuidenhout. He then sublet it to J. G. van Boeschoten, J. Lorentz and R. F. Bertram. On 7 February 1893 this syndicate bought the freehold from Bezhuidenhout. Pritchard laid out the suburb and it was re-surveyed in 1902 but was only really developed into a decent middle class suburb from 1910.

An early palatial house was Klooflands built in the 1890s by American mining engineer Joseph Curtis. His thinking was that the area (known as Bellevue Central) would become an exclusive suburb. By June 1911 he realised it wouldn’t and sold it to the Transvaal Consoliated Land & Exploration Company, which then made it part of Lorentzville.

Klooflands from the front

Klooflands from the front

Klooflands looking south across Judith's Paarl and Bez Valley  towards Kensington

Klooflands looking south across Judith’s Paarl and Bez Valley towards Kensington

Carnarvon Road semi-detached houses: Erected by various speculators between 1905 and 1910 and were successful solutions to housing shortages before huge blocks of flats were thought of (perhaps also a forerunner to today’s townhouses) Semi detached houses found their way into many of the old suburbs like Bez Valley, Melville, Doornfontein, Troyeville.

Semi-detached houses

Semi-detached houses

More examples of semi-detached houses

More examples of semi-detached houses

 Judith’s Paarl

 This suburb lies to the north and east of Lorentzville and is one of the few suburbs founded by an Afrikaans undertaking that includes several of the Bezhuidenhout clan (is it was part of their farm) It was named after F. J. Bezhuidenhout Snr’s wife Judith Cornelia Etresia and not their daughter as often claimed (the daughter was against the sale and development of that particular piece of the farm – calling it the ‘pearl of the farm’)

Leases date back to 1897 when Lazard and Co. sold 377 stands.

A horse-drawn service helped popularise the area. The terminus was at the end of Bez Valley at the corner of Ascot & First Streets.

The area became a solid but dull middle-class area.

Tin houses

There are a few houses of heritage value in Sydney Road although they are not in good shape. Also see examples of two other tin (or corrugated iron) houses nearby. The very first houses in Johannesburg were made of tin (affordable, available and easy to build) but very few have survived. I’ll check with my heritage chums, but finding three in such close proximity must be rare.

Tin house on Sydney Road

Tin house on Sydney Road 2009

Old house on Sydney Road 2009

Old houses on Sydney Road 2009

Tin house in Lorentzville

Tin house in Lorentzville

Really well-preserved tin & brick house in Lorentzville 2014

Really well-preserved tin & brick house in Lorentzville 2014

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This entry was published on February 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Bertrams and Lorentzville

  1. Good morning

    Thanks for all this valuable information –

    Do you have any info on Bezuidenhoutsvalley

    and who is the Bez from whom Bertram bought the land from

    My son in law is DP Bezuidenhout and we started with his family history and would like to know more about the Bez family who seems like had a prominent position in many aspects in the history of Johannesburg and else where.

    I enjoy all this history and cannot wait for the next bit of info

    Thanks a million

    Alet

     
    Alet de Hart
    082 373 3486
    011 475 3936 FAKS 086 553 8145

  2. I was born and raised in Bertrams and my gran lived in Maurice Freeman flats. This was the best time in my life. I also attended Bertrams Junior School from 1953 to 1956. Good memories poor then but happy

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks for your thoughts! We lived in Bertrams in Hunter Street for a few years after I was born from 1973 – 1975

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