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This is part one of a piece on lost churches on early Johannesburg. Part two will focus on those old churches that are still standing but are no longer used as they were originally intended (and a few that are, but only the old ones…).
For continuity, I have sometimes included the existing version of a building where applicable. To note early on: the Kruger government at the time granted a double stand, free of purchase price and license, to each church that applied.
By several accounts, the first church service was held by Rev. Bousfield from Pretoria who conducted the first Anglican service in October 1886 in the dining room of the Central Hotel (Commissioner Street near Sauer Street) in Ferriera’s camp. At the end of the service a subscription list was opened for the erection of a church. Mr. Ross, the Standard Bank manager, was appointed treasurer. Bousfield was the Bishop of Pretoria from 1878 – 1902.
Rev. Darragh, an Irishmen, arrived in Johannesburg from Kimberly on 11 June 1887. His first service was held in a corner store owned by Messrs Malcommes & Co. on the corner of Commissioner and Harrison street with the people sitting on planks. From the 24 June 1887, services were held at the Rand club in Loveday Street (which was still being built at the time) until St. Mary’s Parish church was built.
First Church of St. Mary’s Parish was built on the corner of Eloff & Kerk Street in 1887 and was designed by Fred Holman. It was completed around October of 1887. the teak altar and chancel furniture were made by George Weeks of Grahamstown from designs by Sydney Stent. The altar is evidently in the English church in Mayfair (something for further investigation).
The church bells arrived a few days before Easter and the overworked carpenter who was also busy with the benches had to scramble to get a belfry built so at least one bell could be rung on Easter morning. So it did on the Easter of 1888. The church hall was also home to the first Anglican school – St. Mary’s High school for girls which opened on 6 January 1888. St. Mary’s High school for boys was established in the same hall soon after.
St. Johns college was also founded by Darragh with first lessons being held on the porch of St. Mary’s Church Eloff Street in 1898. The little church proved to be too small almost as soon as it was built and it was demolished sometime after the Boer War.
Darragh also founded the Bantu mission and school of St. Cyprian’s as well as the Church of St. Albans for coloured people (of which the 1927 building that replaced the original tin structure still stands today near the original site of Ferreira’s camp)
He married Miss Ross (who had hired for a position with a contract stating that she was not allowed to marry) and on their return from their honeymoon in England, lived in two galvanised cottages on the present site of St. Mary’s Cathedral.
On the present site of Darragh House on the corner of Plein & Wanderers streets (then known as Hoek Street), the foundation stone for St. Mary’s Parish Hall was laid by Milner in 1904. It was designed by Aburrow & Treeby and was a bigger space for Darragh to conduct his services and for general community use. The hall was demolished in 1933 to make way for the first Darragh house in 1934 (designed by Cowin, Powers & Ellis) which was used as a head office for the Anglican Diocese up until April 1972. This building was demolished in the later part of 1972 to make way for a bigger building currently also named Darragh House.
Adjacent to it on the corner of Wanderers and De Villiers streets stands St Mary’s Cathedral. Its foundation stone was laid by Right Rev. Dr. Karney on 13th May 1926 (the first part of the building, the Chapel of Souls, was completed in 1921). The cathedral designed by the firm Baker & Fleming and was described as ‘the most impressive examples of church architecture in Africa’. The High Altar forms part of the memorial to Darragh. The cathedral was consecrated on the 27th September 1929. The original St. Mary’s foundation stone is evidently also incorporated into the building while the tower from the original plan was never installed. It also has South Africa’s largest pipe organ.
After the war, Darragh established the St. Mary’s Orphanage in Rosettenville. He also founded St. Saviors boys and girls school on the Village Main mine, St. Monica’s Home for rescue work and, as mentioned previously, was also the founder of St. John’s College. Soon after it was founded in Eloff street in the first St. Mary’s church, it moved to a site near the telephone tower in Plein Street. In 1902 the school with its additional learners moved to a wood and iron structure near the union grounds close to the Drill Hall on the corner of De Villiers and Klein Streets. In 1907 after the first buildings were completed (funded by Sir Thomas Cullinan), the school moved to its present site in Houghton. By that stage Darragh and St. Mary’s were no longer connected to the school. Darragh died on the 16th November 1922. He is buried in Braamfontein cemetery.
By another account, the first church service was held by James Gray in the not yet completed Sam Heights Hotel which stood in the top part of Commissioner Street near Globe Street (which no longer exists) in Ferrierastown. Rev. Andrew Allan from Durban took over the congregation started by James Gray and built up the parish of St. George’s Church in Noord Street. He was also heavily involved in the helping of survivors after the Braamfontein explosion.
Blousfield’s story seems the most plausible and backed up by documents. Some sources date Gray’s service as mid-1887 although he did apply to the government for a Presbyterian site from Harrismith on 2o November 1886 as the district he was in charge of included the area of Johannesburg.
The first Jewish religious service in Johannesburg is said to have been held in a store owned by a Mr. Weinstein which was on the corner of Market and Harrison Street. The first service for high holidays in 1887 was held in the original Rand Club in Commissioner Street officiated by Rabbi Joel Rabinowitz.
The first synagogue in Transvaal was the President street Synagogue erected in 1888/9. It was one of the first brick buildings in Johannesburg and designed by Read & McCowat and built by Mr. Rowe. The foundation stone was laid by E. Mendelssohn on 24 September 1889 but was apparently dated November 1888. At the time of completion there were approximately 100 Jews in Johannesburg. The synagogue faced south on President street and was between Kruis & Von Brandis Streets. The building was sold in March 1926.
Second synagogue was meant to be in End Street near Davies Street. The foundation stone was laid in 1906 but the temple was never finished. In 1915 amalgamation of various Jewish congregations took place and the stone was transferred to the Wolmarans Street Synagogue or Great Synagogue as it’s known. The unfinished second building was amalgamated with End Street convent.
The convent bought and converted what was previously the Doornfontein Club which was started by Sam Height in 1899 (which was also known as the Egyptian Club). It too became too small and Mother Superior Ambrose purchased a piece of land near the Sachenwald forest on which the Parktown Convent of today stands.
The first application for a Dutch Reform Church in Johanneburg was received in January 1887. In the same month, Dominee van Warmelo of Heidelburg held the first service in the home of Field Cornet J. P. Meyer in Natal Camp. A subscription list was opened for the erection of a new church and fifty Pounds was collected.
A young Dominee, J. N. Martins was convinced to stay in Johannesburg while passing through to Barberton. A house was built for him in Newtown (where the market now stands) and he conducted his first services in a reed stable until August 1887 when the first Dutch Reform Church was completed on Von Brandis Square where the Law Courts are today. There are no original plans but there were alterations done in 1898 by R. L. McCowat for owner A. H. Halder. It is possible it was no longer a church at that time.
In 1906 the supreme court building swallowed up the old church which was a bakery at the time as well as a lecture hall and several small houses and shops.
A breakaway congregation whose members included Jan Smuts and Louw & Frans Geldenhuys rented the Masonic Hall but soon acquired a piece of land close by on the corner of Plein & Hol (Edith Cavell) street. Irene Hall was erected in 1898 designed by Reid & Green with cornerstone having being laid on 7 May 1898. Johannesburg’s first Afrikaans school, Helpmekaar, was established in 1921 as a mixed school at the Irene Church. It 1925 moved to it’s current home in Braamfontein opposite Parktown Boys on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road.
A larger church designed by Harold Porter (also designed St. Martins in the Field in Rosebank) was built on the same site in 1932 and flats were built on each side in 1934 for added income and to reduce traffic noise. The congregation dwindled and the church was demolished in the late 1960s and a new church built on the corner of Beit and End Street in 1971 that still stands today. The Masonic Temple was also eventually demolished after being surrounded by high-rise buildings in the late 1960s.
According to the book “Islam in South Africa’ the first mosque was established in 1888 in the Malay quarter of Ferreira’s Town and demolished in 1907 after being condemned as insanitary. The plot of land was incorporated into the Juma Masjid Society in 1916. It’s generally accepted that the Kerk Street site was used by Muslims prior to the first solid structure being built as detailed below but I’m drawn to a piece of information (as yet unconfirmed) about a plot of land of religious value near the sheds at 1 Fox Street that is owned and preserved by a the Mia family. This is the quote from http://www.skysrapercity.com by user Pule “Around the corner, in Alexander Street, lie the remains of the city’s first mosque, which has been walled off and retained as sacred ground by the Mia family”. This ties into the 1888 scenario as this area was still within Ferreira’s Town. Kerk Street is much further north and outside of the boundaries of Ferreira’s Town. I’m trying to track down someone within the Mia Family to corroborate the claim.
The first Mosque was a wood and iron structure built in 1906. It was replaced by what was known as the Kerk Street Mosque in 1918. The foundation stone of this Mosque was laid on 15 May 1918 by Syed Jammool Hoosain Mashade. The rectangular building was set slightly at an angle with the street, according to its relationship with Mecca, and was enclosed by a high decorative wall. The mosque was known as Madressa Himayatil Islam.
The building was demolished in 1989 to make way for a bigger and more modern Mosque which was completed in 1991.
The following account from www.catholicjhb.org.za talks about the first Catholic service in Johannesburg: “February 20th. Sunday – I said the first Mass that has ever been celebrated on this plateau, open veldt up to the present. A reed hut, the Bakery of the Camp, is put at my disposal by Mr. Whelan of Bloemfontein. There were thirty-three Catholics present.” The exact site of this first Mass is lost but it was situated somewhere in Ferreira’s Camp to the west of the present City Hall.
The first Catholic Church was built and opened on 21 August 1887 on the corner of 148 Fox and Smal Street Street. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Jolivet O.M.I. This stone is now displayed in the Saratoga Avenue Cathedral. It appears as though the first Catholic church was designed by J.S. Donaldson. He also designed the Grand National Hotel 1888, the famous Palace building 1889 and the Hosken Building 1897.
Five years later in 1892 due to space requirements, a presbytery (or second church) was built on the corner of Main & Von Willeigh Streets just diagonally across from the church. A convent and school (staffed by Holy Family sisters) were also part of the church. The church buildings were sold and the whole block was then taken over by the Castle Brewery in 1895. The convent moved to End Street to what was the Doornfontein club. The church buildings were demolished to make way for the brewery except for the second church. This was converted and became a stable which was still in use in the late 1940s. The Caste Brewery site is now where the Carlton Centre and hotel is today.
The second bigger church, known as the Kerk St. Pro-Cathedral, was built on the block bounded by Kerk, Pritchard, Goud and Nugget Streets and was designed by J. F. Beardwood & Ibler. According to G. A. Leyds, the foundation stone was laid by Rt. Rev. Dr Jolivet in 1896 with the consecration taking place on 1897. Unfortunately, there are many details in Leyds’ book that are contradicted elsewhere. A Johannesburg Heritage Society booklet states that Jolivet laid the foundation stone on 7th June 1895 with the church solemnly opened on November 15th of the same year (Van Der Waal’s ‘Van Mynkamp tot Metropolis’ says 1896). The church stood for over sixty years until the Cathedral of Christ the King in Saratoga Avenue opened. The cathedral was designed by Gregory & Monahan and the foundation stone was laid in 1958. Henry Nourse’s home known as ‘Clyfton House’ occupied the stand for over 60 years prior to the new cathedral.
The new cathedral’s first service was on Sunday 30th October 1960. Theodore, Cardinal de Gouvei, Archbishop of Lorenco Marques, presided over Solemn Mass which was celebrated by Monsignor Orfio Melanie, Charge d’affaires to the Apostolic Delegation in South Africa.
Other lost churches around Johannesburg
The first church was a converted building in Johannesburg. In 1910 a church and rectory was purchased at 124 Commissioner Street (near the corner of Von Brandis Street) but soon moved to the corner of Kerk and Diagonal Street.
In 1936 the old Dutch Reform Church in Fordsburg was purchased by the Maronites and used until the early 1990s. The head of the church typically either live on the premises or close by. When Father Peter Alam bought the Dutch church, he moved into a house at the closest address he could find at the time: 47 Mint Road – about two blocks away from the newly purchased church premises.
This quote from the Maronites book regarding the last days of the church: “The 10am Mass on Sunday 20th July 2008 was a sad day in the annals of the Maronite and Lebanese South African community. It was a de-consecration Mass, signifying the closure of the Maronite Catholic Church in Fordsburg, Lebanese home for over 75 years, and its transferring to a normal building. The lights were on. the church beautifully decorated. The Lebanese attending the Holy Mass as they and their forefathers and their families have done religiously and faithfully for over three-quarters of a century. The Maronite choir was magnificent. The congregation was in tears.”
Their newest church in Woodmead known as “Lady of the Cedars’ completed in the 1990s and later another in Mulbarton became the predominately Lebanese congregation’s new homes.
The brick building to the left of the church replaced a typical late 1890s Fordsburg house that was used as a Maronite school. The building was built in the 1950s.
Dutch Reform Churches Fordsburg
The Nederduitse Hervormde Gemeente (NH of G) church, was consecrated on 6 December 1895 and two months later, on 19 February 1896, badly damaged by the Braamfontein dynamite explosion. Money was collected and the larger church was rebuilt and ready by 20 November 1896 (foundation stone laid 21 August 1896). See a previous post here on details around the Braamfontein explosion.
It appears that this NH of G church was built in Central Road and not Mint Road as initially thought. On both the Goad’s Map key plan, the church appears on Central Road between Park Road and Marais (Barney Simon & Lilian Ngoyi -previously Bree- Street today), and was one block east from where the Maronite Church is today. It was likely the first Dutch church in Fordsburg and was the one that only stood for two months until destroyed in the explosion. It’s position in Central Road is consistent with the damage range of the explosion. Additionally, a parsonage for the church was built next to the rebuilt church on stands 73 & 74. The house was designed by Fleming & Reynolds in 1899 but was probably only built in 1902 or 1903 after the war. Fleming & Reynolds also designed similar Dutch Reform buildings in Fairview.
The NH of H church and parsonage were demolished in the early 1940s.
The Dutch Reform Church building designed by G. Kroon and built in 1903 in Mint Road was taken over by the Maronite congregation in 1936 (see Maronite section above) who used it for over 75 years thereafter.
The building has been standing empty since 2008 and was evidently sold a few years ago. The new owners stripped much of the church leaving a shell. These interior pictures were taken in June 2015.
It is stated that the original DRC building was also in Mint Road, south of Main Road. Evidence suggests that a church building that matches the description that still stands behind a facade on Mint Road and that was converted to the Tivoli Bioscope in the late 1930s was the first DRC building. It was sold because it became too small. Labeled only as ‘Church’ on the 1910 Goad’s map and ‘Tivoli Bioscope’ in the 1937 map, the building is hidden by a facade and now operates as a motor spares warehouse.
The Longman’s Directory of 1896 lists a ‘Dopper Church’ at 15 Mint Road, which is a few blocks south of the first DRC church just mentioned. The site of 15 Mint Road was recently a business premises, but is now being re-developed. The only known photo below of the Dopper church does not match any of the other church buildings in Forsdburg, so it’s likely correct. This building was also sold as it quickly became too small for the congregation. It appears that the Dopper community (a Calvinistic breakaway of the DRC) moved to Melville in the early 1900s as opposed to the other two Dutch churches that remained in Fordsburg and moved later.
This church stood on the corner of End & Bree Street where architect Frank Emley was a member although R. Howden designed it. The foundation stone was laid by mining commissioner J. L. van der Merwe on the 14th July 1895.
The first Congregational services were held in a wood & iron structure in Von Brandis square by Rev. F. J. Ecclestone. The church then moved to Richard Currie’s auction rooms in Commissioner Street on the 25th April 1899 and later to the Masonic Hall in Jeppe Street before their new church was finally ready for occupation in late 1895. Ten years later in 1905 it was joined by the Sir Herbert Baker designed School of Music across the road in End Street and the Caledonian Club which was built behind it. In 1913 an organ chamber was added. Where the church once stood is now a nondescript building. The Caledonian Club burnt down a few years ago and has now also been demolished. Further info on the School of Music and Caledonian Club can be found here.
The Swedish Church stood on a small stand – measuring 100 x 50 Cape Feet (31.5 x 15.7 meters) – at the North-Eastern corner of the intersection of Hancock and Quartz Streets. The building had been erected by the ‘Deutsche Evangelische Gemeinde’ – German Evangelical Congregation – in 1889/90.
In 1910 when the German Congregation was in the process of planning their new church to be built in Ockerse Street, Hospital Hill, the Swedes made an offer to buy the old church for the sum of £800. The Germans eagerly accepted the offer subject to being allowed the use of the building until their new church would be ready for occupation.
Although the old church – plus ancillary buildings which had been added in the course of time – remained substantially the same the Swedes made improvements to it. It is clear from photos that the original corrugated iron roof coverings made way for slates and an impressive ridge turret was added. These alterations were done by BAKER & FLEMING in 1911.
The Swedish congregation remained in occupation until 1976 when they relocated to their newly built church, St. Johannes, in Kelvin where it still is flourishing as a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa.
The old church was subsequently pulled down to make way for a high-rise block of flats. (Konrad Voges 2014)
In the evenings, the church was used by Swiss Reform congregation for their services.
Park Synagogue in De Villiers Street (corner Joubert) was opposite the telephone tower. Built in 1892 by Messrs Alpine and Short. It was designed by architects Menze & Brauer. The four stands that it was built on were donated by President Kruger who also consecrated the building. J. F. Kroll designed the minister’s residence in 1896 and Kallenbach & Reynolds oversaw alterations in 1903. It operated until 1912 when it was acquired by the railways and closed. A Railway building now stands in its place.
The Park synagogue in De Villiers Street had a school added to it sometime between 1903 and 1905 designed by Benzie & Deeble. After the war, the school was moved to End Street next to the railway line in what is known today as I.H. Harris Primary School.
Roman Catholic Mission
The first Roman Catholic Mission also known as ‘Sherwell Street Native Church’ was built in 1902 at 45 Sherwell Street in Doornfontein. It remained a church until 1937 possibly also known named Sacred Heart of Jesus Mission. Father John de Lacy who acquired the property and started the church was the first Catholic priest to visit Johannesburg on 20th July 1886. It was a school during the week for Africans taught by teachers from Holy Family Sisters and End Street Convent. The priests lived in the presbytery next to Catholic church on the corner of Kerk & Nugget Street before the Pro Cathedral moved in 1960 to the corner of Saratoga Avenue & End Street.
St. Cyprian’s Native Mission
The original church founded by Rev. Darragh appears to have been at 185 Anderson Street (between Nugget and End Street) and also held services in Chapels at Robinson Deep, Selby compound, Parktown, Yeoville (St Aiden’s was used), Parkview, S.A.R. Braamfontein and Kensington. Although there is no date, it was designed by Edwin Luytens who also designed the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert park in 1910. The church was a largely black congregation and closed sometime in the 1950s. The congregation moved to St. Mary’s Cathedral, known for Its anti-apartheid stance. Where the church was is now the current Anderson Street off ramp which runs right down the block between End & Nugget Street where the church and other buildings would have been. One report adds that the land was expropriated in 1963 – presumably for the highway.
Also under the St Cyprian’s banner was a school and a mission. The mission was based in Doornfontein at 10 Sherwell Street and was in use in 1931 based on an annual report by Wilfred Parker. Previously it was the St.Peter’s Anglican College founded in 1903 and a place where black mission workers and priests were trained. It moved to Rosettenville in 1913.
A telegram from 19 August 1925 was sent from Wilfred Parker [C.B.B.’s brother], St. Cyprian’s Native Mission, 10 Sherwell Street, Johannesburg, to Car [C.B.B.] in this telegram it’s also mentioned that a church is going up in Sofiatown.
In the annual report in 1929 it mentions that the school is to be moved to Sophiatown. There was a St Cyprian’s in Sophiatown that was closed down during apartheid. It is also noted that St John’s College adopted the mission school and was helping to raise money to buy land in the Western Native Townships.
Also part of this set-up was St. Mary Magdalen’s in Gibson Street Sophiatown.
St. Saviour’s City & Suburban
Dating back to 1905 this church was designed by Gilbert Cottrill who also designed Christ Church in Clarendon Place (which still stands) and the St. Mary’s church home in Berg street (presumably part of St. Mary’s College) Not sure if this church still stands as no address or pictures can be found.
Ebenezer Congregational Church
This church, built in 1910, stood at 33 Sivewright Ave just off Market Street. It was extended in 1913 to accommodate 200 schoolchildren and again in 1918. In 1926 a new school was completed on the adjacent southern plot. The buildings were sold in the early 1970s and it appears demolished in place for what was once a Sanitary City depot.
The church served the coloured and Malay communities in Johannesburg. Given the segregation at the time it was common (and easier) for deacons of non-white congregations to start-up small churches and add schools later on. There was little in the way of government schooling for non-whites and the various churches and missions took on this task. Rev. Charles Phillips was to be the driving force behind the Ebenezer expansion around Johannesburg.
Ebenezer Independent Church Newtown
This church, which was part of the above congregation, was designed by Kallenbach & Kennedy in 1904. It stood on the corner of Jeppe & Becker Streets possibly where the turbine hall is today.
Ebenezer Congregational Church Ferreirastown
Part of the same group as the previous two churches run by Rev Charles Phillips. This one dates back to 1902 and was on the corner of Fox and Wolhunter Streets. Wolhunter Street no longer exists and there are no pictures of this church to be found. There is also another reference to the same church at 10 Main Street, which is about a block away.
In 1918 a training centre was erected at stand 206 or 10 Main street. The Zurich Insurance Company building and grounds now stand in the area that the centre would have which would have been just up the road from the church pictured above.
African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)
This church was on the corner of Anderson and Phillips Street in City & Suburban. The architect was Ernest J Wellman and the plans are dated 14 April 1926. The church has been demolished but the headquarters for the AME is housed in a four-storey building (built in 1991) with the ground floor still being used as a church.
This from http://www.dacb.org: “Senatle built the headquarters for the AME 19th district in what was originally a small church building at the corner of Philipps and Anderson streets in Johannesburg. When he was transferred to the 19th district Senatle saw a need for both a residence and headquarters for the church. After negotiations with the local church that owned the building, Senatle started a fund-raising campaign. His main aim was to impress on the district that local money must be used to build the headquarters. He emphasized that the money had to be raised entirely from the black people of Africa. As a result of this spirit of self-reliance, the sum of three million rand was raised. Located in a four-storey building situated at the corner of Philips and Anderson Streets in Johannesburg, the headquarters opened in 1991. The bottom part is used as a church building, the middle two floors are rented out to local businesses and the upper floor is where the various offices of the headquarters of the 19th district are located.”
Apostolic Faith Mission of SA
The plans for this church date back to December 1917 with the architect noted as unknown. It was on the southern side of Mooi Street in City & Suburban. It is also noted that the congregation first held services in a hall in Doornfontein and in 1908 moved to the Bree Street Tabernacle before taking ownership of their new building.
Up until 1950 there were at least 15 active AFM churches around Johannesburg. I’ve managed to track down most of them and they will be featured in the next part of this piece. Of the 15 listed from 1950, only two seem to have been demolished. These are the ‘Tabernakal’ at 7 De Villiers street and the one in Craighall Park at 59 Lancaster Ave.
The De Villiers Street AFM church was sold to Brian Brooke who converted it and opened the Brooke Theatre on 13 September 1955. It ran for 25 years until 1980 when Brian closed it. It was demolished in 1981 and an office block went up in its place.
Native Mission Van Beek Street Doornfontein
Plans indicate that additions were made to this church in 1904 for owner Rev. HD Goodenough (for the Congregational Church of Americas Board). It appears to have been at 39 Van Beek Street and is now a small factory. It’s not known if the original church was demolished or altered to fit its new role.
The first St. Augustine’s started out as a high school for boys in Height Street just south of Beit Street in 1892. In 1894 the congregation added a chapel which was later used by the congregants as a church (another source puts the building as an iron structure in erected in 1888). It was then moved to Charlton Terrace where a new church was designed by Phillip Treeby with the foundation stone laid in 1904 by Bishop Carter of Pretoria. In 1936 it was demolished to make way for the Harrow Road widening and highway.
The third incarnation was rebuilt in 1936 in Orange Grove with the original foundation stones incorporated into the new building. The new designers were Fleming & Co. who did work at the Milner Park showgrounds, Roedean and St. John College. One book claims St.Augustine’s was taken down stone by stone and re-erected in the shape of a house in Bramley, Louis Botha Avenue, called ‘The Worral’. It also claims this St. Augustine’s was in Sivewright Avenue. I cannot find any further evidence at this stage.
Wesleyan Church Yeoville
The foundation stone was laid by Sir Arthur Lawley and the church, on the corner of Alexandra Street & Harrow Road, was completed in 1904. Prior to construction, the first service for 70 people was held at the Masonic Hall (or Corona Lodge completed in 1902 designed by J. A. Cope) in O’Reilly Road on 25 November 1903. The lodge building still stands and is the only old Masonic hall left in Johannesburg although it hasn’t been in Masonic service for at least 30 years.
The last service was Easter 1961 after which the church was demolished to make way for the Harrow Road widening. The congregation moved to a new church in St John’s Road opposite St. John’s College which was designed by Noel Dellow. The original glass windows were incorporated into the northern wall of the new church.
Wesleyan Church Jules Street Jeppestown (also known as the Victoria Society)
Designed by A.E & J.H. Till and built in 1903 (or 1898 – see below). Not much was known about this church but recent research (Oct 2016) has uncovered that the dwindling congregation moved to the Kensington Methodist Church in 1987.
The church was all but missing until Gary Walker alerted me to the shell of a church on the corner of Jules and Hans Street. From the Google street view shots below, one can see it is the remains of the old church. The entire top half is missing.
The new research on early Methodist history in Johannesburg also mentions the ‘Victoria Church’. This was a Methodist branch that opened a wood and iron church in the vicinity of Commissioner Street and John Page Drive in 1897. It burnt down and a new church was built in 1898 and renovated in 1935. The records indicate that J.H. Till was the architect of the ‘Victoria Church’ which means this is the same church. Till was heavily involved in the Methodist affairs. He died in 1956 at the age of 91.
Here are some updated photos of the church shell from December 2020
In the book ‘Daughter of yesteryear’ by Alice Ralis and Ruth Gordon, a story is told of a Weslyan church hall in Jeppestown which burnt down on Guy Fawkes night. The congregation was moved to a temporary wood and iron church hall while a new church was erected on the site of the old one. I suspect this is all related.
Yet another incarnation of the ‘Victoria Church’ was built in Main street in 1954. This one which still stands although appears to have changed denominations.
Wesleyan Church President Street
The first Wesleyan church was in Commissioner Street and it’s foundation stone laid by Captain von Brandis in July 1887. The first Methodist minister in Johannesburg, Rev. F. J. Briscoe, used to preach from its pulpit. It soon became too small and a bigger church was built in 1889 just a block away from the first synogogue on the corner of President and Kruis Streets. It didn’t look like a traditional church with its numerous windows and ventilators but these were necessary as the building was also used as a school. It was enlarged in 1892 and was in use until 1919 when it was demolished.
Wesleyan Church Fordsburg
Also by A.E. & J.H. Till dating from 1894. The church was in Lilian Road between Main and Fountain Roads and has been demolished. In 1904 a parsonage was added in Fountain Road. There were also additions to the church. No Pictures have been found but below is the current site and foundations that match up to Goad’s 1910 insurance map.
Wesleyan Church Anderson Street
This came up on the insurance map I use for reference. A car park now stands where the church once stood between Anderson & Frederick Streets. I can’t find anything other information on this church.
Synagogue in Fox Street
The eastern European Jews established their congregation (JOHC or Johannesburg Orthodox Hebrew Congregation) and synagogue in 1891 in a house at 42 Fox Street on the western side near Ferreirastown. This house was rented from Harry Filmer (and was also used for early Catholic services prior to the first Catholic church in Smal Street). It was known as Beth Hamedrash (House of learning).
In 1893, the Trustees of the JOHC bought a stand if Ferrierastown with a small house on it. Plans indicate alterations were done to the house by architect A.P. Menze. A mikveh was erected behind the house. The building was finished in February 1893 and the scrolls transferred from Filmer’s house.
In 1912 a synagogue was built on both the original and adjacent site which was designed by J.F. Kroll who was also responsible for the Osborne Chemist in Jeppestown and the Fordsburg synagogue. It appears as though the original building was demolished when the new synagogue was built. The foundation stone was laid by I.W. Schlesinger on 9 June 1912 and the synagogue was officially opened on 8 December 1912 by Gustave Imroth. It stood until around 1947 until Anglo American bought up all the land to build its new headquarters although membership dropped in the late 1920s.. In 1916 a Talmud Torah was built a few houses away on the corner of Fox and Maclaren Streets. The school was sold in the late 1920s and the money used to buy the land in Doornfontein in Sherwell Street for the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol which will be covered in the next piece.
There were four other smaller shuls that stood in Doornfontein that no longer exist: Talmud Torah Synagogue built in 1918 and designed by Saul Margo (possibly near the grounds of the Jewish school now part of UJ just behind Ellis Park stadium), Altesheim Shul in Louisa Street built in 1927 (possibly the shul next to the old age home designed by Cooke), Chassidishe Shul in Siemert Street built in 1930 designed by Saul Margo (which appears to have re-located to Yeoville after it was demolished to make way for the Harrow Road fly-over in 1964) and Ponevez Shul in Hilner Street built in 1931.
Hilner Street Synagogue or Ponovez Synagogue was designed by Obel & Obel in 1931 and the foundation stone laid by D. I. Fram on 26 July 1931. It was also demolished when the Harrow Road overpass was built. Thanks to Rose Norwich for the info and plan that I found on Eli’s blog.
Check out Eli’s website for a more detailed Jewish perspective on the various shuls in Doornfontein here.
Synagogue in Fordsburg
Designed by J.F Kroll in 1904 with changes in 1906. The cornerstone was laid in 1906 by Mrs L. R. Melman. The synagogue was in Terrace Road between Commercial and Avenue Roads and was demolished to make way for the Oriental Plaza in the late 1960s. The congregation was also known as the Fordsburg-Mayfair Hebrew congregation and were the subject of a book by Bernard Sacks called ‘The Fordsburg-Mayfair Hebrew Community 1893 – 1964’. Mayfair got its own synagogue later in 1928.
Hamadia Mosque Newtown
The picture above may be an early version of this mosque. This extract is from Elsabe Brink’s heritage survey of Fordsburg:
The most important and oldest of these is the Hamidia Mosque at 2 Jennings Street, Newtown. This is where in 1908 Mahatma Gandhi addressed numerous meetings and on 10 January 1908 presided over a gathering at which passive resisters burnt their passes in protest against new discriminatory legislation. The Star reported: “The meeting was held in the Mosque grounds, Newtown, at 11 o’clock, and despite the short notice of the meeting there was a large gathering. For the purpose of such [a] meeting a platform had been erected I the grounds and seating accommodation was provided by means of the serviceable paraffin tins which were strewn about in thousands. On the platform were Essop Ismail Mia, Chairman of the British Indian Association, an Indian priest in artistic Oriental garb, and Mr Gandhi.” This meeting signaled the resumption of the passive resistance campaign. On 16 and 23 August 1908, at public ceremonies at the mosque, more passes were burnt.
Central Tabernacle Bree Street
Just a few blocks east of the Hamadia mosque stood the Central Tabernacle at 88 Bree Street. The only information I can find is that the Apostolic Faith Mission moved there in 1908 for some time. I presume it was used by another congregation before that time and possibly after.
Presbyterian Church in Noord Street
This church was built in 1906 and designed by R. Howden. It appears to have been where the Cinerama was built in the 1960s which became a nightclub in the 1980s and 1990s and is now a church again. Evidence points to this church being the ‘great parish of St. George’s church in Noord Street’ founded by James Gray. It could also be a different Presbyterian Church known as the ‘Scotch Church’. According to the plans, two houses presumably part of the church were designed and built first in 1895 on adjacent plots with the main church coming almost 10 years later.
Presbyterian Church 286 Bree Street
Built in 1889 and designed by Harry Clayton who also worked on the never completed End Street Synagogue. At some point after 1897 and probably around 1905, it became known as the Catholic Apostolic Church probably due to the bigger St. George’s Presbyterian Church in Noord Street becoming the main church. It’s a block of flats today.
There is also reference to an early Presbyterian church on the north side of Kerk Street between Rissik & Joubert Streets dating back to 1890
Baptist Church Plein Street
Designed by A. H. Reid in 1892. He was part of the team that designed the first synagogue in Johannesburg in President Street and also designed the first Johannesburg General Hospital. The plans state the chapel was on the corner of De Villiers and Kaiser Streets.
Baptist Church De Villiers Street
I’ve found a photo of the Baptist Church in De Villers Street from 1914. More info to come
Rosebank Union Church
Also listed under baptist churches, this started out in Cradock Avenue in Rosebank in a tin building (known as the Tin Tabernacle) in February 1906.
In 1926, the second building was erected. It was designed by F. Williamson and also called the ‘Spanish church’ due to the steeply pitched and red tiles roof. The Tin Tabernacle structure was donated to the Alexandria Baptist church in 1931.
This church was demolished in 1977 and a third and bigger church was erected on the site. In 1996, the property was sold to Total and the church bought new land in Hurlingham. The current RCU was opened in November 1999.
Clifton Methodist Church Braamfontein
Designed by H Granger Fleming in 1893, this church stood until 1972 until it was demolished to make way for a modern building.
More information on the Clifton Methodist Church can be found in an earlier post on Braamfontein here.
Dutch Reform Church Braamfontein
This grand church was built in 1897 bounded by Jorrisen, De Korte and Harrison Streets. It was demolished in 1955.
More information on the Braamfontein Dutch Reform church can be found here.
All Saints Clifton Parish Hall
This church hall which stood in Steimens Street was designed by Thomas Anderson Moodie. The plans date back to May 1906. It was demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the Civic Theatre and Centre expansion.
Congregational Church Loveday Street Braamfontein
The plans for this small church date back to February 1897. It was designed by Howden & Chandler for the Rev. Henry C.W. Newell
Wanderers View Synagogue
Built for the Braamfontein Hebrew Congregation in 1919 and designed by S. Isaacs. The synagogue was on the corner of Smit and Loveday Streets in what was then known as Wanderer’s View. It’s not known when the building was demolished but its estimated to be the early 1960s.
This excerpt from Margot Rubin’s work: “Doornfontein was not the only enclave to expand during the 1920s, Braamfontein – Wanderers View had enlarged and grown in the previous decade, and the older community that had lived close to the Great/Park Synagogue had moved north and settled around Wolmarans Street, where they had constructed a new synagogue. Although plans had been afoot to build a synagogue since 1917, the Braamfontein Hebrew Congregation, which was mainly composed of Eastern European Jews, only constructed the Braamfontein Wanderers View Synagogue in 1921. The Jewish families in Braamfontein, generally, worked and lived in the area but the community did not remain long and the residents soon joined their co-religionists in the more eastern part of the city. There are, however, a number of nostalgic remembrances of the neighbourhood and early residents remember processions parading through the streets on Jewish festivals, which were occasions when the whole neighbourhood would join in (Abelman, 1987).”
Information and pictures for this post came from various sources outside of the usual collection of books:
Heritage survey of Fordsburg – Elsabe Brink
The Jewish Community of Johannesburg, 1886-1939: Landscapes of Reality and Imagination – Margot Rubin
SA Jewish Museum Archives – JDAP
Rose Norwich piece on JewishSA on the Fox Street and subsequent Beth Hamedrashs. Read the full piece here
People of the Cedars: 20th Century Insight in the Lebanese South African community – Ken Hanna
Southern New Doornfontein & environs: An historical survey Part II – Alkis Doucakis
‘Knowing all the names’: The Ebenezer congregational church and the creation of community among the coloured population of Johannesburg 1894 – 1939 – Harry Dugmore
Artefacts – A detailed but mostly text-based South African architectural reference site
Various Johannesburg related newspaper articles collected by Dr Oscar Norwich whose scrapbooks are held in the WITS archive.