Below is a short write-up on the architectural style of our house

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Paul Kruger Statue Saga

Church Square as it looks today, with Oom Paul facing the Palace of Justice building

"The heart of Pretoria, then as now, was Church Square, or market square as it was then called. It was the site of the town’s first church (a mud-walled edifice rebuilt after a fire in 1882) and its first bar, Brodrick’s Hole-in-the-Wall. Market days, auctions ‘under the oaks’ and regular nagmaal gatherings transformed the wide square into a sea of ox wagons. But this was the late 19th century Pretoria, a Boer Capital named after Andries Pretorius, a hero of Blood River. It was also the Pretoria of Oom Paul Kruger, the irascible Boer president.

The story of Church Square sums up the changes in Pretoria as it grew from a remote ivory clearing-house to the capital of the Boer republic rolling in gold, and finally to the administrative capital of South Africa. Even in President Kruger’s time the new wealth made itself felt: an imposing Palace of Justice rose on the square, dwarfing the nagmaal wagons. The Palace was ready by 1898, but its first use was destined to be as a hospital for the British when they occupied the town in 1900.
One of Kruger’s trusted friends was Samuel Marks, the Lithuanian Jew who had risen from hawker (smous) to millionaire industrialist. In 1895, grateful that he had been allowed to build Pretoria’s first synagogue two blocks from Church Square, Sammy Marks commissioned a young Anton van Wouw (his fee was £10 000) to sculpt a statue of President Kruger. Kruger returned the compliment by allowing Marks to strike souvenir gold ‘tickeys’ in the Mint.

The statue, cast in bronze in Rome, was completed in 1899, and arrived at Delagoa Bay (known as Lorenco Marques. Maputho today) just as the Anglo-Boer War began. The pedestal already waiting on Church Square was to stand vacant for many years. Deneys Reitz tells in his Anglo-Boer War book, Commando, of the time Mrs Kruger showed him a picture of the forthcoming statue: ‘The President was shown dressed like an elder of the Church in a top hat, and the old lady suggested that the hat should be hollowed out and filled with water, to serve as a drinking fountain for birds. My father and I laughed heartily on our way home at her simplicity, but we agreed that it was decent of her to have thought of such a thing.’ The laugh may have been on Reitz after all, because after the war, when the British Authorities refused to erect Kruger’s statue, Sammy Marks gave the city an elaborate fountain instead. The fountain, which had been a feature of the Glasgow Exhibition, was put up in the middle of Church Square in 1905.

The fountain on church square

The fountain with the Raadsaal in the background

The fountain as it looks today at Pretoria Zoo 
In 1910 the square, now denuded of the church owing to its unsafe tower, was totally redesigned. Sammy Mark’s fountain was banished to the Zoo and neglected until its restoration in 1970. Kruger’s statue, still lying in store, was ignored (as were the pleas for the flowers and fountains). Instead, Church Square became a terminus for the new electric trams. Kruger’s ill-fated statue was finally allowed out of store and onto a plinth – but only in Prince’s Park, where it was unveiled by General Schalk Burger in May 1913. The four figures of burghers designed to surround the plinth were missing. Two were found later on Lord Kitchener’s estate in England; the other two had been incorporated into the war memorial at Chatham’s Military College.

The burghers took their rightful place at Kruger’s feet on 10 October 1925, when the much-travelled statue was moved to the front of the station on the centenary of the President’s birth. But public opinion continued to press for the statue to be erected in its proper place – the middle of Church Square. It was at last unveiled in this spot by Dr D.F. Malan on 10 October 1954.”

Oom Paul's statue being moved from Pretoria station
Oom Paul on Church Square

Source: South Africa's Yesterdays published by Reader's Digest in 1981

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