View of Spioenkop from the resevoir
Rumour abounds about this koppie in the Walkerville area. Was it the scene of fierce fighting between the Boers and the British red Coats in the First War of Independence or an observation post which changed hands many times during the Anglo Boer War? Is the deep hole a well or a shaft for iron, which might have been mined by the native tribes which moved through this area on their way to Zimbabwe? One thing cannot be disputed, it is a peaceful, beautiful view-site today.
An area unique, South of the Reef
Gentle beginnings of the Suikerbosrand
Can you believe we're so near to the City?
Halfway to the Great Vaal River
The outpost of Spioenkop
Was well-placed to see an enemy advancing.
The lookout could spot them from far
And the terrain was clear from here to the river.
Now there are trees, and houses, and roads
But still the view to the river is there
This Spioenkop is not THE Spioenkop
Well-known in the annals of Britain and Boer
But it was A Spioenkop, of that we are sure.
History says little but our thoughts can fill the gaps
As we sit on the ridge with the sun on our backs.
To the South we can see,
Where the sentry once spotted a column of dust
to tell of the approach of friend or foe,
the modern-day columns from chimneys
Of power stations, Sasol and Iscor and others.
The towns lie hidden in the valley of the river
But we can pretend they're not there
and imagine the land as it was then,
open an wide, with animals roaming.
The brown of the grass and the blue of the sky
Are still as they were, some things don't change.
In the world of speed and time we live in,
it is hard to imagine the length of the trek
the days it would take to journey from here.
Or to think of the watchers who sat here
and waited, and waited for weeks perhaps.
Still some of the timeless feeling of waiting
and watching is here
as we see the growth of the area
unique, South of the City
View of Perdeberg
In August 1984 Dr. Peter Pirow wrote;
Two thousand years ago Southern Africa was inhabited by Bushmen Hunter-Gatherers and by Hottentot pastorals. I am not aware of any evidence that these people stayed for very long in our area. If there are any painting or artefacts relating to this period then steps should be taken to preserve them. About 1900 years ago a group of people moved south across the Zambezi. These people used iron implements and there is a site of one of their kraals just to the east of the boundary between Hartzenbergfontein and Roodepoort. This site is particularly interesting as there is a bend in the outside wall which I could not explain until my son suggested digging, water was found, so the bend was made to ensure water.
I expect there are a number of other iron age sites on the Hartzenbergfontein and adjoining farms.
As far as can be ascertained the first white to settle in the Walkerville area was an unknown Voortrekker in about 1838. The remains of a hut built with the front axle of his wagon is near Dairy Cottage on Woodacres Dairy Farm. This Voortrekker sold the Hartzenbergfontein property to Hendrik Balthazar Greyling in about 1859 and the whole property, in extent over 3,422morgen was transferred to Greyling on the 11th December 1861. This deed of transfer has been lost but is referred to in numerous other deeds.
Hendrik Greyling died in 1879 and his wife Anna split the farm into undivided portions amongst the nine children and herself. The details may be found in Title Deeds 1879/679 to 687. The children and their husbands actually purchased the undivided tenth shares for 15 pounds a share. Each share was equivalent to over 342 morgen. Each tenth share forms the basis of the present subdivision of Hartzenbergfontein, Walkerville and its surrounds being on two tenths of the original area. A further two sections are still owned by the descendants of the family, namely the two large Kamffer farms.
Judging by the complex water rights relating to the streams round the area where Aloe Ridge School is presently situated (as well as the Walkerville Show-grounds), I would think that the original Greyling homestead (or the remains thereof) are to found somewhere in that area.
In February 1986, Lucy Austin from the LAC Environment Sub-committee wrote;
The two peaks of Spioenkop and Perdeberg are the focal points of our natural heritage in Walkerville. From nearly every property in the area, one has a view of one or the other and their moods in different lights are always interesting. (The researcher of this article has views of both!)
Many of our residents are of the opinion that Spioenkop and Perdeberg were both part of the historical happenings in the area too but so far we have not been able to unearth any evidence of this.
We appeal to anyone who might have written evidence that these hills had a major role in our history, to contact us, to help in our quest for historical items relating to them. Of course, any other points of history of people and places in the Walkerville area will also be welcome.
In May 1986 the Head of the Human Sciences Research Council (Historical Source Study and Multidisciplinary Research) replied;
Unfortunately not much can be found about engagements near or at the sites in question. During the British advance towards Johannesburg in May 1900, units under the command of Generals JDP French and ISM Hamilton operated in the vicinity of Spioenkop. A small Boer force under the command of General H Lemmer was unsuccessful in its efforts to stem the advance. Several small skirmishes, most of them of minor importance, took place, e.g. on the farm Ritefontein to the south-west of Spioenkop. It is possible that Boers who were positioned on the top of or on the slopes of Spioenkop fired on the British forces, but no conclusive evidence in this regard could be found.
Towards the end of May 1900, Lord Roberts led his forces northwards quite some distance to the east of Perdeberg. No indication of any skirmish at or near Perdeberg has been traced. Dr. J H Breytenbach, the State Historian, is also unaware of any major engagements at Spioenkop or Perdeberg, neither during the British advance nor during the guerrilla phase of the war.
Although the possibility that some form of skirmish did in fact take place at or near Spioenkop or Perdeberg cannot be excluded, general works on the war do not refer to such incidents. The mere fact that the indices of these works do not mention any engagements at either site, is an indication that even if skirmishes had in fact taken place, they are of no major historical importance. In order to find out what exactly happened at the two koppies, several regimental histories and a mass of archival sources will have to be studied.
We suggest that before you engage in this, you contact the National Monuments Council in order to ascertain whether they will in fact be prepared to proclaim sites of minor military importance. A careful study of the terrain should indicate whether trenches were constructed and the presence of military graves in the vicinity would also point to some form of engagement having taken place. The oral evidence of local inhabitants could also be of significance.
Perdeberg (Horse Mountain), is the dominant natural feature of the area. It was so named because during the Boer War, horses from the area and from as far away as Standerton, were driven to the summit of the hill at a certain time of the year to protect them from contracting horse sickness. Another interesting fact about the landmark is that up until about 1920 there was a thriving colony of vultures situated on the side that has the rocky face. Apparently they moved away when man moved in and their food supply dried up. A familiar story. Don't know if it would be possible, or popular, but I for one would love to see them reintroduced there. They would surely be a major attraction and with the amount of horses and livestock in the area keeping them supplied with carcasses wouldn't be a problem.
Nestling at the base of this majestic koppie is a house believed to be the oldest in Walkerville. Built in the late 1870's Paul Kruger was pleased to sleep here when visiting the Heidelberg Commando, who were active in the area.
Whatever the truth may be, minor skirmishes or not, older residents of the area still firmly believe that the two beautiful koppies formed an integral part of our history. And who knows, one day, someone might discover the Paul Kruger fortune, rumoured to be stashed away somewhere in the Transvaal (now Gauteng) just before his departure to Europe, right here in Walkerville.
Perdeberg Cottage - is this one of the oldest buildings in the area?