Looking at Umvoti’s heritage

2017-09-27 06:03

HERITAGE Day in South Africa was celebrated on Sunday 24 September and Monday 25 September and this seems to be the right time to take a look at what Greytown has undertaken over the years to preserve buildings that are part of the history of the town and its communities.

Heritage can be natural and cultural. A country’s natural heritage is its environment and natural resources, an example in this area is the Kop.

Greytown does not have a very good history of preserving its heritage (any building over 60 years old).

There are not even the remains left of the railway station where the first train puffed in from Pietermaritzburg on July 25, 1901, which for many years provided transport for people, agriculture and businesses. Although a heritage site - it has been destroyed.

The Masonic Lodge in Durban Street, built in 1905, and sold nearly 100 years later, was destroyed by fire.

The Umvoti Mounted Rifles hall, built in the 1880s was used as the Masonic Lodge, a military hospital, a courthouse and a library and then the Umvoti Mounted Rifles. It falls under the Department of Public Works which has allowed this historic building to be totally neglected and vandalised.

Greytown Museum was built as a private home in 1897, became a residency and then was bought by the municipality as the town’s museum. It is a national monument.

The Greytown Town Hall is still standing. The foundation stone was laid on June 2, 1897, but due to funding, the hall was only completed and officially opened in 1904 by the Governor of Natal, Sir Henry McCullum, who had travelled to Greytown by train.

Several churches maintain the town’s heritage history- St James Anglican was completed in 1913 when the original church, built in 1867, was destroyed.

The Methodist, the oldest, was built in 1877 from local shale – the foundation stone for the church alongside was laid in 1902.

St Theodore’s Catholic church was built about 1915.

The first Dutch Reformed church was built in 1859, but was destroyed by a tornado in 1879 - the second was built in 1883, but had to be demolished in 1924. The church, as it stands now, was built in 1929. Its famous bell, which was stolen and not found for 74 years, was originally hung in 1861.

Hermannsburg Museum was built as a mission house in 1855 and has been declared a national monument.

St Peter-Paul Lutheran Church was consecrated on February 23, 1870 and is also listed as a national monument.

In 1910 the late Baboo Dakka Singh donated two roods of land and the first religious centre started in a wood-and-iron building. In 1926 a vernacular school was established and Shri Vishnu Mandir Temple opened in 1933. In 1973 the old temple was demolished to make way for the present one.

Initially constructed of wood and iron the mosque was built in 1898 - the current one was built in 1946.

A cairn on the farm Honeyfontein marks the spot where in 1862, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa, Louis Botha was born.

The Heine Spruit was in flood and his mother was unable to return to the family farm Onrust.

Just making the 60-year cut-off, is the origins­ of Buhlebuyeza School in Enhlalakahle.

In response to a request from the Greytown Gazette, Oscar Zondi stated: “St Theodore School was built by the Roman Catholic Church in the fifties and the site was donated to build the current Buhlebuyeza High School and a lease agreement with payment of R1 per year was signed.

St Peter’s Anglican Church was built in 1956 in Enhlalakahle after the congregation was forcefully removed by the Group Areas Act from the current Aheers Building Supplies and Powertrade site.

It was dedicated on March 19, 1961 by the late Bishop of Natal, Dr Vernon Inman DD.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has recently been reconstructed incorporating the original structure which dates back to the 1950s.

Tholinhlanhla Primary School is also an old building, which once housed Greytown Intermediate School later named Nyokana Secondary School, which was also renamed Buhlebuyeza High before it relocated to its current premises.

A vital part of Umvoti’s heritage is Chief Bambatha - regarded as a hero, who was the first to instigate armed resistance in defiance of a poll tax imposed by the colonial government.

Bambatha’s ambush rock, about 13km outside Greytown, is where four police (and a dog) were ambushed and killed by Bamabatha’s men.

A statue of Bambatha remains unveiled and still shrouded in layers of plastic in the town office gardens.

Nearby King Dinuzulu’s statue contemplates the passing traffic.

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