Pleasures of history – David Hilton-Barber

Talk delivered to the Society on 19 March 2016 in Cape Town.

History (from Greek historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”) is the study of the past, specifically how it relates to humans.  Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who has been called “The Father of History” and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy, and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative. Continue reading “Pleasures of history – David Hilton-Barber”

Open Book Festival Cape Town Sept 2015

This is an important event that should be supported by members.


  • Date: 09/09/2015
  • Venue: Fugard Theatre
  • Time: 12.00 – 13.00
  • Price: R45

Paul Mills (, David McLennan (Select Books) and Anthony Marshall-Smith (collector and Chairman of the Bibliophile Society of Cape Town) speak to Nancy Richards about what makes a book collectible and how to build a collection.

Zonderwater – Peter Spargo

One of our most distinguished members has written a fascinating article first published on the Heritage Portal and which is referred to here with his permission and that of the Heritage Portal as well.  It is well worth reading the complete article.  Zonderwater – Almost certainly the largest Allied POW camp in the world – Peter Spargo

“The Spargo’s are an ancient and, according to the available historical record anyway, honourable Cornish family. However, they have been more notable for their commitment to the arts of peace than those of war and it therefore came as a surprise to me to discover many years later that as a young man my father had served as a volunteer in No. 2 Company, South African Medical Corps. This unit formed part of the Active Citizen Force (ACF), a form of volunteer peacetime army established by the South African Defence Act of 1912. Further enquiries, however, revealed that in those years the family, like numerous others, was so impoverished by the economic problems of the times that the lure of several weeks of free ‘holiday’ per year at Potchefstroom Military Camp as a member of the ACF was a major factor in his enlistment!”


Golden Crown

Battle of the Books – The Golden Crown versus 100 Years of Mining reviewed by Kathy Munro and posted on the website of The Heritage Portal and well worth reading.

“Crown Mines founded in 1909, was in its day a fabulously rich mine: it produced 80 tons of gold, but by the 1950s its reserves had been depleted so Von Ketelhodt relates how he searched for the original mining plans of the 1890s (located in the Johannesburg Public Library) to extend exploration and keep Crown Mines going. Crown Mines, the jewel in the Witwatersrand mining crown finally closed in 1976. The most interesting chapter of the book is the one on the efforts made to extend the life of the mine by re-opening old shafts, remining old stopes, reclaiming  old areas and reverting to primitive mining in outcrops”. 

Cape Town: Old Reserve Bank Building

In September last year Cape Town’s South African Reserve Bank building – one of the city’s least known yet most fascinating landmarks – changed hands. It was bought by the Board of Executors, the oldest trust company in South Africa, and although the deed of sale was signed in 1968, transfer was delayed until 1975 when the Reserve Bank’s new foreshore premises were ready.

Situated in the old, conservative heart of Cape Town – between Adderley, Wale and St George’s Streets – this magnificent old building styled on the lines of Florence’s Pitti Palace, has the distinction of occupying the highest municipally rated land in the country.

But it is the building itself and its quaint history, probably never before publicised, that deserve attention. It forms yet another fascinating facet of the mother city, and it is thanks to the beautifully handwritten notes compiled by one of its architects that we know as much about it as we do. In fact the writer, Mr Reg de Smidt ARIBA, who passed his notes on to the Board of Executors, concluded by expressing the hope “that this description will be of interest, since I am under the impression that I am the only man alive who could supply it”.

Extract from an article reproduced on the HeritagePortal as One of Cape Town’s least known yet most fascinating landmarks and which come from the Restorica archives written by M.A.P. Diemont Jr.  ‘Thank you to the University of Pretoria (copyright holders) for giving us permission to publish. Restorica is the old journal of the Simon van der Stel Foundation, today the Heritage Association of South Africa‘.


Hannes Meiring

Battle of the Books – Hannes Meiring versus Hannes Meiring reviewed by Kathy Munro on the The Heritage Portal.

Hannes Meiring : My Country in Line and Colour – An Unconventional Look at South African Architecture. Fernwood Press, 2004.  Meiring was a fine architect who died in 2010.  He was a sensitive conservation and heritage professional.   Published some 11 years ago this finely produced volume is a compilation of many of Meiring’s architectural sketches and water colours.

Western Provincial versus Transvaal Republican

Battle of the Books – Western Provincial versus Transvaal Republican reviewed by Kathy Munro on the The Heritage Portal.

Western Provincial an album of Paintings and Drawings of the Western Cape, by Desiree Picton-Seymour and R I B Webster,  1952, Maskew Miller, Cape Town, 36 plates, 80 pages. This book was a collaborative effort by the artist (Picton-Seymour) and the author (Webster). The charm of this slender volume is that it captures in tipped in plates and scraper board drawings some of the architecture of the Western Cape .  It is an artistic and romantic gem.

Fietas, A social History of Pageview

Battle of the Books – Insider and Outsider view of Fietas/Pageview reviewed by Kathy Munro on the The Heritage Portal.

Nasir Carrim:  Fietas, A social History of Pageview, 1948-1988, published by Save Pageview Association, 1990.  Softcover, A4 size, 191 pages, illustrated, maps.   This book in its day was an item of campaign literature to Save Pageview from demolition and the ravages of apartheid social engineering. It was a sad and disgraceful story and the people of Pageview fought valiantly for their rights of ownership and a city presence for the Indian Community. Who wanted to move or be moved to Lenasia?

The Barnett Collection (Vols I & II)

Battle of the Books – The Barnett Collection (Vols I & II) reviewed by Kathy Munro on the The Heritage Portal.

The Barnett Collection A Pictorial Record of Early Johannesburg, published by the Star to commemorate the City’s 80th year (Johannesburg, 1966).  This  large volume of sepia toned photographs of early years of life in Johannesburg was such a success that it became volume 1 of the now much sought after two volume set.  The Barnett brothers, David and Joseph were photographers  of the town.  Their collection of over two thousand prints became a valuable and essential photographic record and resource of the emerging town and pioneering gold mining initiatives.

Memoirs of Early Johannesburg

Battle of the Books – Memoirs of Early Johannesburg reviewed by Kathy Munro and posted on the website of The Heritage Portal and well worth reading.

Johannesburg Pioneer Journals 1888 – 1909 edited by Maryna Fraser, published by the Van Riebeeck Society Cape Town 1985, Second Series no 16.  This is an elegant well presented volume and an excellent item of Johannesburg history.  The Van Riebeeck Society was well known for its reproductions of choice Africana diaries, travel books, memoirs and  biographies.  This volume marked the centenary of Johannesburg and brought to light four early eye witness accounts of life in the mining town between 1888 and 1909.  Charles Du Val was a theatre man, from an Irish family who settled in England. Du Val travelled through South Africa, performing, observing and writing about his experiences.  His series of four articles were published in “the Weekly Irish Times” in Dublin and give his impressions of life in early Johannesburg.