Fountain rescued from long forgotten diggers’ town Print E-mail
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Monday, 24 July 2017 23:00
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Environmental consultant, Marinda le Roux, tells us how a historical fountain was moved from the site of a long forgotten digger’s town outside Cullinan. She worked with John Lincoln from the Cullinan Heritage Society and her job was to get permission for the move from the South African Heritage Agency’s provincial authorities.

Marinda le Roux

Few people remember Hallsdorp, or Holtzdorp, a tiny diggers’ town on the farm Byenestpoort, named after the diamond mine’s engineer, Holtz. The village, which was located south of the Premier Diamond Mine in the early part of the last century, was demolished at the end of the Second World War.

The fountain in the derelict area that used to be Hallsdorp

However, the fountain built in about 1943 by Italian prisoners of war interred in the nearby Zonderwater prisoner of war camp remained proudly standing. For decades it remained forgotten in what became a derelict area.

Zonderwater was the biggest detention camp built by the Allies during World War II. From April 1941 to January 1947 the camp, built 43 km from Pretoria, hosted more than 100 000 Italian soldiers who have been captured by the British on the northern and eastern Africa fronts.

An information plaque was erected in the garden of the McHardy House museum

The Zonderwater human adventure started in a tent city in 1941. In 1943 it was transformed into that huge and permanent built-up area formed by red bricks and wooden constructions, then bound to become almost a legend.

There were 14 blocks, each of them normally made up by four camps. Each camp hosted 2 000 men, therefore a block could accommodate 8 000 prisoners. Overall, Zonderwater had a total capacity of 112 000 men.

Lifting the fountain

Installing the fountain in the garden at the McHardy House Museum

Much had been written about the art and craft of these Italian prisoners of war and their work can today still be seen in and around Cullinan. The forgotten fountain they built at Hallsdorp was located by John Lincoln from the Cullinan Heritage Society. John applied for permission to move it to an area where it could be appreciated by the many visitors to the village of Cullinan.

The fountain’s original location as shown by the red star on Google Maps

My role in the project was the environmentalist who had to approach the South African Heritage Agency’s provincial authorities to get permission to move the fountain. It was proposed that the fountain is moved from its original position to a new site in the garden of McHardy House museum.
Approval was given based on the recommendations of my report and the fountain was moved in March.

The inside supports of the fountain

The volunteers of the Heritage Society worked to secure the fountain to prevent any breakage of the stone structure and with the help of Petra Mine, which supplied the essential crane and transport, the move took place without any major obstacle and no damage to the 75 year old structure.

Refurbishment work to the fountain is still being done and the hole left by the removal from Hallsdorp was rehabilitated in June. An information plaque was erected in the garden of the McHardy House museum in Oak Avenue, Cullinan.

Marinda le Roux at the old area in Hallsdorp where the fountain was removed

John Lincoln and Marinda le Roux at the fountain’s new home at the McHardy House Museum in Cullinan

Unfortunately the costly move of the fountain has depleted all funds and the fountain can only be restored to its original splendour should donations be received from the community, tourists and businesses.

I would thus like to humbly place the request that interested readers, families of the prisoners of war and heritage enthusiasts consider donating funds that can be used for restoration of the fountain.

The fountain is marked by a red star on this 1943 map. The dashes were houses, mostly temporary, corrugated iron types, so the location of the fountain made sense at that stage; being among the hustle and bustle

The former spectacular rose garden at the museum, which will now surround the fountain, also needs the replanting of 50–70 rose plants. Any contributions towards the refurbishment and beautification of the garden will be appreciated.

Those interested in assisting us are welcome to contact me, Marinda le Roux, at 061-417-4281 or John Lincoln at 082-551-6089.

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